Trafficking of children who are often sold in shady deals and then forced to work as domestic help by organised gangs is becoming a growing menace in Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti districts. The kids, all of them minors who are transported from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, are made to toil for long hours in both villages and big towns, usually without being paid.
Data collected by Hindustan Times shows the blight of child labour is especially prevalent in Kullu, where authorities apparently do not have the will to nab the culprits.
In February, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) and the district police rescued three minors who had been brought here to be sold as child labourer and apprehended their abductors.
According to sources, minors in large numbers are working as labourers or domestic helps at the homes of prominent people.
Pawan K Kashyap , social activist and officiating coordinator of Childline, an NGO, said, “The NGO is engaged in rescuing minors. The number of children forced to work as labourers in villages is very large. These kids have lost hope of ever going back home as the authorities appear to look the other way at the problem.”
Expressing his resentment over the lack of cooperation of governmental agencies in efforts to rescue these children, he said officials are reluctant to help the minors and in many cases the offenders get away by paying the fine. This has failed to create a fear among the culprits of being punished, aggravating the situation, he added
“Large gangs that are active in trafficking children bring the minors here for being sold as domestic labourers”, he added.
A clinical psychologist at the regional hospital Hema Sharma said, “The minors are exploited in every manner - they may be physically abused and even sexually assaulted by the culprits. Many end up as drug addicts”.
16 kids rescued in 2013-14
According to data collected by HT, 27 children were rescued in 2012-13 by the NGO Childline in a joint effort of the district police administration and labour department. It was found 16 kids were engaged as child labourers in the district in 2013-14, with five kids still being forced to work as servants up to February 2014.