As many as a million toddlers and young children reportedly fall prey to human trafficking in India every year.
This can be further corroborated by a 2015 report by The Guardian, which estimates that a staggering number of 1,35,000 kids are trafficked on an annual basis.
What remains largely unknown is the fact that more and more teenagers and young adults are being lured into the vicious circle, with fake promises of better future and lucrative job opportunities and subsequently sold into prostitution or child labour.
According to The New Indian Express, the number of teenagers being brainwashed into running away from their homes for better opportunities, is on a steep rise, especially in Bengaluru.
Children of migrant workers, who fall under the age group of 8-11, are believed to be the prime target for the traffickers, as most of them are left to their own devices with both parents heading for work on a daily basis.
The issue in such cases is that when a child goes missing without any notice, the parents file a ‘missing’ case with the police or ‘kidnapping’ case at the worst, but no one suspects that their ward could be sold into the trafficking ring.
Also, there is an underlying fear amidst parents about the involvement of local goons that further pushes them into silence or lodge a complaint.
As ghastly and disturbing as it can get, the demand for minor children in the prostitution ring is something that has been on a steep rise, as a person who has been working with children of sex workers stated that younger kids were quite ‘adaptable’ and have proved to command higher returns from the perpetrators.
While state police departments and non-profit organisations, along with child abuse activists, have been vehemently trying to crack down the widespread nexus under their jurisdiction and areas, the penetrative reach that these networks have made into even the grass-root sections of the country is quite disparaging.
More often than not, people have found young children looking lost and accompanied by unfamiliar people at public spaces, most prominently on railway stations.
While it is possible that the child might be accompanied by its family members or relatives, our intervention in such situations can help save a vulnerable child, and possibly even bust a crime ring.
If you ever happen to come across a situation, where the child or group of children seem completely out of place or appear rattled, here’s what you can do.
The first step is to call the 1098 childline service, which is a 24-hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection and is the country’s first toll-free tele-helpline for street children in distress.
As of March 2015, a total of 36 million calls since its inception in 1996, have been serviced by Childline service. It operates in 366 cities across 34 States and Union Territories through its network of over 700 partner organisations across India.
You can also reach out to Shakti Vahini to report any human trafficking. It is a non-profit organisation that operates in the NCR region as well as states like West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Bihar. Call them on 9899710847 (mobile) and 9582909025 (helpline) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.