It’s 1 a.m. I peep through my burkha to scan the nearly empty street. I’m a bit frightened. After all, this is Delhi. Post-nirbhaya Delhi.
But fear won’t aid me today as I wait under the designated light post.
Oily hair. Faded shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Dirty jeans. The man I am waiting for, approaches swiftly. Then an urgent whisper, ‘C-337’ (this was the code given to me, the buyer, for that particular girl. that is how the traffickers work, through code names and numbers).
‘Never ever reveal your identity’, I had been told. I tiptoe with the conversation accordingly. The details of the trade slowly start emerging. I ask him his name. Suddenly he is pissed off.
‘Are naam se kya lena dena? maine kuch pucha kya? kam hone se to matlab…’ I quickly relent. True. Why do I need names when I get the girl? We start talking business.
Business, that is bargaining. He asks me, ‘kab lagega? kaisi chahiye – dubli-patli-gori-kali..?’
I am caught off the guard. Didn’t expect such direct queries. First time at this, you see! Gathering myself, I specify, ‘thin, fair. Should be good in household work. It’s for the agency…’
‘Consider your job done. Come back after a couple of days. 3 lakhs is the price. Agreed..?’
I was speechless for a while. The value of one woman is 3 lakhs? I try to clarify, ‘I need just one girl. 3 lakhs bahot zada nahi hai..?’
He is unrelenting. Everything is getting pricier these days. Why would girls be any different? It seems I am losing the bargain. The pimp is clear – he has to make many pockets happy. The price cannot be lessened. I give in. the deal is struck. (This also I was told beforehand, not to bargain too much. If I peeve the pimp out, our mission won’t be accomplished.)
He tells me to come back after 2 days. Same spot on G.B. Road, Delhi. He takes my number, doesn’t give his.
The streets are deserted now. But not the shacks lining the road. They are brimming with clients. Clients of woman flesh. Sound of a brawl drifts out from one of the rooms. The babu and the kothi malkin are in dispute over the rates.
This is G.B. Road. The prostitution haven of the national capital, where everyday countless girls pour in from every corner of the country. Rather, they are forced to. Once their purses have been filled, the police chooses to look away. How many girls are trafficked thus every day? No cohesive statistics is possible. The numbers are too huge.
From the conversations it was not clear how the pimp would supply me the girl. But it’s not tough to gather. The girls, more than usually from the poorest of poor backgrounds, are lured in and then trapped by offers and promises they cannot refuse. And then they pass on from hand to hand to reach their destination, pre-ordained by the codes and numbers.
Sometimes it’s marriage. Sometimes the lure of a well-paid job. Promise of a lovely future. Promise of visiting the Taj mahal.
Love is the most common and effective technique here. One of the traffickers makes friends with one of the young beauties in the village. How? Her mobile number is tracked from one of the villagers who had been spying on her from before. The missed calls from an unknown number start. 7-8 times a day. With that, texts declaring undying love.
The rest is accomplished by her tender age and inexperience. Soon they meet in person. By now the girl is completely trapped in the web of love. The ‘boyfriend’, leveraged by her trust, then spreads the net some more. He takes her out to a fair.
Police and N.G.O statistics show, village fairs are the hotspots for targeting and trafficking victims. Specially the Durgapuja and Charak fairs. How does it happen? In the fair, suddenly some other ‘friends’ of the ‘boyfriend’ appear. At designated time, the ‘boyfriend’ receives an urgent call that requires him to go off for a while. The girl stays on with the ‘friends’. One of them buys her cold drink, which usually contains a specific kind of drug. A variant of the date rape drug prevalent in the west, these drugs can knock you unconscious for at least 48 hours. The unsuspecting victim drinks and falls prey.
By the time the drug wears off, the girl is already in an unknown place like Delhi, Mumbai or Pune. She then is passed on and on, finally to the main supplier. From there, some prostitute’s kothi or domestic help agency or a beggar racket becomes her new address.
The trafficking racket functions with such precision and organization. After the amendment of criminal laws of the country, human trafficking is considered ‘organized crime’. But the ground reality remains unchanged.
2 days after I received a call from an unknown number. The C-337 supplier. He directed me to be present on the same spot with the money. That night, I, in the guise of Fatima Bibi was present there with 3 lakh rupees. With me were two officers from the anti-human trafficking unit.
A 14 year old girl was rescued that day. The supplier was arrested. Trial is on.
But the story doesn’t end here. Most of the time these pimps are let off. The reason? Witnesses don’t turn up. There’s the fear of social stigma. Also of retribution from the racket. In many cases traffickers are aided by the police itself. They prepare the escape route by constructing weak cases. A senior officer of the Delhi Police, in strict condition of anonymity, revealed, ‘many of our officers help those rackets. They receive money from those rackets. The kothi maiks have bought them off.’
But why do they do this? Such shameless objectification of human beings, where the value of a girl is decided by her complexion and body? What are the perks?
For every girl trafficked, the small-time pimps acquire 50-70 thousand rupees. The middling ones get about a lakh. The rest goes to the big players. About 7-8 girls are trafficked every year. Why would they do anything else!
C-337 was a lucky girl. She could go back to her parents. But the Fatima Bibis don’t reach every girl. And there are too many of them. Each day, the numbers grow.
- The network is so vast that the big players never get caught. The small-time pimps and suppliers are arrested most often
- The racket works in four points – source-transit-collection point-destination
- The people working in each point do not have any information on how the other points are working. Each zone works separately, with local sources
How the racket works
- Targeting the girl/girls
- Planning and bringing the girl till the transit point (this does not happen in every case)
- Bringing the girl close to the destination
- On reaching destination, supplying the girl to the buyer