Such groups, which started in 2004 in the in Sandeshkhali-Canning area, have now found presence in Kolkata, Malda and South 24 Parganas districts.
Driven by their urge to stop child trafficking and early child marriage in their villages, youngsters in Bengal have taken up a fight against traffickers. They have their own network of sources and keep close coordination with local panchayat members and even members of child protection committees.
While one group has been successful in getting a marriage called off when it sensed something amiss, another in Mouli village led by 18-year-old Tanuja Khatun threatened action against a man after it was revealed that he was trying to lure a girl for a job in the national capital.
Saluting their spirit, the state government awarded the girls on January 24 – which is observed as the National Girl Child’s Day.
Tanuja was given a special award for her bravery and contribution towards empowering girls in the state.
She has helped save as many as 32 girls from trafficking, enabled reunification of more than 15 trafficked girl children with their families and prevented seven child marriages, said Save the Children, one of the NGOs working closely with the West Bengal government and others in preventing trafficking on their Facebook page.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Assam and West Bengal account for 40% of all crimes related to human trafficking in the country. While Assam recorded 1,494 cases of human trafficking, West Bengal recorded 1,255 cases – together registering 39.9% of the total number of cases under the category.
Traffickers or people from their networks target poor families and try to convince them by saying that their children would earn handsome incomes and even show them photographs of children working. They pay up to a month’s earnings and then traffic the girl to different states.
They also lure poor families on the pretext of getting their daughter married into well-to-do families, and even bring perspective grooms with fake identities. They even promise to pay extra money. However, after a while, the money stops coming and the girl becomes untraceable.
These are some of the situations where these children’s groups (comprising around 15 members), which have been trained by NGOs with government support, keep their eyes open and step up to ensure that nothing untoward happens.
The groups often conduct awareness drives, frequent villages and even hold meetings. They also help police and other organisations in rescuing trafficked children.
“Children have been victims. They have seen their friends trafficked. Therefore, they have been the most successful in combating the menace,” Chittapriyo Sadhu, general manager of Save the Children West Bengal and Assam told Hindustan Times.
The report also says that the groups are linked with Integrated Child Protection Scheme being implemented by the West Bengal government. Thirty-five villages in the area have been declared free of child domestic worker trafficking.
Such groups, which started in 2004 in the in Sandeshkhali-Canning area, are now also present in Kolkata, Malda and South 24 Parganas districts. Most of the rescued children are given training in special centres before they are taken to schools.
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Hriday Ghosh, head of Dhagogia Social Welfare Society, partner NGO of Save The Children in Sandeshkhali says that the situation has improved there and that many traffickers have shifted base.
“Before the children’s groups were formed in these areas, most were trafficked to different parts of the country. Many children went missing… But in villages where there are no such groups the situation is pathetic,” he says.
To know more Save The Children and its work, visit the website here.