Every fourth day a child is trafficked from Jharkhand – a State that is striving relentlessly to keep its children in school and prevent child labour. The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, released in 2016, says that a total of 90 children were trafficked from Jharkhand in 2015. The NCRB’s figure, however, may just be showing the tip of an iceberg and the actual count of trafficked children could be much higher, fear activists working at the grass root level.
While the Government has been taking several initiatives to curb trafficking of children, the underlying causes that may lead to children falling prey to traffickers still require much attention. “We have to understand that school dropouts and children who are forced to earn for their family are more likely to fall prey to traffickers. There are also children who are unhappy with the environment at home and want to leave. They are equally susceptible,” said Mahadev Hansda, State Programme Manager of Save the Children, an international organization working in the interiors of Jharkhand since the State’s formation.
Hansda recalled the time when he was working on rescue and rehabilitation of children trafficked from Jharkhand to New Delhi and said that around 700 Jharkhand children were rescued from New Delhi alone every year. “The only way to curb this practice is by educating children and ensuring that they get a safe and healthy environment at home and at school,” he said. Poor nutrition and low survival rate has pushed Jharkhand to the second last position among all the 29 states in India in terms of Child Well-Being Index, a report that has put into consideration healthy personal development, positive relationships and protective environment. Jharkhand secured a rating of 0.50 out of 1 in the report released on August 27. The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) also complements the results of the Child Well-Being Index. According to the latest NFHS-4 conducted in 2015-2016, at least 48 per cent children under the age of five years living in rural Jharkhand are stunted. At least 29.5 per cent of children in the same age bracket are wasted and 49.8 per cent are underweight, the survey conducted by the ministry of health and family welfare highlights. The NFHS is yet to conduct its survey for 2018-2019. “Poverty leads to malnutrition and poverty also leads to trafficking and child labour,” Hansda said.
Member of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Khunti, Baijnath Kumar said that thousands of children were trafficked from Jharkhand every year and many cases go unreported. “Thousands of children are trafficked every year from the interiors of the State. A lot still needs to be done in order to protect the vulnerable children,” said Kumar.
The Raghubar Das-led Government here, however, has taken initiatives like Sukanya Yojana, which encourages girl children to pursue education and not fall in the trap of child marriage. Child marriage, too, happens to be one of the reasons for trafficking of minor girls from the State. Several incidents of Jharkhand minors being trafficked for marrying men in Haryana were reported in the yesteryears, say activists.
The law enforcement agencies are planning to strengthen their mechanism for fighting trafficking. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has written to State Home Department for setting up our new Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) in Jharkhand. “We are continuously striving to strengthen our teams for curbing human trafficking. We have eight AHTUs and four new AHTUs will further facilitate our work,” said Ranjeet Prasad, Inspector General, Organised Crime.