Four local girls were rescued from Darjeeling Hills on Saturday just as they were about to be trafficked, thanks to a vigilant taxi driver who alerted authorities in time.
The incident happened at Mirik, a scenic tourist town in Darjeeling surrounded by tea gardens. However, the economically backward condition of people of the tea gardens and surrounding villages makes it highly vulnerable to trafficking.
A number of sex rackets operating from private residences and guest houses were unearthed in SIliguri and other towns of North Bengal recently.
Sailesh Subba, the taxi driver at Krishnanagar taxi stand in Mirik, noticed the four girls talking to a man, who looked like an outsider.
“Recently I had attended an anti-trafficking awareness programme conducted by MARG, an NGO, and police,” Subba told HT.
Suspecting something wrong, he approached the girls and learnt that they were going to Bangalore for jobs in a beauty parlour and that the man was escorting them to Siliguri railway station.
He immediately informed the NGO which in turn alerted the police. The four girls and the man were taken into custody for questioning.
The girls, aged between 18 and 24 years, revealed that they had undergone a beautician course and were offered jobs in a salon in Bangalore through a manpower placement agency in Kolkata. (The name of the manpower agency and the salon has been withheld for investigation purposes.)
“We found a lot of anomalies in the documents,” investigating officer R K Diyali said. “The Kolkata placement agency document claimed that seven girls would be joining as stewards in F&B service department of the Bangalore based organization. However, the girls had no clue they were joining as stewards. The offer letter from the Bangalore salon claimed they would be joining as hairstylists and beauticians.”
Nirnay John Chettri, president of the NGO, Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG), said they got in touch with “our partner NGO, Justice and Care, in Bangalore. They paid a visit to the salon posing as customers. Except for a massage bed, the single room did not have any equipment used in a salon.”
50-year-old Prabal Mohan Bhattacharya from North 24 Parganas has been arrested and charged under Section 370 IPC (trafficking).
“We are thoroughly investigating the case,” the Investigating Officer Diyali said.
Recently four students of Darjeeling Hills had unearthed an international flesh trade racket resulting in the arrest of its kingpin from Gurgaon in Haryana. “Along with the four students we will felicitate Sailesh Subba also,” Chettri said.