Authorities in Bihar rescued 16 children from a Mumbai-bound express train at Raxaul railway station on Saturday, confirming fears about human traffickers taking advantage of the situation in quake-ravaged, poverty-ridden villages in Nepal and India.
Swathes of countryside in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal, bordering Nepal, had suffered extensive loss to life and property after the April 25 earthquake and constant aftershocks in the Himalayan nation.
Sources said the rescued children belonged to villages on both sides of the Indo-Nepal border and they were being taken to a bag-manufacturing factory in Mumbai to work as cheap labour.
Four alleged traffickers, accompanying the children aged eight to 14, were arrested but others managed to escape amid commotion during the raid on Jansadharan express by a joint team of Bihar labour officials, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel and activists of an NGO, Prayas.
Officials said a dozen kids belonged to East and West Champaran districts of Bihar, which were battered by cyclonic storms before the Nepal quake, leaving thousands of people homeless. Two children each from UP and Nepal were among those rescued.
East Champaran labour superintendent Sanjeev Kumar said Saturday’s raid was the latest in a string of anti-trafficking operations in recent days.
“All the children were from very poor families. The governments had recently given Rs 1,800 each to over 100 such children in East Champaran alone for their rehabilitation,” he said.
A social worker said rehabilitation measures were hardly enough and effective to stop these children from falling into the traffickers’ trap again. “After a stint at a short stay home, they are handed to their families. But acute poverty forces them back into the relentless trafficking trap, sooner than expected,” he added.
An SSB official said an arrested trafficker revealed during interrogation that parents of some of the rescued children were working as labourers in Nepal. “But after the Nepal disaster, they became jobless and vulnerable to the lure of money and persuasive powers of middlemen engaged by the trafficking racket.”
Commandant of the SSB’s 13th battalion, Rakesh Kumar Sinha, said his men had rescued from trafficking gangs over 250 children and women since 2013. “We alerted all 18 border outposts of the SSB to keep an eye open for human traffickers after the Nepal quake. The latest rescue is an outcome of that alert.”
Read: Quake-hit children, women in Nepal easy prey for human traffickers