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Centre alarmed by ‘slavery’ in Bengal

Published in The Times of India by DwaipayanGhosh

KOLKATA:  This year turned out to be one of the worst for West Bengal as far as cases related to missing women and children are concerned. A central government report has identified Bengal with the highest number of cases where the victims were bought and disposed as slaves in 2015.

Weeks after the gangrape of a 17-year-old trafficked girl from Mograhat in South 24-Parganas, the Union ministry of women and child development has released the shocking numbers for the state in Parliament.

The new findings only strengthen a United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) report that had revealed that more than19,000 women and children went missing in West Bengal in 2011.

In 2014, the state had registered 102 cases under IPC section 370 (Buying or disposing of any person as a slave). In 2015, the number of cases jumped to179.Rajasthan, with 124 such cases, and Jharkhand, with 105 cases, come after Bengal. Similarly, the state has registered 23 cases under IPC section 370A (Exploitation of a trafficked person) as against only four just a year ago. However, the state has a minuscule presence while registering Immoral Trafficking Act cases as compared to states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

26_12_2015_004_002The number of missing women and children from Bengal stands at 13,500 this year. The state thus will play a crucial role in the newly-formed Central Nodal Agency to Combat Trafficking that has started functioning with representatives of Bengal government and several NGOs in it.

“If there is one thing that the recent Mograhat case has shown, it is the need to combine all resources to stop interstate trafficking. The committee’s first goal should be to try and involve all stakeholders,” said Ravi Kant of NGO Shakti Vahini that has played a pivotal role in curbing trafficking in Bengal.”The prevalence is the highest in three districts -Murshidabad, North and South 24-Parganas. It is mostly poverty-driven and can only be stopped with a large-scale livelihood programmes,” said a senior IPS officer.

The developments assume significance in the backdrop of some trends being witnessed in the state now. “The Ghaziabad rape shows how western UP and not Delhi – has become a hub of trafficking even as girls are being pushed in to interiors of Haryana and Rajasthan. The Rapid Action Battalion, Bangladesh recently arrested eight members of the gang and their questioning revealed a change in modus operandi,” said a source.

In the Ghaziabad rape case, a source said, the girl was kidnapped from Mograhat directly . She was not lured with any promise of marriage or job as was the usual practice. “In several of the rescue operations in the past four months, we found that Bengali girls are being forcefully married off to one or more men in rural Haryana and Punjab. In all these cases, we found them residing in the two Dinajpurs and Malda. Several of these girls were found to have been trafficked from Bangladesh too,” said Rishi Kant, one of the founding members of Shakti Vahini.

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