One year ago, Lakshmi and Nidhi (names changed) were on their way to Delhi to join hundreds of other kids from Jharkhand to work as domestic maids.
As they come out to meet us in sparkling school uniforms, their hair in two neat braids, one wonders what would have happened to them had a rescue team not intervened and asked them to deboard the train at Ranchi.
The two friends were picked up by a woman from their village. "She told me that she would take us to meet my sister-in-law in Ranchi. We went with her because we knew her well. Once in Ranchi we were put into a train. Just before it was about to move, two men came and asked us to get off quickly," said Lakshmi, 14.
The two men were police officers who, accompanied by Child Welfare Committee (CWC) officials and NGOs, carried out the raid at the railway station.
The CWC then decided against sending them back home and admitted them to the residential Kasturba Gandhi Balika Avasiya Vidyalaya, Gumla. These schools offer a second chance to those girls between the age of 14 and 16 who dropped out of primary school and cannot be absorbed in the regular system. They are a boon for girls such as Lakshmi and Nidhi. The girls' parents are allowed to meet them once a month.
"Had we sent them back, there would have been a real danger of them being trafficked again. In fact, 60 per cent of the girls we rescue are trafficked back to Delhi as there is no mechanism to ensure their safety," said Tribhuvan Sharma, CWC member, Gumla.
The two have now decided to fight against trafficking.
"A lot of girls in our village are still going outside to work. We will help them fight this menace," said Lakshmi who wants to become a police officer when she grows up.