The late Congress leader Nand Kumar Patel had presented in the Assembly a list of 500 girls missing from Raigarh. He had alleged that more than 1 lakh tribal girls have been trafficked from the state.
“We consider human trafficking a serious issue. That’s why right after assuming office, I directed the police to take the strictest action against it immediately,” says new Home Minister Ramsevak Paikra. “It’s a long process but strict action is being taken to bring it under control.”
However, Paikra does not know whether the state has actively followed the cases against factory owners in Tamil Nadu or raised the issue with the Jayalalithaa government. Junaid Ahmed, the owner of Gems Agro, is still at large with no charges against him.
‘By the time I was rescued, the chemicals had completely burned my face’
Yashoda Ouike is one of five sisters. Financial troubles pushed her into agent Kijuram’s trap. She had come to know that companies in south India paid good salaries to workers, more than what the MGNREGA offered. She hoped this could help ease her family’s financial burden.
Like others, she too ended up at Gems Agro Exports in Namakkal. But even after four months of hard labour, she wasn’t paid a penny. “By the time the police rescued me from the factory, the chemicals had completely burned my face,” she says.
Yashoda recalls that once while opening the chemical container, she had received burns and fainted, but no one bothered to take her to the hospital. She was offered neither compensation nor any wages.
Now, she does not want to step out of her house.
Women and Child Development Minister Ramsheela Sahu assures TEHELKA that her department will try to regulate it at its own level. “Although, the matter falls under the home ministry’s purview, it concerns young girls. So, the department will perform its role,” she says.
The government has accepted that female trafficking is a reality in the state, which is why four districts — Jashpur, Raigarh, Sarguja and Korba — were marked as human trafficking hubs in 2011. Apart from these, Mahasamund, Janjgir, Balauda Bazar and Bilaspur have also been listed as sensitive areas. But some areas of Bastar such as Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Jagdalpur, Sukma, Bijapur and Kanker have been overlooked, providing traffickers and their agents a free run.
The government is taking action against placement agencies. In Jashpur alone, located near the border of Jharkhand with the largest number of placement agencies operating, cases have been booked against seven such agencies. As per the official figures, the number of missing girls appears to be greater in Raipur, but TEHELKA’s investigation reveals that in tribal areas many incidents go unreported because of poverty and illiteracy and, of course, lack of faith in the non-existent system.
For instance, social activist Sidar estimates that more than 10,000 girls have vanished from the two districts of Narayanpur and Kanker in the past four years.
The police claims that it has been doing its bit in tracing, tracking and apprehending traffickers. Last March, two agents, Mani Ram and B Venkat Reddy, were nabbed at the Raipur railway station with 15 girls in the age group of 10-17 years, who were being taken to Nagpur on the pretext of getting them jobs. Their families had been paid Rs 1,000 each in advance. In Nagpur, the agents were to be paid huge sums by the traffickers. Both are now in jail.
Mani Ram is a resident of Bastar and knows Halbi, the language spoken in the areas from where the girls came. In these areas, Hindi or Chhattisgarhi is not spoken. Only two of the victims could understand Hindi. Harma Markami, 10, had never been to school. She believed that girls could not study. She had ventured out in order to find work in Nagpur.