For the nine long years that Nagma was missing, the police took no action to trace her and is doing little now to punish her traffickers.
Nagma (name changed) has returned home after nine years. But this is hardly a cause for celebration. In 2008, when she was only eleven, someone she called her aunt took her away on the pretext of a holiday and trafficked her. From a small village in a tea estate in Alipurduar district in West Bengal, she was taken all the way to New Delhi and sold to a placement agency for domestic workers. She was put to work in a new household every year and endured unimaginable physical and mental torture. “At home, my father did not even slap me and here I was beaten so badly that I fell ill and had a fever for a week,” Nagma recalls her time in Delhi.
Nagma is one of the 130 children who go missing every day in India. A majority of these children remain untraced.
Nagma is one of the 130 children who go missing every day in India. A majority of these children remain untraced. In 2015, of the nearly 36,000 children who went missing, less than 20,000 were traced. Placement agencies in Delhi which provide domestic workers into middle-class and rich urban families have emerged as hubs of trafficking in recent times. In fact, in 2014, the Delhi government had undertaken the registration all such placement agencies and shut down the ones operating illegally. But even three years, on an estimated 10,000 such illegal agencies continue to operate in the national capital. As recently as last month, a placement agency was implicated in child trafficking. Vast sums of money exchange hands. Nagma says, “I used to miss home so much and cry. I begged my madam to let me go. She said she had paid the placement agency 30,000 rupees. So how could she just let me go?”
For nine long years, Nagma was enslaved in one middle-class urban family after another. But this was not the end of her ordeal. After being promised marriage, she was sexually exploited by some men and kept in the placement agency. Pregnant at nineteen, she somehow managed to escape with the help of an auto-driver and boarded a train back home. Today she is the mother of asix-month-oldd daughter. But her struggle continues. As she lodged an FIR, she kept receiving threats from the placement agency in Delhi. Further, Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbansi says, “The police is taking no action. They are saying they have not been able to find the existence of any such placement agency.”
When injustice visits marginalised girls, is this to be their fate: complete apathy from the administration?
Nagma wants her salary for slaving nine precious years of her childhood away and a job from the government so she can bring up her daughter. But no one wants to listen to her. Nagma is from a poor family. When injustice visits marginalised girls, is this to be their fate: complete apathy from the administration? And before we get righteously angry, let us remember our own complicities as urban middle-class exploiters of working-class women and their labour. There can be no justice for Nagma and the millions like her unless we question our own conscience.
Video by Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbansi
Article by Madhura Chakraborty, a journalist in the VV editorial team