Police, NGOs rope in ‘spy kids’ to curb trafficking in Uttarakhand

Police and NGOs are taking help of schoolchildren to curb human trafficking in the hill districts of Uttarakhand, officials said. Children form the ground intelligence units of anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) of the police and NGOs.
The idea was first implemented in Gangolihat tehsil of Pithoragarh district, which reports more cases of human trafficking.(HT Photo)
The idea was first implemented in Gangolihat tehsil of Pithoragarh district, which reports more cases of human trafficking.(HT Photo)
Published on Nov 06, 2018 12:47 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Dehradun | By

Police and NGOs are taking help of schoolchildren to curb human trafficking in the hill districts of Uttarakhand, officials said.

Children form the ground intelligence units of anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) of the police and NGOs. Additional director general of police, law & order, Ashok Kumar, said, “Schoolchildren play a vital role in fighting human trafficking in the state.”

Hollywood flick ‘Spy Kids’, a hit in the early 2000s, featured some children doing stunts and using hi-tech gadgets in their attempt to save their parents abducted by antagonists. Uttarakhand’s own ‘spy kids’ don’t come into limelight in action sequences and work only in shadows to not save anyone from abductors but to stop human trafficking. In hill districts, many girls are trafficked to other states for marriage. Experts call it ‘bride trafficking’.

Children sensitised

“The idea of sensitising schoolchildren came to my mind in 2015, after the adults refused to cop-operate with us to control human trafficking,” said Gyanendra Kumar, an anti-human trafficking activist who founded the NGO, Empowering People Society (EPS).

The idea was first implemented in Gangolihat tehsil of Pithoragarh district, which reports more cases of human trafficking, said Kumar. “We went to villages to make villagers aware of the issue. We urged them to inform the authorities if they witness any case of human or bride trafficking,” he said.

“However, they refused to help us and later started stopping us from entering their villages by accusing us of bringing disrepute to their villages with our sensitisation campaign on bride-trafficking. We then decided to sensitise schoolchildren.”

Kumar and his team gave presentations to children of classes 9-12. “The children, aged 13-17 years, are mature enough to understand the issue. We gave them our mobile numbers and asked them to give tip-offs on human trafficking, so that we and the authorities could stop it. The results were outstanding,” he claimed.

No identification

Children were promised that those providing tip-offs won’t be asked to reveal their identity. “Tip-offs then started coming in and gradually gathered pace. The children call us from their parents’ or someone else’s mobile phones,” Kumar said.

“Many a time tip-offs turned out to be wrong but we never stopped taking them from children. Their tip-offs prevented trafficking of many girls. When we started getting results, we used the model in other affected districts. AHTUs of police later joined the initiative.”

The children were encouraged only to inform and not to investigate the incidents. “We tell them it is our or police’s duty to verify the inputs or undertake investigation to prevent trafficking. Children’s safety is important. We and AHTUs work together on the intelligence inputs provided by school kids,” Gyanendra Kumar said.

“Girls are more courageous than the boys. They often call from mobile phones of their family members without their knowledge. They ask us not to make a return call on the number, which might cause problems for them,” he said.

Network-based crime

Kumar said human trafficking crimes are based on networks of the accused. “So to fight it, we too needed a strong counter-network which children have provided us.” He added, “We want more help from the government to reach out more villages so as to rope in more schoolchildren by sensitising them.”

ADGP Ashok Kumar said AHTUs conduct awareness programmes in schools, especially in the hill districts. He said: “The programmes have given results. Children are helping police by informing them about human trafficking. Based on their inputs, AHTUs have nabbed traffickers.”

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