Law enforcement agencies have intensified vigil at the Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi after a rise in cases of human traffickers taking minor girls and boys to metro cities by air, police said on Saturday – a day after 21 Jharkhand girls were rescued at the Chennai airport on the basis of a complaint lodged via email.
“We have deployed our team at the airport to keep an eye on minors traveling in groups. Passengers will also be checked if their activities are found to be suspicious,” said Ranchi Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Surendra Kumar Jha.
Friday’s rescue operation at the Chennai airport was not the first incident of Jharkhand labourers being rescued from an airport on the suspicion of being trafficked.
On January 28, at least seven Jharkhand minors, all from Khunti district, were rescued from the Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi while they were being trafficked to New Delhi to work as domestic helps. Ranchi police had also arrested one woman trafficker during the rescue operation.
So far, traffickers relied on trains and buses for taking children from far-flung villages of the state to different cities. The modus operandi of trafficking agents, who usually prowl villages in search of gullible and needy children, has changed lately, say police. They were now also trafficking children by air despite stricter security at the airports.
Additional Director General of Crime Investigation Department (CID), Anil Palta said that traffickers might have started relying on flights to run their business during the lockdown as many trains and buses remained suspended during that
“It is quite possible that they (traffickers) started using flights to traffic children from Jharkhand during the lockdown period,” said Palta, admitting that checking every minor passenger at the airport was not practically possible.
“It is difficult to identify a trafficking victim among passengers in a busy airport. We are, however, prompt in acting on a complaint against any particular group of passengers or a tip off from intelligence sources,” Palta said.
Jharkhand is one of the worst-affected states in India in terms of human trafficking.
Several hundred children, mostly tribal girls, belonging to poverty-stricken families are lured to the metro cities from villages in Jharkhand every year on pretext of a well-paid job and eventually pushed into slavery, say activists. These children are often subjected to emotional, mental and physical torture leading to severe diseases and even death in some cases, claim activists working against human trafficking in the state.
As per figures with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), as many as 373 women were trafficked from Jharkhand in 2018. However, representatives of Save the Children, an international NGO working for child rights, claim that the number of children trafficked from Jharkhand was much higher than what the NCRB claims.