A drought-like situation in villages compelled nine children from Lohardaga district to accept an alleged trafficking agent’s proposal and leave for working as labourers in Assam tea gardens, child welfare committee (CWC) member Balkrishna Singh said on Sunday.
The children, including seven girls, under 15 years of age were counselled by the Lohardaga CWC on Saturday after their rescue from Lohardaga-Ranchi Express on Thursday afternoon, he said.
“Parents of the rescued children during counselling said all their crops had dried off and they had no other option but to send their children to work as child labourers,” said Singh.
He said the children did not have any past experience of working as labourers and were lured by a local agent identified as Suresh Kumar, now under arrest.
The children from Pesrar block also told Singh they were running short of food grains at home and were in acute crisis. They have been sent to their homes, said Singh.
Jharkhand, with 16.57 lakh hectare cultivable land, has registered 94% paddy sowing this year. Drought-prone Palamu and Garwah districts have recorded 70% sowing, according to the state agriculture department.
While the output of the sowing will be known in October-end when harvesting begins, the uneven distribution of monsoon rain and poor irrigation facilities have led to premature drying of crops in many pockets, pushing the state towards drought, say agriculturists.
The estimated crop loss in Lohardaga, the district these rescued children belong to, is about 35% in paddy, said state agriculture minister Randhir Singh.
Ranchi, Simdega, Garwah, Palamu and Hazaribagh have about 30% estimated paddy crop loss, West Singbhum and Lohardaga around 35% and Santhal Parganas about 20%, Singh said citing the latest figures with the agriculture department.
Activists claim the drought-like situation in trafficking-prone Jharkhand is working in favour of the local agents who sell young Jharkhand girls and boys to other parts of the country as slaves.
At least 30,000 children are trafficked from Jharkhand to other parts of the country every year, say activists.
“The agents exploit crisis situations like the one prevailing in the state at present. The drought is making it easier for them to convince the parents of children in villages,” said Baijnath Kumar, anti-human trafficking activist who was a part of the team that rescued the minors.