Satyarthi, the founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and president of Global March Against Child Labour, was in Guwahati on Saturday to attend a round-table conference on eradication of child trafficking and child labour.
Pointing out that children from Assam and other North-Eastern States were increasingly being trafficked to Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai and other parts of India, Satyarthi said that most of the victims were trafficked from Lakhimpur and Kokrajhar districts besides from the tea gardens of Udalguri, Sonitpur, Bongaigaon and other backward areas of lower Assam through a well-organized criminal racket.
Satyarthi alleged that some dubious people from West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya had also set up so-called placement agencies to supply domestic helps in major metropolitan cities, while other agencies had engaged some local agents from the North-East.
For instance, he said, in Delhi alone, 36 placement agencies have been identified to be involved in trafficking children from Assam — mainly girls — to Haryana, Punjab and several metropolitan cities. The agents are paid Rs. 15,000-Rs. 20,000 per girl by the placement agency, which takes Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000 from the family that employs girls as maid.
The girls and their parents are promised a monthly salary of Rs. 3,000-Rs. 6,000 but in most cases some pittance or no wages are paid to those domestic helps.
Satyarthi said that Bachpan Bachao Angolan was flooded with such complaints in Delhi. The BBA office in Tamil Nadu also found that at least half of the child labourers in garment factories belonged to the North-East and particularly from Assam.
“They were all trafficked and bonded. Last year, 76 such malnourished children who belonged to Assam and Manipur were also rescued. I was personally involved in rescue and repatriation of 16 adolescent Assamese girls who were trapped into bondage in various places in Delhi. They were trafficked through the local agents operating from Shakurpur, Delhi. The most shameful part of the story was that one of these girls was hesitant to go back home because she was pregnant due to repeated rape,” Satyarthi said, adding that there was a definite link between the missing children in Assam and those who were trafficked for various objectives to different States.
“We demand that the State Government develop a comprehensive strategy and action plan on prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation of child labour and trafficking,” he said.
Satyarthi suggested that the trafficking nexus in Assam be properly investigated into and broken by taking stringent punitive actions against all those who are involved in this crime.
“The media, civil society, the Government and village institutions should work hand in hand in trafficking-prone areas to educate and empower the local community. Child labourers must be thoroughly identified, rescued and rehabilitated properly. The Government must also ensure free quality meaningful and child-friendly education not only to ensure full enrollment but also to ascertain the retention of children, particularly girls, in schools,” he said.
Further, Satyarthi said, there should be Centrally-sponsored schemes for rehabilitation of trafficking victims, and a special task force should be established to combat trafficking at major railway junctions en-route to the North-East. Besides, CBI and other government agencies should take up the cases of trafficking in Assam on a priority basis to track down missing children effectively.