Once rescued, anti-trafficking volunteers; the crusade continues

It was 2006, 10-year-old Sariful and 8-year-old Chotu were working in a bangle factory in Delhi, unlike kids their age for whom life is all fun and entertainment. Both children became victims of human trafficking. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones who have been exploited for child labor in the cities of our country. Tens of thousands of children fall victim to human traffickers in India each year, and the number continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Sariful and Chotu’s misfortune began when their respective families were contacted by a human trafficker in Katihar, east Bihar, in 2006. They were lured in with huge offers of Rs. 5,000 salary each month, good education and the opportunity to learn the skill of operating machinery in addition to healthy meals and a welcoming place to live for the children.

Since both children came from an economically weaker section of society, their parents accepted the tempting offer without much consideration. However, to their dismay, it didn’t take long for them to realize that all the promises made to them were just a ploy to trap them in the rut of child labour.

Later, the smuggler took Sariful and Chotu to a small, dingy apartment in Delhi that served as a factory. The factory owner made them work in subhuman conditions for hours on end, exposing them to the searing heat of the clay oven used to make glass bangles. He subjected innocent children to constant physical and verbal abuse.

Life was hell in the factory. The children were malnourished and kept in unhygienic conditions. The most pathetic thing was that they were not paid a penny in the name of the salary promised by the trafficker. Neither they nor their parents could hold anyone responsible for their plight. This realization beyond her daily suffering caused a great deal of mental stress.

“In the factory, the owner used to beat me and other child laborers. We were reprimanded even for minor mistakes in making the bracelets. While we were crying, the teacher used to play loud music so that our screams would be drowned out in the noise and no one could hear us.”

In 2009, the Kailash Satyarthi Nobel Peace Prize Foundation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) rescued Sariful and Chotu and transferred them to Mukti Ashram, a short-term rehabilitation center for rescued children 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 survivors of human trafficking, who were once rescued by the BBA, now work as volunteers for the same organization, albeit in another of its wings known as the Mukti Caravan, or Human GPS. Mukti Caravan tracks and locates children kidnapped for sexual exploitation, slavery and forced child labour. They are doing their bit to pay the organization for their rescue and, therefore, ensure that other innocent children do not suffer the same fate.

However, not all trafficked children are lucky enough to be rescued. Sariful and Chotu are just two of the millions of victims who were spared the horrors of bonded labour, while several others are still suffering from the trauma.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), an estimated 24.9 million people in the world have been victims of the horrendous activity of human trafficking.
Since 2003, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been collecting data on 225,000 victims of trafficking around the world.

Every year, between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked within their own country or across international borders. In 2019, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded a total of 6,616 similar cases in India.

Today, the world is observing the ninth edition of the day “The world against human trafficking”.
With this year’s theme “Use and Abuse of Technology”, many organizations commemorate this day in hopes of spreading awareness and education about the threats human trafficking poses to society.

The theme focuses on the use of technology and its advancement to locate victims and solve cases of human trafficking. However, traffickers are also misusing technology to carry out the illegal trade in people. Traffic in cyberspace has seen an increase after the 2019 pandemic, especially on social media platforms and the dark web.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Global Plan of Action to address human trafficking, with the help of international governing bodies, NGOs and other private entities.
In 2013, the UNGA coordinated a meeting with these organizations to materialize the Global Action Plan. The state made a resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution underlined that the day was essential to “raise awareness about the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

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