Postmen in Meghalaya now have a reason to ring twice — first to deliver a letter and second to lecture against human trafficking.
In a world where Internet and SMS are edging out snail mails, postmen — matrilineal Meghalaya has quite a few postwomen — are the most visible government servants in remote areas of the Northeast. And postboxes are the most strategic advertisement boards.
Two years after letting its network of postboxes and post offices in Meghalaya be painted with anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns, India Post has inked an unprecedented agreement with an NGO to make its army of postpersons walk the talk towards checking human trafficking.
“In many areas across the region, villagers trust postmen and postwomen more than other representatives of the government. This trust has come from the practice of postmen often reading out letters,” said I. Pangernu Sang, director of postal services (NE Region). “It seemed practical to utilise the relationship between postal employees and villagers against trafficking and other social ills.”
Young girls and children from the Northeast form the bulk of some 65,000 people who go missing every year. Most are lured away with the promise of jobs.
“People in remote villages across the Northeast usually avoid approaching the police to report cases of missing children and young women. Since the postal department has the best rural reach and a ready infrastructure, we decided to give postal officials and employees some added responsibility,” Hasina Kharbih, who heads NGO Impulse, told HT from Shillong.
According to the blueprint, postpersons would collect information about missing children and young women besides cautioning against possible traffickers. Existing common service centers at the post offices would compile the cases and refer them to the police and subsequently to the nodal officer, anti-trafficking.