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Delhi’s trafficking ‘queen’ jailed for 10 years for forcing minors into labour

delhi Updated: Oct 19, 2016 20:46 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times
minor girls

Rescued children at a night shelter in New Delhi. Gayatri Devi used to lure minors, bring them to Delhi and place them in Delhi households. (Ravi Choudhary/HT File )

A woman, who was the leader of a trafficking racket run by her brother-in-law and who allegedly placed over 10,000 minors into the labour market in the National Capital Region, has been convicted for 10 years by a Chhattisgarh court. He was arrested two years ago.

Gayatri Devi’s conviction has brought hope for those fighting against illegal placement agencies in Delhi. NGOs working for child rights have welcomed hailed the decision and hope the employers hiring minors for work will learn a lesson with this judgment.

Gayatri used to run a placement agency in west Delhi’s Shakurpur. She told the police that they used to buy minors for R12,000 and then charge R24,000 for placing them at a household to work as domestic help.

Her agents in villages of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, used to lure minors and bring them to Delhi. She then used to place them in Delhi households.

Read more: Six-year-old girl missing from Noida found in Delhi after 20 days

“Her conviction is a strong message for the placement agencies and the police should now look for minors placed by them,” said Rishikant of Shakti Vahini NGO.

A Delhi-based businessman, who had employed a girl trafficked by Devi, informed the police when the minor girl, placed at his home, ran away. He was the prime witness in the case.

“She, her brother-in-law, Panna Lal Mahto, and his wife were running the racket in Delhi. But the minors placed by them have not been rescued yet. Even the girl of Chhattisgarh case is still missing. This case should be used to make the public aware in Delhi that how an employer can face problem if they employ a minor,” said Aradhana Singh, anti-trafficking in charge at Khunti district in Jharkhand, who had busted the trafficking racket in Delhi.

Gayatri’s arrest helped the police unearth the racket as they got a list of over 150 illegal placement agencies operating from Shakurpur.

“Mahto’s relatives own several placement agencies in the area. The list submitted by the Jharkhand police contains names of wanted traffickers and illegal placement agencies and minors who were trafficked by them. But sadly due to lack of integration, nothing could happen,” Singh added.

The trafficking racket in Delhi is a steadily growing menace with victims — mostly minors and women — brought in from states like Jharkhand and West Bengal. Once in the city, they are pushed into child labour, illegal domestic work or prostitution by unscrupulous placement agencies.

Mahto had earlier been arrested by Jharkhand Police in 2006 for human trafficking and had been in jail for around five months. He has many properties in Delhi, Ranchi and Khunti (Jharkhand), all acquired through his illegal human trafficking business.