Aimed at empowering students in a first of its kind initiative, Students Against Trafficking (SAT) Clubs were opened up in 6 schools in Darjeeling.
"Students are highly vulnerable to human trafficking and on the other hand they have excellent outreach in society. Student voice is strong and effective. Hence we decided to empower students so that they can take up this important task of spreading anti-trafficking awareness," stated Nirnay John Chettri, general secretary of MARG - an NGO working in the anti-trafficking arena. The SAT clubs are a joint initiative of MARG and the Darjeeling Police.
"There are many past instances in the Hills which portray the proactive role of students in preventing trafficking and also recovering missing people. Such incidents spawned the idea of the SAT clubs," added Chettri.
In 2012 a class 11 student of Darjeeling had helped in preventing a woman from being trafficked and even resulted in the arrest of 4 traffickers. She had attributed her action to an awareness programme against trafficking which she had attended in school.
Around 200 students from Ghoom Girls Higher Secondary School, Maharani Girls Higher Secondary School, Sardeswari Girls High School, Loreto Convent, St. Tereas's Higher Secondary School and St. Michael's School met at Loreto Convent School on Saturday to facilitate the formation of the clubs.
"Students from Class 6 onwards can join the club provided they get a No Objection Certificate from their parents or guardians. Each group will have a team leader and a coordinator (teacher) and will be supervised by the Principal of the school" informed Chettri.
Response was overwhelming. "Nowadays females are not safe anywhere. The vulnerability starts right from the womb in the form of female feticide. Stringent laws are required to punish perpetrators but preventive action is also necessary. Creating awareness is the most important preventive tool and I feel that students can play a proactive role in this arena. That is why I have joined the SAT club" stated Bedotroyee Yolmo Banerjee, a Class 11 student of Loreto Convent School.
"Darjeeling police believe in student empowerment and we will take all necessary steps to facilitate and support the clubs. Last year alone 473 missing cases were lodged in the Darjeeling Hills out of which around 70 persons were recovered. The figures speak volume. The Society has to come together to prevent this menace" stated Kunal Agarwal, superintendent of police, Darjeeling.
The clubs will participate and stage anti-trafficking plays; organise awareness camps in the community; take part in anti-trafficking rally on International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 every year and distribute information education and communication material in the community spreading awareness against human trafficking.