It was in 2006, 10-year-old Sariful and 8-year-old Chotu used to work in a bangle factory in Delhi unlike children of their age for whom life is all fun and frolic. Both the children became victims of human trafficking. Sadly, they are not the only ones to have been exploited for child labour in the cities of our country. Tens of thousands of children fall prey to human traffickers in India every year, and the number keeps on growing by leaps and bounds.
Sariful and Chotu’s misfortune began when a human trafficker contacted their respective families in Katihar, east Bihar, in 2006. They were lured with plump offers of Rs. 5,000 salary every month, good education and an opportunity to learn the skill of operating machinery apart from healthy meals, and a cosy place to live in for the children.
Since both kids hailed from an economically weaker section of society, their parents lapped up the tempting offer without much consideration. However, much to their dismay, it didn’t take them long to realise that all the promises made to them were just a ploy to trap them in the grind of child labour.
Later, the trafficker took Sariful and Chotu to a small dingy apartment in Delhi that served as a factory. The owner of the factory made them work under inhuman conditions for hours on end, exposing them to the scorching heat of the clay furnace used for making bangles from glass. He subjected the innocent children to constant physical and verbal abuse.
Life was hell at the factory. The children were underfed and kept in unhygienic conditions. What’s all the more pathetic was that they were not paid a single penny in the name of salary as was promised by the trafficker. They and their parents could not hold anyone accountable for their plight. This realisation over and above their day-to-day suffering caused a great deal of mental stress.
“At the factory, the owner used to beat me and other forced child labourers. We were reprimanded even for minor mistakes in making the bangles. As we cried, the master used to play loud music so that our cries would drown into the noise and no one could hear us.”
In 2009, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Foundation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) rescued Sariful and Chotu and relocated them to Mukti Ashram, a short-term rehabilitation centre for rescued boys in New Delhi, run by BBA. Since then, their lives have taken a positive turn.
Sariful and Chotu are now gainfully employed after completing their higher education and are able to support their families financially.
Both the survivors of human trafficking, who were once rescued by the BBA, are today working as volunteers for the same organisation albeit in another of its wing known as Mukti Caravan, or Human GPS. Mukti Caravan traces and locates children abducted for sexual exploitation, slavery, and forced child labour. They are doing their bit to pay back the organisation for their rescue and thereby ensuring that other innocent children do not meet the same fate.
However, not every child, who is trafficked, is lucky enough to be rescued. Sariful and Chotu are just two of millions of victims, who were saved from the horrors of bonded labour while several others are still suffering the trauma.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimatd 24.9 million people in the world have been victims of the horrendous activity of human trafficking.
Since 2003, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been gathering data of 2,25,000 trafficked victims from around the world.
Each year, about 6,00,000 to 8,00,000 men, women, and children are trafficked within their own country or across international borders. In 2019, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded a total of 6,616 similar cases in India.
Today, the world is observing the 9th edition of “The World Against Trafficking in Person” day.
With this year’s theme of ‘’Use & Abuse of Technology” many organisations are commemorating this day with a hope to spread awareness and education of the threats that human trafficking poses to the society.
The theme focusses on the use of technology and its advancement for tracing the victims and solving the cases pertaining to human trafficking. However, traffickers are also misusing technology to carry out the illegal human trade. Trafficking in cyberspace has seen a rise after the 2019 pandemic, especially on social networking platforms and dark-web.
In 2010, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Global Plan of Action to tackle human trafficking, with the help of the international governing bodies, NGOs and other private entities.
In 2013, the UNGA coordinated a meeting with these bodies to materialise the Global Plan of Action. The state made a resolution A/RES/68/192 and assigned 30 July as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution underscored that the day was critical to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”