The phenomenon of human trafficking for bonded labour rears its ugly head in many rural areas in Jharkhand.
The UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights gives evidence that around 90% of bonded labourers are from communities designated as ‘untouchable’ and ‘indigenous’. Women from impoverished families are either sold by family members to middlemen, or, in the hope of making money in the big cities, voluntarily join ‘placement agencies’ who lure them into becoming house slaves. Our Community Correspondent Mukesh from Jharkhand read about this in the local papers recently and decided to personally investigate the issue in Madhupur, where he lives.
Mukesh got in touch with Prerna Bharti, an NGO in the area which works with prevention of trafficking. He found out that thousands of tribal women and children are trafficked out of the villages each year, some of whom disappear and are never found. Through the NGO he was able to personally meet some of the women who had escaped or who were rescued, like Reshma. Although most of them refused to talk to him about what had happened in order to avoid disgrace and scandal, Reshma was brave enough to relate her story.
Reshma speaks about the ‘agents’ who are often the initiators of the trafficking process – sometimes they work in cooperation with local villagers, so people end up trusting them. The agents promise women from the poorest families arranged marriages to wealthy husbands or well-paying jobs as house helps in Delhi and other urban centres. These ‘placement agencies’ are often registered as charities, and cheat the women of their monthly wages, often giving them a miniscule percentage of what they are supposed to be paid.
And yet, despite all the horror stories, trafficking continues. Mukesh believes it is because the poor cannot get out of their cycle of poverty, and continue to fall into these traps because they are left with no choice. He suggests that the local governments take committed steps towards employment generation in these areas, and stringent implementation of schemes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Mukesh also wants to create awareness about these traps and hopes to use this video for that purpose.