Lured with the promise of good jobs or marriage, thousands of children, especially girls, were being trafficked from seven districts of West Bengal, an NGO has claimed.
Most of the children were trafficked to Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur, Jalandhar besides other northern cities in Haryana, UP and Bihar, the NGO Save the Children said quoting data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
It was found that these children were routinely subjected to many different forms of abuse from unsafe working conditions and lack of food to being beaten, deliberately burnt or sexually abused.
Releasing its study 'Missing Children in West Bengal' here done over a period of four years, it said that in Patharpratima in South 24 PArganas, 71 children were reported missing since 2005 of whom 28 were rescued.
Similarly, in Sandeshkhali in the same district 302 children went missing between 2004 and 2006 of whom 30 were traced.
"Sandeshkhali and Patharpratima are only symbolic of a growing tide of missing children in West Bengal," it said.
"It is these trafficked children who have been reported missing," the NGO said.
The districts from which they were trafficked were South and North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, East and West Midnapore, Nadia and Jalpaiguri.
"Most child domestic workers are young girls who come from poor families and are forced to work for up to 15 hours a day with no break or little to pay," the NGO said.
Of them 68 per cent had faced physical abuse and 46.6 per cent severe abuse that led to injuries, 32.2 per cent had their private parts touched by the abuser and 20 per cent forced to have sexual intercourse, it said.
"Fifty per cent of the children do not get any leave in a year, 37 per cent never see their families and 78 per cent receive less than Rs 500 per month."
Stressing that child domestic work should be eradicated, the NGO said hazardous and exploitative forms of child work should be done away with and they should be assisted to develop socially and educationally.
Other findings were that of the missing children, 66.6 per cent were girls, 49.06 per cent children between 15-18 years of age and 29.96 per cent between 13 and 14 and 20.97 per cent below 12 years.
"It was found that 15.04 per cent children never attended school, while 76.69 per cent studied up to fifth standard, 2.92 per cent children left their homes for work and 11.67 per cent were taken out for marriage." MORE
Only 16.18 per cent missing cases were reported to the police or panchayats, while in 83.82 per cent cases, the parents either tried to get information on the child either themselves or through other contacts.
It said about 49.54 per cent children were missing for over two years.
"Each of the villages has a significant number of children who have gone out to work. Of those who go out to work, there are a critical number of those who, however, do not return. This leads us to grapple with the fact that when do parents realise the fact that their children are missing."
Referring to the Nithari killings in U.P., the study quoted the Department of Women and Child Development to say "it reflects the general apathy and malaise in the administrative system, especially the police in tackling the problems of children and ensuring their safety and protection."
It said also said that it and and its partners were able to reform a group of traffickers through anti-trafficing measures in source districts.