A child prostitution racket has allegedly been operating at Abdullapur Basti and Fauji Mohalla, the slum areas adjoining the Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar Inter-State Bus Terminal.
Innocent girls aged between 12 and 18 are not only subjected to "physical abuse" but in some cases are also forced to undergo permanent contraception procedure of tubectomy, depriving the young girls of the chance to become a mother for life.
The horrid tale came to the fore when a resident of Abdullapur Basti rescued Shubha (name changed), a teenaged girl, and contacted HT reporter on January 9. The girl had undergone tubectomy at Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, as per the health card issued by the hospital on January 5, the day she was operated upon.
Narrating her tale, the girl, who hails from West Bengal, said she was given sedatives by lawyer Jagdish Singh Janda with whom she was staying for the past one month. Shubha also alleged that she had been sexually exploited by the lawyer and then on the morning of January 5, he gave her something with tea and took her to hospital.
"I woke up in the afternoon and found myself in the hospital room. I felt pain in my stomach and started crying after seeing the bandage on my stomach. On being asked, the staff in the hospital told me that I had been operated upon but I couldn't understand the reason for the operation," said the girl.
Shubha said she had come to Ludhiana with Ajay, her distant relative who exploited her in the name of marriage. Showing Ajay's name tattooed on her arm, she said, "He took me to Kashmir first, where we stayed for almost three months and then came to Ludhiana a year ago."
She alleged that the boy abandoned her a month ago and then the lawyer took her home where again she was physically exploited.
The scar of the operation was fresh on the girl's stomach and HT reporter took her to a local gynaecologist, who examined her, performed a scan and said the girl had undergone tubectomy, adding that she had been deprived of becoming a mother for life.
Thereafter, HT reporter handed over Shubha to Rupinder Kaur, the programme officer of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme, who took the girl to Missionaries of Charity (orphanage) where she stayed for two days and was shifted to a protection home for girls in Jalandhar on January 12.
Before sending her to protection home in Jalandhar, the child welfare committee functional under the ICDS complained to the Model Town police station and got her medical examination done from Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital.
In complete contradiction to the hospital register that refers to Shubha as "27-year-old" woman on the day of her operation, that is January 5, the report of the radiology department, dated January 11, exactly after six days of her operation confirms that the age of the girl was between 14 and ½ years to 16 and ½ years. The copies of both the reports are in possession of Hindustan Times. The details mentioned on the card include her name, her husband's name (who does not exist) OT no: 610, couple no: 859, date of operation: January 5, 2013, doctor's name: Mili.
On January 17, the HT reporter went to civil hospital to check the original record of Shubha but the hospital authorities were reluctant to show the record. Having waited for more than an hour and having made calls to senior medical officer (SMO) Dr Karamvir Goel, Dr Kamaljit, the incharge of all records pertaining surgeries performed under family planning, and Dr Mili Markan who had operated upon the girl, the reporter was unable to get a satisfactory reply.
Later, Dr Kamaljit called up to give details from Shubha's file adding, "As per our record, Shubha is 27, has two children and her husband's name is Munna Lal. However, her husband was not accompanying her at the time of the operation," the doctor said. Dr Kamaljit again called the reporter late in the evening saying advocate Jagdish Singh had called her up and claimed to have saved Shubha, who was committing suicide. She said she had two children and did not want more, so he brought her to the hospital for operation.
The hospital doctors referred to "Shubha" as a woman, whereas the report from their radiology department established her as a teenager.
Used to a different life now, Shubha is demanding money and ran away from protection home. But the protection home staff caught her from near Fauji Mohalla. Rina, the in-charge at protection home, said, "The girl is sharp but has undergone too much at a young age. She has admitted to having earned money through prostitution."
Girl's admission in front of police
Arvind, member of the Child Welfare Committee, said Shubha while recording her statement with the Model Town police said there were many girls of her age living in the area who had been operated upon and were handed over to men of different age groups. "It is a clear case of child prostitution racket and people responsible for exploiting minor girls should be taken to task," said Arvind.
However, Davinder Chaudhary, inspector at Model Town police station, said there was no complaint in the case, adding, "The civil hospital authorities had refused the medical examination of the girl, so the ICDS officials approached us and we accompanied them to get her medical examination done."
Rina, superintendent at the protection home in Jalandhar where the girl is lodged, said, "We will initiate action in this case on Monday including the police complaint."
Visit to Abdullapur Basti
A visit to Abdullapur Basti and Fauji Mohalla on the evening of January 17 gave an insight into the "vehras" (illegal dwellings of not more than 8x8 feet) owned by grocery traders, corporation employees and local political leaders. Residents of Fauji Mohalla agreed to have seen the girl with one Ajay and then with advocate Jagdish Singh.
The reporter after enquiring about Ajay managed to locate him at his workplace, a dhaba near the bus stand. He admitted to having stayed with the girl for a few weeks but refused to have brought her from West Bengal. He said she had been here for almost a year and had been exploited by various men. Talking about the "advocate", Ajay said the advocate had rented out places to many women and young girls.
Another local, on condition of anonymity, said a large number of people, including the owners of "vehras", were running a child prostitution racket. "This is an inter-state racket run by a local political leader who also owns a hotel near the bus stand. The so-called leaders of the migrants lure these girls in their respective states," added the local.
He said these girls are given alcohol and drugs before they are thrown into prostitution.
There are many minor girls living in these "vehras" who have become mothers in their teens.
Girl was carrying a mobile
The girl was also carrying a mobile with the number: 85916 56790 which is in the custody of HT reporter.
The reporter on checking the list of outgoing/incoming calls was able to get some numbers followed by the details of a few. These numbers are of Ganga Mukhiya of Kitchlu Nagar, Ludhiana; Nassar Ali Mohammad of Vishwakarma Town, Ludhiana, Veer Singh of Davinderpur, Ludhiana, and Najabhu Hapi of Surjit Nagar, Ludhiana.
There are some numbers in the list of outgoing/incoming calls but the service providers are not from Punjab but from Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Defence of advocate Jagdish Singh Janda
Refuting the allegations levelled by Shubha that he had physically abused her, Jagdish Singh said he had tried to help her by getting her operated upon. "She said she had two children and her husband did not want her to have another, thus I took her to the civil hospital and got her operated upon. I gave her shelter for a few days but she tried to break open my bedroom and I had to throw her out of my house." The advocate said even if his name got printed in the news, he would manage to get bail in a few days.
Jan 5: Shubha (name changed) operated upon at civil hospital in the morning, discharged by evening
Jan 8: Shubha approaches a local for help
Jan 9: HT reporter gets a call from the Basti Abdullapur resident at 11am, who hands over the girl to the reporter at 11.30. The reporter after taking the girl to the doctor at 2.30 hands her over to ICDS programme officer at 6pm. Girl sent to Missionaries of Charity.
Jan 10 : Girl becomes violent, creates ruckus at the orphanage. ICDS programme officer counsels her.
Jan 11: Formal complaint given to the police, girl taken for medical examination at Lord Mahavira Civil Hospital.
Jan 12: Shubha sent to Jalandhar
Jan 15: Shubha runs from protection home and reaches Ludhiana. Taken back to protection home the same day.
Tubectomy, also referred to as tubal ligation, is a surgical procedure for sterilisation involving the tying up of fallopian tubes as a permanent method of contraception.