With the Covid-19 pandemic having induced job losses and impoverishment of a large number of people, cases of child trafficking, child labour and all forms of exploitation of children have come to the fore.
Accordingly, the State Government has been requested to immediately evolve a coordination mechanism among various departments to handle human trafficking during Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has also issued an advisory to curb trafficking for preventing and combating human trafficking especially during the period of Covid-19.Sources said, Kalilash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), which is working in Odisha along with other States, has requested the State Government to take up collaborative action in this regard as outbreak of Covid-19 has aggravated the situation and several cases of child missing and exploitation are rampant.
On an average, over 2,000 children are reportedly missing from Odisha every year and most of them are girls. Looking at the plight of the missing children, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had directed the State police to take up rescue and rehabilitation operations.
Last year, the Odisha police along with officials of Women and Child Development (WCD) department had rescued 3,188 children, including 82 from outside the State, under an initiative to help minors in distress.The police had launched Operation Paree during August last in which 3,138 children, missing from homes, were rescued from roadside eateries in Odisha.
The children, rescued from outside the State were found in such eateries, garages and engaged in household work in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
The children were handed over to the respective Child Welfare Committees for their rehabilitation.Official sources said, 1,792 children, including 1,291 girls, went missing in 2016, while 1,851 children met the same fate in 2017.
The number was 1,360 in 2017. In 2018, 2,334 children, including 1,875 girls, went missing. During last year, over 2,000 children were reported missing and rescue operation was launched to save them from the clutches of the exploiters.Now in Covid-19 pandemic, situation is reportedly grave as millions have lost their livelihood and have been rendered jobless.
Impact of pandemic induced critical situation in rural areas is serious and a majority of children from villages are trafficked, who are exploited and root of the exploitation is poverty, which is rampant in rural areas, experts opined.
Under this backdrop, KSCF, which is active in Odisha has advised the State Government to immediately evolve a coordination mechanism among various Government agencies to handle the issue of human trafficking in an effective way.
District Magistrates are needed to coordinate the efforts and there is an urgent need to maintain a register containing information about the people leaving villages so that their movements can be tracked.
The Gram Panchayats are needed to maintain the register with complete information about the persons leaving their villages and keep a tack of their movement.