Odisha's Maoist-hit Sundergarh District witnesses rise in girl trafficking cases
Odisha's Maoist-hit Sundergarh District is experiencing a rise in girl trafficking cases.
This is largely due in part to a significant rise in the domestic help population, most of whom are from tribal backgrounds and are sent to work in big cities.
In these cities, they often suffer from physical and sexual harassment from their employers and also don't get a fair deal from placement agencies.
Sundergarh District is a tribal-dominated district and rich in natural resources. But it is still plagued by abject poverty due to the Maoist menace prevalent there.
Most tribals have few work-related options, and because of this, middlemen often lure away girls from their native villages and they end up as sex workers.
Social activist Abdul Kalam Azad said: "Because there is no work, there is abject poverty here, this is why people go out of here for work. The labour is cheap and the tribal girls of this region are innocent and not much educated. The middlemen from outside come and take advantage of this situation."
Azad's social organization has rescued several such girls from being taken away to the big cities by middlemen and have taken them back to their families.
According to a complaint lodged with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by an activist named Ramesh Kumar Mandal, from Rourkela in May 2012, about 5000 tribal girls have gone missing from the Sundargarh district in the last five years.
Police also feel that the local tribals need to be made aware of the reality of the trafficking of young girls as domestic help and has been making efforts in this regard.
"Through these cells we are trying to focus our preventive and retentive efforts and other efforts in close collaboration with other departments such as the women and child development department and the SC/ST department, the educational department, the labour department to address this issue in a holistic manner. At the ground level, as far as awareness is concerned, we have identified vulnerable pockets in the area and we are in touch with the PRI members. Our police teams make regular visits to such villages where contact is established with the community members and we try to address their issues and also at the same time make them aware about the problem of human trafficking," said Yeshwant Kumar Jethwa, Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Odisha's western range.
The Maoist presence has also deterred the development works and educational processes for the local tribals in the area to a large extent.
The guerrilla war, waged mostly from the forests of central and eastern India now poses the biggest internal security challenge, say analysts.