Social media is the new hunting ground for human traffickers, looking to push minor girls into prostitution.
A 17-year-old girl from Nagaland was recently rescued from an airport in neighbouring Manipur as she was about to board a flight to the Capital on a ticket sent to her by a Delhi-based man.
The man, she told police, contacted her on Facebook in 2016 and they became friends. They chatted for almost a year before the man, who has been identified but is yet to be nabbed, mailed her the ticket.
The man, police said, was planning to push her into prostitution. He was also chatting with several young girls in the Northeast, Punjab and Goa, Kohima superintendent of police Joseph Hesso said.
“Traffickers are randomly sending messages to girls and when someone replies, they trap them. The girl was promised a good job in Delhi but was saved just before her flight was to take off,” Hesso told HT over the phone from the state capital Kohima.
Thousands of girls are trafficked to Delhi every year. Some are forced to work as domestic helps, which are in a huge demand, while many are pushed into prostitution.
According to a global survey report, India has the largest population of modern slaves in the world, with more than 18 million people trapped as bonded labourers, forced beggars, sex workers and child soldiers.
The Global Slavery Index by human rights organisation Walk Free Foundation said the number was 1.4% of India’s population.
The air ticket, said sources, was booked from Delhi and the girl was asked to come to the Imphal airport. Her parents contacted police when they found the girl missing from their Kohima home.
Police in neighbouring Manipur, too, were alerted and a picture sent to them. The girl didn’t come to the airport on the day she was expected but on January 17, airport staff informed them a 17-year-old was boarding a Jet Airways flight, Imphal SP (CID) KH Sarma told HT.
“We rushed and stopped the flight and later it was confirmed that she was the girl the Nagaland Police were looking for,” Sarma said.
The accused has been identified and a Nagaland Police team is in the Capital to nab him.
“Young girls need to be sensitised on the use of social media and why they should avoid chatting with strangers,” said Rishi Kant of Shaktivahini, a child rights’ NGO which is assisting police in the operation.