Mamta Kumari, 16, a resident of Raisimla village in Torpa block of Khunti is now aware enough to know that if she ever plans to leave her village for work, she must notify the Panchayat about it.
“I have to inform the panchayat about where I am going and with whom to ensure that I am safe even outside my village,” she said.
Similarly, Reena Kumari of Lalkhatanga panchayat in Namkom block of Ranchi knows that she must not accompany anyone who promises her to get a well paying job. “I have been told that they exploit girls on pretext of job. If I ever come across a person like this, the first thing I should do is inform the Panchayat and if possible, the local police about it.”
Association for Social and Human Awareness (ASHA), a State based social organization is currently working closely with around 400 girls in five panchayats of Ranchi and Khunti, making them aware of the legal rights, human trafficking, unsafe migration, minimum wages and other social issues. The panchayats being focused are Lalkhatanga, Dhurwa and Chandaghasi in Ranchi and Raisimla and Chanho Panchayat in Khunti.
“These 400 girls are extremely vulnerable as they come from very poor family backgrounds and can easily be lured away by traffickers. We are working with these girls as well as their parents and the panchayat samiti members to ensure that no girls in the area get trafficked,” said secretary of ASHA, Ajay Kumar Jaiswal.
A study done by the organization show that more than a dozen girls between the age of 15 to 20 left home in search of better jobs from every village of Karra panchayat in Khunti, many of whom never returned.
Jaiswal said, “The sad reality is that these girls go to big cities with hopes and dreams but are often exploited physically, mentally and financially. Most of the time, they are forced to work without any wages. Our aim is not to stop these girls from migrating but to educate them on safe migration. We are taking help from District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) and para legal volunteers for the legal rights education. ”
Ritesh Oraon, Mukhiya of Lalkhatanga Panchayat claimed that the initiative by ASHA has helped spread immense awareness against human trafficking in his Panchayat.
“Now this has become a topic of discussion in the Chaupal (evening meetings). Not just the girls but even their parents discuss these issues now and are more aware. We also make it a point to bring the topic into discussion from time to time so as to ensure that people do not forget it,” he said.
Trafficking has been a menace in the State for a long time. The data of CID Jharkhand shows that a total of 855 cases of trafficking were registered in the State from 2013 to 2018, in which 1422 survivors were rescued. Also, as many as 743 traffickers were arrested during this time.
However, this data is only for the cases in which FIR has been registered. Ravi Kumar Yadav, a scoial activist working in Khunti said that most of the cases go unreported as the villagers do not want to get into the legal hassles or are threatened by the traffickers.
Member of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Khunti, Baidnath Kumar informed that human trafficking is a huge problem especially in Khunti district. “Every month we get at least a dozen cases of girls rescued from the net of human trafficking and unsafe migration. We try to repatriate them by linking them to mainstream education or livelihood training,” he said.
(This report is a part of NFI Media Fellowship 2019)