Aparna Banerjee : Guddu (name changed) was trafficked from his village in Bihar when he was only 8 years old. He was sold to a dhaba (roadside eatery) on the outskirts of Delhi where he was made to cook and clean, working for almost 20 hours every day. He was barely given any food, he had no days off and was given no wages. If he protested, he was severely beaten and burnt. After 3 long, painful years, he was rescued after a customer noticed the young boy’s injuries and complained to the police. He is now at a children’s welfare home, awaiting repatriation.
Devi’ (name changed)case is similar. She was trafficked to Delhi from Guwahati and placed as a domestic help in Faridabad where she did grueling household chores for almost 18 hours, but was not paid any wages. Devi was fortunate because she was rescued after 2 years, produced before Child Welfare Committee and was later sent to a home in Guwahati. She was also given her back-wages. She now stays at the home with the consent of her father, and is pursuing her studies.
Rani (name changed) was trafficked from West Bengal at the tender age of 12, and sold to multiple people who raped her. Her ordeal was unending, as she ended up at a brothel in Punjab, being repeatedly raped daily by 5 to 10 people. She was rescued after 5 years of sexual slavery.
Soni Kumari, a 16 year old, did not have the fortune of seeing freedom. Employed as a domestic help in New Delhi, Soni was trafficked from her home in Jharkhand when she was 13 years old, taken to Delhi where she was exploited for three years and then murdered. Her body was chopped into a dozen pieces by the person who had sold her, and thrown into a gutter. Why? Because she asked for her wages.
There are millions of such Guddus, Devis, and Sonis who are trafficked every day, and sold like inanimate commodities in homes, factories, massage parlours and eateries. Some are employed as labour, many are sexually abused, and all are denied their childhood.Even if some children are eventually rescued and rehabilitated, the wounds are deep. The larger issue is: Why should any child spend even a second of life in slavery?
Children need love, care and education. They need to be in an environment that promotes their full potential, and enables them to become happy, balanced individuals who play a key role in the growth and development of India.Instead, it is a matter of deep shame that while, on the one hand, India is on a fast growth trajectory, on the other, her children are in slavery, abused and denied their fundamental rights.
The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 has just been passed by the Lok Sabha on 26th July and will be discussed in the Rajya Sabha soon. This Bill has several significant provisions, some that include stringent punitive measures, others that hit at the organized nature of trafficking by seizing the assets of the perpetrators as a preventive bid, and some that have rehabilitation of the victims at the core.
India is a land that has accepted and provided shelter to people from all religions, cultures and castes in her fold for centuries. India is on the brink of celebrating the 71st year of Independence. This Monsoon Session ends on 10th August, 5 days before 15th August, a day celebrated with great pride across the country. Can our leaders ensure that when the India Tricolour is hoisted on 15th August this year to commemorate Independence Day, they have passed this landmark Bill which holds the promise of freedom for the millions of trafficked children? Can our leaders put aside all partisan differences and unite to free the millions of children who will fall prey to trafficking?
It is the responsibility of all leaders who have pledged to upholding the Constitution of India that they honour their unspoken commitment to the children of India. If India has to see an educated and healthy next generation, it is the responsibility of this generation to pass the Bill. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 needs to be passed now. India’s children need their freedom now.