In a dilapidated ‘placement agency’ in Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur, the fate of an 11-year-old girl is being sealed. “She can wash, sweep and cook. She is hardworking and will not give you any trouble.
If she does, you can come back for a replacement,” says an agent who fixes deals, selling hundreds of minor girls as domestic helps every year.
In return, all that’s required is a one-time fee of Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 2,500 per month thereafter. What’s not required is the girl’s consent. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, while trafficking of minor girls has increased, the number of girls being sold and bought for prostitution has gone down. Instead, leading NGOs claim that trafficked minors are being increasingly employed as domestic helps.
"In 2011, 862 cases of trafficking were reported in comparison to 679 in 2010 - an increase of 27%. During the same period, selling and buying of girls for prostitution decreased by 13.1% and 65.4% respectively," said a police officer.
Money, it seems, is the driving force behind this shift. "Out of the 325 children rescued by us in 2011, 162 were working as domestic helps. An agent earns between Rs. 5,000-Rs. 10,000 for selling a girl to a brothel, while he can get a commission of at least Rs. 20,000 if he sells her to a household," said Rishikant, executive director of NGO Shaktivahini.
Girls, mostly in the age group of 10 to 15, are smuggled by organised gangs from Jharkhand. After speaking to several placement agencies, Hindustan Times found that the price range and age of domestic helps can be negotiated, with agents even willing to come home and talk.
The Delhi government is yet to enact a law that makes registration of placement agencies mandatory. A survey by NGOs of the 2300-odd agencies in the city revealed that only 364 of them were registered under the Commercial Establishment Act.
(Inputs from Neelam Pandey)