A year ago, Aakansha used to live her worst nightmare in a dingy kitchen – surrounded by unwashed dishes. Sold by human traffickers to a household in Delhi, she had to work round-the-clock without pay for people who treated her no better than a slave.
Things have changed for the better since her rescue, and it’s not just because she gets to attend school in the hope of a bright future. Today, Aakansha and her friends play their favourite sport – football – in Jharkhand’s Gumla district to spread awareness on a social evil that once threatened to consume them. Among all of Jharkhand’s districts, Gumla is the worst affected by human trafficking.
“It’s all about letting the rescued girls build their lives through sports. Football is a big part of our village-level sensitisation programmes against human-trafficking, and everybody – from district administration officials to child welfare committee members – is doing all they can to help,” says Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, the Delhi-based NGO that rescued Aakansha. Youngsters from various walks of life come together to fight human-trafficking at these football matches, he adds.
While six out of 10 girls drop out of school to become child brides in Jharkhand, thousands of others are trafficked out of the state every year. Most end up working as a domestic helps with little or no pay.
According to the Jharkhand police website, as many as 189 cases of kidnapping were registered in the state over the last five years. Almost 90% of the victims were taken to Delhi or Mumbai and sold as domestic helps.
However, NGOs believe this figure may be just the tip of the iceberg. “A number of cases go unreported because of a major communication gap between the people and the police force that guards them. The police should begin community policing in collaboration with NGOs to address the issue,” said a child rights activist who works in the Naxal-hit areas of Gumla. He also suggested that a database of potential victims be created to help authorities track them in the case of an untoward incident.
About 33,000 minors are trafficked out of Jharkhand every year. Over 50% of the minors rescued from households across the country hail from the state.
Victim’s name changed to protect her identity