Maid to SUFFER

Published in The Pioneer

Deprived, enslaved and tortured — young girls are being trafficked into Delhi by unscrupulous maid placement agencies on false promises of decent employment and salary. According to activists, labour trafficking is the most organised crime in India, sadly without a law to curb it. Deebashree Mohanty brings you the sordid tale of the Capital’s home helps and why this crime will keep burgeoning in the absence of any effective punishment

  • July 2013: Of the 24 girls rescued from a placement agency by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, 18 were pregnant and under 15 years.
  • August 2013: Two girls from Jharkhand (both minors and seven months pregnant) were rescued from a well established placement agency in Lajpat Nagar IV. So ashamed were they about their plight that they refused to go home despite their fathers pleading with them. They said they would rather die here than face humiliation at home.
  • January 2013: Three girls were rescued from a businessman’s house in Janakpuri East. Aged eight, 13 and 16, they were bonded labour. The eldest one had had two abortions in a year and the younger one has been seriously abused. Their master sent them to his relatives’ houses to work for free. None had been paid for 18 months.
  • May 2013: A 16-year-old maid from Nepal ran away from a house in Ghaziabad. She had injury marks on her head and private parts. She had been assaulted by her employer and his brother-in-law for six months. She said she was raped and beaten up frequently. When she asked the owners to send her back to the agency, they locked her up in their basement and beat her up. Doctors say she is unlikely to recover from trauma.

 These girls are brought into the Capital, made to work as bonded labour and misguided about where they are being taken and for what purpose. Once they are here from their villages, it’s an unending trail of deceit and torture. They are exploited sexually and thrashed at the placement agency by several men. When they are “placed”as maids, they end up being physically and mentally abused by their employers

Kailash Satyarthi, founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan

Whether it is the yellow page services like justdial, or portals like asklaila or, for that matter, your friendly neighbourhood helping hand, placement agencies are everywhere — some registered, others working on word by mouth but none regulated by law to protect the rights of domestic workers.

“It is the illegal and irregulated supply chain in the form of agencies and brokers that need to be taken to task. There are no less than 250 large placement agencies in the Capital and law doesn’t recognise even a single one of them. They are all illegal and work under false alias. Most of the people behind these agencies are criminals wanted by the police or have served term for something or the other,” says Satyarthi.

In the long haul of busting such unscrupulous agents, Satyarthi adds that it is difficult to monitor such operators. “We have busted many small agencies which supply girls not just as maids but to brothels too. Still, there are many who manage to escape our notice. These are mastermind criminals who have their network in localised places. These local goons work in tandem and supply children to agency owners who then sell them off as labour. Nowadays, most agencies work under the false name of samitis or welfare societies. More audaciously, some have even registered themselves as NGOs working for child rights! This is one of the most well organised crimes difficult to crack,” senior inspector Abhjeet Ray, investigating the Pritampura maid abuse case, says.

He tells you that in this particular case, the owners had paid the maid agency Rs 35,000 as a yearly contract and a monthly sum of Rs 2,800 due to the girl was also paid to the agency. The sad part is that the agency knew the girl was being tortured but it didn’t come to her rescue.

“When my team went to rescue the maid locked up in the ground floor house No 1178 in Vasant Kunj Sector A, Ms Vandana Dhir made them wait for over four hours and showed up with her lawyer. When she opened the door, what my team saw they we will never forget. They recounted how the maid’s nails and body had been brutalised. She was is extreme trauma. She could not speak much about her sustained torture but the details will come out soon,” Rishi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, the NGO that helped rescue this maid from Dhir, says.

And that’s just one case. In July 2013, Bachpan Bachao Andolan rescued 13 girls who were being exploited at an agency called Adivasi Samiti which was registered as an NGO in Kirti Nagar. This so called NGO was supplying maids to houses as far away as Faridabad and Noida. More than 90 per cent of these girls were minors living in pathetic conditions in the NGO’s official premises. “They were huddled up with boys in a 6/6 room. Most of these girls had been molested. To escape the abuse, they had requested the manager to get them homes where they could work. They were so desperate to move out that they were ready to accept whatever was thrown their way. And, what may happen to them at their employer’s place was purely their luck,” Satyarthi says.

Pinki Senapathy (name changed) was sold to one such samiti by her aunt for a paltry Rs 5,000 when she was only 14. She had been brought in on a ruse of being taken to Delhi for a summer vacation. Little did she know that she would be made to work and carry out all sorts of chores for the “placement agent” to whom she was sold, and his friends. While at this agency, where she was left by her aunt, she was made to cook, wash utensils and clothes of all residents. Her master demanded all kinds of sexual favours, including oral sex which she performed on a number of occasions. Pinki got pregnant five times and bore a child out of wedlock when she was 20. She doesn’t know who the father of her four-year-old son is. Today, she is long dead.

Pinki and her son found owners in Chattarpur in 2011. She was working as a full-time maid on a Rs 2000 a month salary for all household work, including cooking three meals a day. Her employer, a banker and his wife, thought they had got a real good deal. When Pinki came to work here, she carried the wounds inflicted on her at the agency. One visit to a doctor revealed she was AIDS-infected. She was thrown out with her son immediately without a penny to her name.

“Pinki was spotted by a sevasharam karamchari who got her to us. She passed away in July 2012. Her son, who is also HIV positive, is admitted in a ward in Safdarjung Hospital,” Minu Yadav, founder and chairperson of the NGO SAVE India, says. Yadav has rescued many girls from evil agents and employers. But she is appalled that even after so much has been done and so much noise created, the Government continues to turn a blind eye to the issue.

In 2011, 314 minors died due to abuse. In 2012, the number escalated to 789 (mostly reported from Delhi) and in 2013, the number is already alarming. But with no law in place, there is no stopping such illegal trafficking of the fertile domestic workforce.

While New Delhi is the epicentre of such nefarious crimes, most girls are trafficked from Assam, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Odissa. “In early 2000, girls were being brought from Bangladesh and sold here. But since the borders laws and the police turned strict, inter-state trafficking has increased. These criminals are no standalone individuals. They are well networked and influential,” Yadav tells you.

Satyarthi gives you an example of how such a network works: In January 2013, BBA rescued a girl from Assam when she was being arrested for selling girls of her village to agency owners in Delhi. The truth in fact was something very horrifying. It was her maternal uncle who had sold her off to a placement agency in Patparganj. After being repeatedly raped, this girl pleaded with the agent to let her go. But the agency had something else in store for her. They asked her to bring four girls as her replacement and then she would be free to return to her village.

“At first, she thought of running away. But she had no money or idea about the city. So, she complied. She got four girls to Delhi through phone calls back home. When one of her replacements ran away, she was forced to bring in another replacement. She managed to get her cousin to Delhi under the pretext of showing her the city. When she left for her village, there was quite another scene waiting for her there. The agency owners had informed the local police in Assam that she was their main supplier of girls (even infants). She was jailed and tortured for three months before our NGO rescued her,” Satyarthi recalls.

These multi-million rupee maid business is so murky and well organsied that agents hail from all kind of regions and cater to all kind of demands by future employers. Helps with specific gotra, caste, type, religion — you name it and they have one ready for you as take away.

So, is there a way out of this unending exploitation of rural manpower? Activists say that in more than 60 per cent cases, the woes of these girls only double. These helps are so desperate to get away from the agency that they succumb to whatever comes their way. They are ready to make any kind of compromise. Many die a thousand deaths before being rescued.

In August 2013, Gayatri, 18, was found locked in a servant’s room in Netaji Nagar, Type VI quarters. She had been locked up for two days without water or food. She was lying unconscious in a pool of her own urine and vomit. Gayatri’s employer, a bureaucrat, was away for a get-together when Sai Kripa rescued her on a tip-off by a cook.

Gayatri was being punished for having used the employer’s bathroom and hairbrush. She was beaten up by the bureaucrat’s wife with the same brush and dragged into the room. And this was not the first time. Gayatri had been beaten up, humiliated in front of guests and locked up without food or water on seven earlier occasions. Each time, the couple would give her food only after three days of punishment!

“Gayatri had several internal hemorrhages and she doesn’t remember any of her family members. She told us that once she was beaten up so mercilessly with a steel rod that she fractured her hand. Her employers did not take her to a hospital to get her a plaster. She was made to work in this painful condition,” Anupama Goswami from Sai Kripa tells you. The matter was reported to the police but nothing concrete has yet been done.

The biggest gap in dealing with the situation lies in the lack of appropriate measures for the recovery, rehabilitation and integration of victims. Post rescue, there are no effective measures available, particularly for victims of sexual exploitation.

“It will go a long way to have a Standard Operating Procedure, which not only defines the standards that need to be followed during the different stages of rescue, rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration, but also define the roles of stakeholders such as the police, medical professionals and civil society organisations in this process. In the context of minors, this assumes greater significance and all-out efforts need to be made to ensure that processes and procedures are child friendly and do not allow for retraumatisation,” Vijaylakshmi Arora, Cry’s policy research and advocacy director, concludes.

Torture tale

Sitting motionless in the surgical ward of Safdarjung Hospital, Gauri (name changed), the maid rescued from 1178, Sector A, Vasant Kunj, has only wish. ‘Mujhe yahan nahin rahna hai,’ she keeps saying even in sleep. Although doctors say she is stable and will recover from the physical trauma soon, they are concerned that she may never be able to forget the atrocities meted out to her.

“When they got her to the hospital, there was swelling on her face, arms and legs. There were deep gashes, burn marks from a hot tawa and infected open wounds. There was a six- inch cut on her head infected by maggots close to the skull bone. Gauri was in shock,” a hospital attendant says.

Today, Gauri has her mother for company but she wants to go back to her village Sahibaganj in Jharkhand as soon as possible. Her mother can’t stop blaming herself for all that her daughter has gone through.

“I am to blame for all this. She came to Delhi looking for a living after her father passed away in 2010. For the first two years, she was doing quite well. She earned decently. Gauri would keep in touch, updating us about her whereabouts. In June, she wanted to leave everything and return. She was then working with a doctor couple in Lajpat Nagar. But the agency asked her to wait till December. Unwillingly, Gauri started to work with the Dhirs in Vasant Kunj,” her mother recounts.

Pallavi, who has been working with Shakti Vahni for 11 months, was present at this raid and she recounts how horrified she was to see Gauri at first.

“In just three months she was a battered girl. Gauri told me that the first time she was beaten up was when she used the western toilet wrongly. She was made to lick her own urine and served food in the bathroom. She says she spent most of her days locked in the washroom,” Pallavi says.

Incidentally, the employer was known for inhuman behaviour. “Most residents of this colony told us that there was something wrong with the Dhirs,” Pallavi adds.

Human Trafficking -Deep Rooted Disease



Just like cancer, the roots of this disease too have reached even the remotest areas. Like the deadly disease, human trafficking too has already ensnared almost the entire society. Men and women are involved in this and therefore legally it is termed as an organised crime.

Take Chandu for example. This person hailing from Rohini in Delhi was once actively involved with the trafficking gang and has even spent a year in jail. Now he earns his living by assisting masons in construction works.

 “What had led you to such an occupation?” he was asked.

“The money, the huge sum paid as commission was so lucrative!” confessed Chandu.

“What mount were you paid?” I asked

What Chandu said was indeed overwhelming. Being a small fry the rate was 10 to 12 thousand per ‘piece’. At least 10 pieces were to be supplied each year. So, that made up at least a lac annually. Bigger agents earn even upto 5 lacs a year!’

Once, while on a supplying assignment Chandu was caught red-handed by the Delhi Police. Chandu was waiting at the station for the arrival of the North-East Express. Two girls of around fifteen were being smuggled from Assam. The Train arrived in time. A middle-aged woman alighted with the two girls. Chandu came near to them.

Having had prior information, policemen too were on their look-out. Being dressed in casuals, they had blended with the crowds. Just as Chandu was about to get hold of the girls, a voice nearby shouted, ‘hands up!’ the officers of Delhi Police Crime Branch took Chandu and two girls into their custody. The girls were thus saved from sinking into the unfathomable depths of the pool of darkness.

This is not just a single story. In Delhi, recovery is less frequent than the loss in the gloom. Almost everyday girls from different parts of the country are being smuggled to the capital for flesh trade. Being poor, they are usually promised jobs and finally delivered to the brothels, beggar syndicates and dance bars and so on. Sometimes little boys are also brought as bonded labour.

 What happened to Chandu after he was caught? Trial took six months and Chandu was sentenced to one year imprisonment.

On being asked if he has really shunned the gang, Chandu claimed that he has. I asked him further, “Didn’t you ever feel bad?” “it is a risky trade” came his prompt reply, “but why should I feel bad? All I know is money. My work was only delivering the girls to their destinations.”

People like Chandu are doing this for money. But why are they falling prey to this gang?

Poverty is one of the prime causes behind this, and this fact was clear from that 14-year-old’s statement. This orphan girl was staying with her maternal aunt. Her only means of livelihood was collecting wood from the forest and supplying them to far flung shops. One day, a man arrived in her village. He was apparently looking for house maids for working in Delhi. The maid would be paid Rs. 1600 per month. Thi girl thought that this could mean an end to their deplorable conditions. Thus, her aunt decided to send her with him. First three months were just perfect. She was staying with the trafficker’s family.

One day two elderly women arrived at the trafficker’s Delhi residence. They were the brothel owners of G. B. Road. The 14-year old overheard them talking in hushed voices about a deal. She sensed some danger and started to cry. She wanted to go back home.

Instead of taking her back, they took her to a hotel. The first night was okay. The next day those two elderly women came back. Soon after they left, the police raided the place. The hotel manager informed the girl, that she was in huge danger.

Later on that manager told, ‘for some reason, I had grown some affection towards her. I had given her some money and told her to escape. But she couldn’t.” Those two elderly women were keeping a vigilant eye on her. So, as soon as she crossed the road, she was caught by them. Since then, kotha no. 41 has been her address.

In the first night itself, the girl had to satisfy 4 customers. She was an adolescent. But her body was not ready to face such assaults and injuries. So she fell ill. Doctors told that her private parts were mutilated. If she was forced to any more physical activities, it could cause her death. The Kotha owner was shaken. She gave 2 months leave to her.

Later on, the girl got to know that those four men who had coveted her body were police officials. So the entente between the brothel owners and the police was pretty clear. As a result, these heinous crimes often go unnoticed. Even when they are notified no one acts upon it. So, the traffickers are gaining more and more courage over the days, believes Kailash Satyarthi of Bachpan Banchao Andolan. The head of the organisation said, ‘police has the complete details of trafficking: Source to destination. But they do nothing, especially in the lower rung.’

There is no way to break the viscous circle. Laws are made on paper, and they remain there. For instance, even though it is mandatory to take FIRs, police is still taking GD. So, there is no scope for taking the case further. So, the lost girls never come back.

Running parallel to this is the story of people like Pappu. He works for beggar syndicate. He was not ready to show his face, but was ready to talk to the media. I asked him, ‘Didn’t you fear?’, he answered, ‘No, Madam, why should I? I have to have Roti-Sabji. Police knows everything, but they are happy with the Hafta system. So I have no problem at all!’

Pappu studied till 9th standard. He couldn’t even manage a petty job. Each day his parents used to taunt him due to his joblessness. So, he was ready to do anything, just anything.

Suddenly he came across Guruji of Indrapuri. He is the kingpin of the syndicate. He told, if Pappu could supply kids for begging, he would be getting 50 thousand per month. Just to do away with the tag of unemployment, Pappu started working for the syndicate. Now the ‘competent’ Pappu has become the closest aide of Guruji.

‘Didn’t you feel that what you are doing is not right?’ Pappu’s defended, ‘Will the government provide me with a regular job of 9-5? Will it provide food? Madamji, who likes this kind of nasty works? But I have wife and kids at home…’. So there are some people like Pappu, who know that the job is not a good one, yet he cannot leave this field for the he has mouths to feed at home.

So, there is a very close proximity between the trafficked and traffickers. It is often out of compulsion, that human beings are objectifying their own species. And lawkeepers too are sometimes working in unlawful ways.

What will be the future of that 14-year old? Where will she go? On the other hand, what else could Pappu have done?

There are several questions, but no answers. And we don’t know who can provide the answers.


ei samay 3


It’s 1 a.m. I peep through my burkha to scan the nearly empty street. I’m a bit frightened. After all, this is Delhi. Post-nirbhaya Delhi.

But fear won’t aid me today as I wait under the designated light post.

Oily hair. Faded shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Dirty jeans. The man I am waiting for, approaches swiftly. Then an urgent whisper, ‘C-337′ (this was the code given to me, the buyer, for that particular girl. that is how the traffickers work, through code names and numbers).

‘Never ever reveal your identity’, I had been told. I tiptoe with the conversation accordingly. The details of the trade slowly start emerging. I ask him his name. Suddenly he is pissed off.

‘Are naam se kya lena dena? maine kuch pucha kya? kam hone se to matlab…’ I quickly relent. True. Why do I need names when I get the girl? We start talking business.

Business, that is bargaining. He asks me, ‘kab lagega? kaisi chahiye – dubli-patli-gori-kali..?’

I am caught off the guard. Didn’t expect such direct queries. First time at this, you see! Gathering myself, I specify, ‘thin, fair. Should be good in household work. It’s for the agency…’

‘Consider your job done. Come back after a couple of days. 3 lakhs is the price. Agreed..?’

I was speechless for a while. The value of one woman is 3 lakhs? I try to clarify, ‘I need just one girl. 3 lakhs bahot zada nahi hai..?’

He is unrelenting. Everything is getting pricier these days. Why would girls be any different? It seems I am losing the bargain. The pimp is clear – he has to make many pockets happy. The price cannot be lessened. I give in. the deal is struck. (This also I was told beforehand, not to bargain too much. If I peeve the pimp out, our mission won’t be accomplished.)

He tells me to come back after 2 days. Same spot on G.B. Road, Delhi. He takes my number, doesn’t give his.

The streets are deserted now. But not the shacks lining the road. They are brimming with clients. Clients of woman flesh. Sound of a brawl drifts out from one of the rooms. The babu and the kothi malkin are in dispute over the rates.

This is G.B. Road. The prostitution haven of the national capital, where everyday countless girls pour in from every corner of the country. Rather, they are forced to. Once their purses have been filled, the police chooses to look away. How many girls are trafficked thus every day? No cohesive statistics is possible. The numbers are too huge.

From the conversations it was not clear how the pimp would supply me the girl. But it’s not tough to gather. The girls, more than usually from the poorest of poor backgrounds, are lured in and then trapped by offers and promises they cannot refuse. And then they pass on from hand to hand to reach their destination, pre-ordained by the codes and numbers.

Sometimes it’s marriage. Sometimes the lure of a well-paid job. Promise of a lovely future. Promise of visiting the Taj mahal.

Love is the most common and effective technique here. One of the traffickers makes friends with one of the young beauties in the village. How? Her mobile number is tracked from one of the villagers who had been spying on her from before. The missed calls from an unknown number start. 7-8 times a day. With that, texts declaring undying love.

The rest is accomplished by her tender age and inexperience. Soon they meet in person. By now the girl is completely trapped in the web of love. The ‘boyfriend’, leveraged by her trust, then spreads the net some more. He takes her out to a fair.

Police and N.G.O statistics show, village fairs are the hotspots for targeting and trafficking victims. Specially the Durgapuja and Charak fairs. How does it happen? In the fair, suddenly some other ‘friends’ of the ‘boyfriend’ appear. At designated time, the ‘boyfriend’ receives an urgent call that requires him to go off for a while. The girl stays on with the ‘friends’. One of them buys her cold drink, which usually contains a specific kind of drug. A variant of the date rape drug prevalent in the west, these drugs can knock you unconscious for at least 48 hours. The unsuspecting victim drinks and falls prey.

By the time the drug wears off, the girl is already in an unknown place like Delhi, Mumbai or Pune. She then is passed on and on, finally to the main supplier. From there, some prostitute’s kothi or domestic help agency or a beggar racket becomes her new address.

The trafficking racket functions with such precision and organization. After the amendment of criminal laws of the country, human trafficking is considered ‘organized crime’. But the ground reality remains unchanged.

2 days after I received a call from an unknown number. The C-337 supplier. He directed me to be present on the same spot with the money. That night, I, in the guise of Fatima Bibi was present there with 3 lakh rupees. With me were two officers from the anti-human trafficking unit.

A 14 year old girl was rescued that day. The supplier was arrested. Trial is on.

But the story doesn’t end here. Most of the time these pimps are let off. The reason? Witnesses don’t turn up. There’s the fear of social stigma. Also of retribution from the racket. In many cases traffickers are aided by the police itself. They prepare the escape route by constructing weak cases. A senior officer of the Delhi Police, in strict condition of anonymity, revealed, ‘many of our officers help those rackets. They receive money from those rackets. The kothi maiks have bought them off.’

But why do they do this? Such shameless objectification of human beings, where the value of a girl is decided by her complexion and body? What are the perks?

For every girl trafficked, the small-time pimps acquire 50-70 thousand rupees. The middling ones get about a lakh. The rest goes to the big players. About 7-8 girls are trafficked every year. Why would they do anything else!

C-337 was a lucky girl. She could go back to her parents. But the Fatima Bibis don’t reach every girl. And there are too many of them. Each day, the numbers grow.


  • The network is so vast that the big players never get caught. The small-time pimps and suppliers are arrested most often
  • The racket works in four points – source-transit-collection point-destination
  • The people working in each point do not have any information on how the other points are working. Each zone works separately, with local sources

How the racket works

  • Targeting the girl/girls
  • Planning and bringing the girl till the transit point (this does not happen in every case)
  • Bringing the girl close to the destination
  • On reaching destination, supplying the girl to the buyer

The Rescue Efforts




It was named Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Marg. If one stands on the main road during the daytime, one will see several commonplace shops lined along the side of the road, dealing in all kinds of metal scraps. At night however, the picture changes completely. Behind the closed doors of these metal shops, starts a different kind of commerce. The bodies of young women then become the objects to be sold at high rates.

Yes, this is a common sight at the G. B. Road in Delhi.The red-light area and hot spot for brothel owners and customers.

On one such night, when people had busied themselves in their nocturnal activities, two cars stopped in front of one of the shops. Three girls, one of them wearing a burqa, stepped out along with a man and four policemen dressed in casuals.

“Move! Move!” the order comes. They hurry up the narrow dingy staircases and repeatedly strike on the closed doors.

This is how the rescue operations take place. Sometimes in the dead of the night, sometimes in the early morning, and sometimes in the middle of the day in broad daylight.

The owner of the brothel is an elderly woman. The sudden raid has taken her by surprise. She tries to resist the rescue team herself, saying “ladki yahaan nahi hai!” but they undercut her and continue with their operation.

The girl in the burqa requests them to search every inch of the place. But the whole search is fruitless. The girl, whom they had come to rescue is not to be seen anywhere.

It was strange, for the girl in the veil was sure that they would find her there. She remembered her own past. She had herself been trafficked and brought to this hell.But luckily, she had been rescued. So she knew every corner of the place.Yet, it did not help, the girl could not be found. The rescue team had to return for the day, empty-handed.

 Such failures are a part of their job. But we all know that failures are the pillars upon which success is built. It cannot curb their hunger to do good to the society.

STOP is one such NGO that works to eradicate trafficking and oppression of women. President of the STOP, Prof. Roma Debabrata said, “When we see that a girl could not be rescued, it feels bad. If we go and explore the cause behind these failures, the result will be an unearthing of such truths that are hard to believe.”

These truths are lethal enough to take away lives. But taking life does not mean physical death, not an end to all sufferings. It is rathera continuous and an unequal fight of an inexperienced young woman for life, wherein she is repeatedly fed uponby scavengers garbed as human beings. And the most unacceptable truth is that political leaders and policemen often form a part of the deceivers. There are also their informers, ever-ready to notify when the brothels might be raided. So, this perpetually rotating wheel of death does, at times,seem equally powerful and indestructible as the Sudarshan Chakra.

One such instance is the Kamala Market Police Station in Delhi, situated close to G. B. Road. Rescuing trafficked girls from the whore-house would not have been so difficult, had the police cooperated. A part of the police has a nexus with the brothel-owners, who pay them regularly. It was learnt that once there was a lady station house officer, who was removed from her post because she was trying to break this unholy nexus. It was heard that some of the influential officers of the upper strata and some police officials had forced her transfer.

After the previous failure, the rescue team decided to raid the same area once again. But this time, they ascertained that the police are not informed beforehand. They took two constables from the local police station with them, just before the raid.

They climb the same flights of stairs and search the same crooks and bends. But the result is still a zero. If she is really not here, then is it possible that she has already been traded to Dubai or Nepal? Will they have to return empty-handed once more?

“Stop”, one of them said. He was staring fixedly at a wall. It looked absolutely incongruouswith the rest of the room. It seemed to have been plastered only recently. But why?

The wall was cracked with a hammer. A muffled noise could be heard which was coming from within; the sound of someone moaning. One of them put his hand through the crack in the wall. It brushed against something. What is it? The wall was further hammered down, and there she was! Her hands and feet were tied up and her mouth sealed with a tape.

Once she was pulled out, an underground passage came into sight. It led to a flight of stairs, leading down to another large room. The next thing that they noticed was trunks. Arranged across the room in rows were several trunks. What did they contain? More girls!

This is how the brothel owners hide away the newly brought girls, the moment they are informed about a raid.

Many girls were saved that day, and many of the offenders were put behind the bars. But the question remains that if an NGO could do this task, why could the police not do it? After all it is their job. But it is an open secret that a section of the police gets paid regularly by them. The fact is known even to the higher police officials. But there is no action against them. How can this cancer be eradicated?

However, not all are of the same kind. There are also sincere policemen. One of them said, “The government does not take any initiative. Why should we pay from our pockets? Does anyone work for humanity anymore?”

Take for instance, police was interrogating one of the pimps using assault tactic. A phone call came, the identity of the caller was not known. But that man had to be freed.

Such is the power of the ‘Netaji’s. A single phone call can save the traffickers!

There is a clear nexus between the traffickers and the political parties, though there is not enough evidence to prove the same. But as the Police puts it, ‘it’s like an open secret…’. Till date no one has shown the courage to uproot it.

On the other hand, the NGOs like Shakti Vahini belong to the diametrically opposite pole. No matter what hurdles block their way, these people march forward, keeping in mind their motto of completely eradicating trafficking and establishing an egalitarian society. Any kind of retreat will prove to be a defeat to the holy cause. So, neither life threats, nor hefty bribes can tempt them away from their noble path.

Thus, these torchbearers, supported by the some enthusiasts and immense courage, continue to show light to the helpless victims of heinous crimes because, they believe that darkness cannot be the end; there’s got to be light.

The Story of Lakshmi



Story of Lakshmi

She is trying hard to rub off that thin red line from her forehead. It must disappear. It was not a marriage, but a forceful association for a few days.

This was the first taste of freedom for this 20-year old Bengali girl in the last 6 months- the freedom from a prison named ‘sasural’. She fell short of words when she was trying to reframe the intensity of torture that she had faced there. All she wanted to do was to collapse into the arms of her ailing mother and her elder brother. But she was yet unaware of the fact that she was bearing a child for 3 months. She did not know who the ‘father’ was. So it had to be aborted.

Yes, this is a true story, the story of a poor girl from Jalpaiguri. But this is not the world of fantasy; there is no light here, only a fade silver line bordering the dark clouds of terror.

Surrounded by the hills and tea gardens of Kalchini was a small village, where Laxmi (name changed) had grown up with her family. But this outwardly serene place was devastated from within. It is one of the hot beds of human trafficking in Bengal. Girls are regularly traded to Delhi from here. The traffickers entrap these girls garbed as lovers, well-wishers and sometimes by promising lucrative jobs.

Since childhood, Laxmi was suffering from ill health, which kept her parents anxious. Local conventional remedies had failed to show any effect. Adding to this agony, Laxmi’s father passed away, marking an end to the sole source of income in the family. The eldest sister, who was married, took a work in the tea gardens. But the meagre amount that she earned was not enough to keep together their body and soul, and medical treatment was unthinkable. Being the youngest of the four children, Laxmi was loved by all the family members. In spite of the extreme poverty, she remained the centre of her brothers’ worlds.

On one such day, while she was helping her mother in cooking, suddenly one Muhammad appeared. Around 40 years of age, this man was a familiar face in the locality. Although his whereabouts were not known, people knew that he had gained the adoration of the villagers by proving himself a ‘philanthropist.’

This Muhammad was a spotter. People like him, at first get friendly with the village heads and acquire the minute details of vulnerable groups. Then they befriended that family or the girls, what happened in this case. According to police, Muhammad convinced them to go to Delhi.

Lakshmi is not a healthy girl, her brother is dumb —- nothing evades Muhammad’s eyes. Thus, he started his story of ‘Miracle Baba’ of Haryana, who is known as panacea. His touch made everyone healthy and wealthy. So Lakshmi too would be cured, so would be her brother. ‘Unbelievable’!! As if Lakshmi and family had been waiting for this moment.

Thus, they started for Delhi via Howrah. All of them boarded Poorva Express along with Muhammad. They didn’t have to pay anything; all expenses were borne by the traffickers.

But as soon as they got off at New Delhi station, some men, who look like Goondas, surrounded them. They took Lakshmi and family to a car, which was waiting outside. Since then Muhammad was silent, as if he didn’t even know Lakshmi or any of her family members.

They heard that the Goondas were calling him ‘Rajinder’, not Muhammad.

Something must be wrong, they suspected, but Lakshmi couldnot measure the magnanimity of it. According to Police, by taking several fake names, these gangs operate. Sometimes they just hand them over, sometimes they sell on their own.

The car stopped at Khedi Mansingh village of Haryana. It’s a village by looks, but no proximity with green Bengali villages. Some unknown person became custodian of Lakshmi.

The very next day, the dumb brother and mother of Lakshmi were kicked out in worst possible manner. They were sent back to Jalpaiguri. Thus ended their contact with Lakshmi.

The innocent girl was captivated in the murkiest life. Though, one of her brother’s was allowed to stay back.

Where Lakshmi was staying, each evening there used to be a Majlish. Customers used to come from different villages of Haryana. No, not only for a night’s pleasure, but also to buy wives.

Don’t be surprised. Due to the alarming number of female foeticide, it is girl-less. So, buying and selling of wives are rampant.

What was done to Lakshmi?

She was brought well dressed. The potential buyers used to touch her in various places, the touch which was never desirable. Nights after nights, she was raped by different persons. Not only them, the owner of the house too assaulted Lakshmi and forcefully made ‘love’ with her.

Facing these atrocities, three months passed. Suddenly, she got to know that she was getting married. The groom was a widower with a little kid, named Chandan from the same village.

Lakshmi had to bite the bullet.

But was it a marriage?

According to Hindu Shastra, marriage has been defined as ‘unconditional surrender of soul and body to the spouse’. If we go by this definition, it was nothing but a forceful sexual encounter.

Thanks to female foeticide, Haryana doesn’t have many girls alive. So, there is huge crirsis of girls of marriageable age. According to NGO reports, forced marriage in this region have become an industry. Everything happens in front of police. Khap panchayat is there to give the diktat. Thus, buying of brides an open secret, no one protests. Exactly what happened to Lakshmi too.

The script was perfect. Her marriage took place at Chandan’s elder sister’s home in a different village. Lakshmi’s brother too was brought there. He was threatened to be killed if he didn’t give his ashirvaad to his sister. By immense coercion and threat, the marriage became reality. The photograph of the brother giving blessings to his sister was kept an evidence of ‘all is well’ marriage saga.

Once the marriage was over, the brother was beaten up and was sent back to Jalpaiguri.

Lakshmi was left alone.

Her sasural was nothing but a prison, you may call it hell as well. So many people, all of them treated Lakshmi as maid.

Moreover, it was a total cultural shift for her. Neither language, nor food habit matches with her. She was staying just besides the pen. The filthy place was full of cowdung and other things.

Most of the day, Lakshmi couldn’t eat. Fasting was her normal feature. Praying to god was her only job. The tears made her vision unclear. Tears, her only companion, may be for the rest of her life.

She was tired of hearing that childbearing is the sole job for her. She was repeatedly raped, tortured, tormented.

Lakshmi, who is otherwise a quiet girl suddenly got a strange power. May be, when something hits a dead end, it is the norm. so one day, she ran way. But luck was not with  her. She was taken back by her husband and others. Now, she had to stay in the cowshed, she had to go to her room everynight to ‘satisfy’ her husband.

So, when her didi-jija reached with the rescue team, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Is she dreaming? Isn’t it so good to be true?

Her elder sister didn’t waste a single moment to give her a warm hug and wiping away her tears. By that time police force and NGO had surrounded the home. And all the village heads were there to see, what was happening.

Lakshmi was soon taken to the magistrate. She was handed over to her elder sister.

But neither the rescue operation, nor the event after that was easy. ‘bahurani ko uthake laya hai’ sighting the reason Panchayat members followed the rescue team to Police station and magistrate’s office. The head of them requested the NGO man Rishi Kant that he wanted to have a talk with Lakshmi. He even asked, whether any journalist was present. My identity was then that of an NGO worker, not a scribe. So he told that what’s wrong in this delaing, Chandan’s image would be soiled if Lakshmi was taken away in this way. He even used threat factors, so that the girl could be sent back.

This is not an exception. This is a normal practice; the village boy will be bad named as ‘ghar ka ijjat’ bride is abducted!  But Shakti Vahini and police had tried their best to keep Lakshmi with her family.

Lakshmi is now living with her family. Tagging her as a ‘bad girl’, her family didn’t disown her. She is back to life, again.

What could be the better silver lining than this?

Woman, girl rescued from Haryana

Haryana Trafficking


Guwahati, Dec. 27: A mother of two who was sold off as a bride and a minor girl who was held captive by a man, both from Morigaon district of Assam, were rescued from Haryana in two separate raids this week.

A police source said the 32-year-old woman, a mother of two kids, was lured by a man from Bongaigaon district with the promise of a job in Delhi.

While her husband and children stayed in Morigaon, she went to Delhi in the hope of a job that could get her out of penury but was instead handed her over to a trafficker who sold her to a man in Haryana for Rs 67,000.

The man forced her into marriage and subjected her to the worst form of slavery. “She would perform household chores the entire day and at night the man would exploit her sexually,” the source said.

After three months, the woman somehow managed to call her family, following which a police team from Assam went to Haryana and rescued her with the help of their counterparts in that state on Wednesday. A case has been registered in Morigaon.

The minor girl was rescued from Faridabad town by police with the help of an anti-trafficking non-governmental organisation, Shakti Vahini.

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said the 10-year-old revealed during counselling that she had been taken to Haryana by her elder sister, who is married into a family there. Her sister got her a job with one Nempal, who kept her confined in his house under Sarai Khwaja police station.

“The victim was forced to do all kinds of household work, including washing utensils and clothes, cleaning and taking care of Nempal’s kids. During the rescue operation, the girl was found extremely traumatised,” Kant said.

“Unable to bear the torture, the girl somehow escaped from the house but was caught by Nempal. When the residents of the locality opposed this, he shifted her to another house in a nearby lane.”

The NGO was tipped off about the girl’s plight by one of its sources. “We immediately contacted Haryana police who sent a team to rescue the girl from Nempal’s residence. During the rescue operation, the team faced stiff resistance,” he said, adding that the girl was held captive for 21 days.

The minor was produced before Faridabad Child Welfare Committee after a medical examination.

According to the committee’s directive, the girl was given shelter at a children’s home. Simultaneously, Shakti Vahini contacted the Morigaon superintendent of police and told him about the girl.

“The SP took swift action and sent a team of Assam police to Faridabad. He also sent a letter requesting the girl’s custody. The Child Welfare Committee, Faridabad, handed over the girl to Assam police and directed them to produce her before the Child Welfare Committee, Morigaon, and submit a report,” Kant said.

Reasons for trafficking from Assam
Displacement and loss of livelihood because of communal violence, flood and erosion
Acute poverty
Demand for domestics in metros
Shortage of girls for marriage in Haryana and Punjab
Lack of sustainable job opportunities

Back home, Vasant Kunj maid dreams big in school


NEW DELHI: The 18-year-old Santhal girl who was rescued from her woman employer’s house in Vasant Kunj in September is now studying in a residential school-cum-rehabilitation facility in Khutti, 30km from Ranchi in Jharkhand.

And she is not alone-the facility is also home to 25 other girls who were rescued from either Delhi or Mumbai where they used to work as domestic helps under inhuman conditions. This central government-sponsored Mahila Samakhya project now seeks to prevent human trafficking from Jharkhand.

The fear that had numbed the 18-year-old when she was found on September 30, 2013, has been replaced with a zeal for life. “Didi, I am in school and want to be a teacher,” she said over the phone before asking her friends to join her in humming a song composed by all of them to protest against trafficking from Jharkhand.

The lyrics, in the local dialect, appeals to the Jharkhand girls not to go with strangers to the big cities like Delhi and Mumbai for work and stay at home to get educated for a bright future. It tells the story of pain and sufferings inflicted by employers in the metros on these girls.

The girl has been enrolled into an adult literacy programme and also attending music classes, said Rishikant of Shakti Vahini, the NGO which was involved in the rescue of the Vasant Kunj maid and is following up on her rehabilitation. She wants to learn English, too.

Despite the trauma in the capital, she has kept her dream intact. Dressed in a bright blue salwar-kameez, she had waved from the Ranchi-bound Rajdhani on October 29, smiling warmly and assuring that she would be back in the capital as a schoolteacher.

Coming from Athganva village in Sahibganj district, she wants her former employer, Vandana Dhir, who used to be a senior executive with an MNC, to be punished. A trial court is now hearing the case.

The girl’s mother, a single parent of three daughters and two sons, had to send her eldest daughter to Delhi out of sheer desperation. The girl’s statement in the FIR, filed after her rescue, has made it clear that she had been assaulted with sticks, knives, brooms, a hot tawa and bare hands by her employer since June. Dhir had allegedly chopped off the girl’s hair and also kept her locked in a room.

Born in Bengal, ‘sold’ in Delhi



New Delhi, Nov. 7: Some 55,000 women and girls trafficked from Bengal are working as maids in Delhi, many of them “sold as bonded labourers” to wealthy households where they slog for ungodly hours without pay and are often tortured or sexually abused.

More than half these women are minors — many as young as 10 — who are duped with promises of a better life and brought to the capital by “scouts” appointed in Bengal by Delhi-based illegal placement agencies.

The dismal picture was painted by Delhi police, government officials and NGOs whom The Telegraph spoke to after an MP and his wife were arrested here on the charge of abusing two maids from Bengal.

Rakhi Bhadra, who has died allegedly of torture by Jagriti, wife of Bahujan Samaj Party MP Dhananjay Singh, had been “sold” to her employers for Rs 1.2 lakh about ten months ago by a south Delhi-based placement agency, a police officer said.

“The MP paid the money to the agency. Rakhi was confined to the ground floor and forced to slog in subhuman conditions. She was never paid any wages; she was only provided two meals a day,” the officer said.

Rakhi had come from Rabindranagar in Dum Dum. Meena Sardar, 37, also a resident of North 24-Parganas, was sold by the same agency to the MP but the amount is unknown, the officer said. Meena is in hospital for her injuries, suffered allegedly at the hands of her employers.

Police raids are on to arrest the people running the agency, deputy commissioner S.B.S. Tyagi said.

Children in demand

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for the rehabilitation of trafficked children, said girls aged between 10 and 15 were “the most in demand” for maids’ jobs in Delhi.

He accused the government of not doing enough. “The capital has become the country’s child-trafficking hub. The government should regulate the placement agencies, enforce the law against child labour and form a task force to curb this racket,” he said.

Kant alleged that most of the illegal placement agencies paid a monthly bribe to the local police station.

Raj Mangal Prasad, former chairperson of the Delhi government’s child welfare committee, said more than 2,000 illegal placement agencies operated in the capital.

“Their hired scouts travel to remote areas of Bengal and Jharkhand (which accounts for 50,000 maids in Delhi) and promise young girls a better life and a fixed monthly income which would allow them to send money back home,” Prasad said.

“They bring these girls here to work as bonded labourers, who are tortured and even sexually abused by their employers. Some of the girls are rescued by the police and NGOs and a few manage to flee, but most of them have no choice but to work as virtual slaves their whole lives.”

An official at the Delhi government’s social welfare department said the administration had made it mandatory for all placement agencies to be registered under the Shops and Establishment Act, but there was hardly any mechanism in place to monitor compliance.

Tyagi said all police stations had been asked to compile a list of placement agencies in their areas.

“We are also appealing to people to report to us if they come across children working as domestic help in their locality.”

18-month ordeal

In August last year, the child welfare committee had asked the police to crack down on illegal placement agencies after hearing the plight of two minor girls trafficked from Jalpaiguri in Bengal.

The police had rescued the girls, both of whom had been forced to work without pay by clients of Astha Placement Agency in Delhi. The agency’s three co-owners — Rajesh, Ashish and Ranvir — were arrested.

One of the Jalpaiguri girls was duped by an acquaintance from her village and brought to the agency. She worked for over a year and a half at several houses, slogging from 8am to 11pm without pay. A probe suggested she had been raped by one of her employers.

The other girl was trafficked to Delhi on May 30 and forced to work with the first girl. The child welfare committee asked Astha’s owners to pay Rs 60,000 to the first girl and Rs 5,500 to the second.

When welfare committee officials went through the agency’s register, they were shocked to see the list of girls it had allegedly trafficked from Bengal and supplied to homes in Delhi as maids.

“The agency had also sent some to neighbouring states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. We directed the police’s crime branch to probe the case and rescue the girls,” Prasad said.

A probe has revealed that agency co-owner Ranvir was a vegetable seller but had made enough money from the racket to be able to own two flats in Delhi.

“He was from Cooch Behar in Bengal and had his scouts in several areas of the state,” a crime branch officer said.

‘Human trafficking rises threefold’


RANCHI: Trafficking from Jharkhand has increased threefold in the past three years, show data released by the social welfare, women and children development department that has worked on the basis of rescued persons.

As many as 441 people have been rescued from the clutches of traffickers between 2010 and October 2013. The rise in the numbers of the rescued is shocking.

While 55 people, including minors, were rescued in 2010-11, 107 were rescued in 2011-12 and 141 in 2012-13. Between April and October 2013, 137 people have been rescued.

“Number of trafficked victims can be higher as we are just giving a data of rescued people. However, it cannot be denied that the number of trafficked victims have increased over the years,” said Sanjay Mishra, head of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an NGO that works with the department to rescue and bring back trafficked victims.

The figures also show that 36% of the people, belonging to Jharkhand and rescued from across the country, are from Gumla district.

“The second on the list is West Singhbhum with 27% followed by Jamtara with 14% of the total rescued people. The least number of people are trafficked from Sahibganj with only 0.4% people being rescued for trafficking,” said Mishra, who is also a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Mishra said the first draft for plan of action to deal with trafficking has already been made by the social welfare department. “The plan of action includes all details like how to conduct rescue operations, correct procedure of lodging FIRs, responsibility of various departments and shelter for rescued people,” said Mishra.

He added, “The plan of action will also help in rescuing the victims right from the transit points and the victims will be saved from being sent to other cities. This might take some time but we are all working towards making Jharkhand a trafficking free state.”

However, Rishi Kant, a member of NGO Shakti Vahini, who has been actively involved in the rescue operations says the figures provided by the state government are not correct.

He said, “The number of trafficked victims from Jharkhand is much higher than what has been represented. The government does not even have the proper figures of missing children of the state how can they give the figures of trafficking.”

Pattern of maid abuse


New Delhi, Nov. 5: The death of a household help at a Bahujan Samaj Party MP’s home appears to be a fresh pointer to a growing pattern of 24×7 domestic hands falling prey to abuse by well-to-do employers.

Rakhi, a 35-year-old maid from Bengal’s Dum Dum, was found dead at Jaunpur MP Dhananjay Singh’s home with injuries on the head, chest, arms and stomach. The MP’s dentist-wife Jagriti has been arrested for alleged torture.

This is the latest in a series of cases in the capital in which 24-hour domestic helps have been ill-treated and tortured by educated and moneyed employers.

As recently as October 1, Vandana Dhir, a senior executive with a French MNC, was arrested on charges of abusing her minor maid, who was from Jharkhand. The teen was reported to have been beaten with brooms, attacked with knives, kept half-naked to block her from fleeing, not given leave to go home and not paid a single month’s salary.

“In the last two years, this has become a trend of sorts — upper-class households resorting to violence against maids. The rich do not understand the compulsions that drive a young girl to leave home to seek work,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, the organisation that rescued the girl a month ago.

“Cases like these will increase as the economy spirals downwards. These people don’t know what it is to have less. They will show their desperation on their maids, who anyway are like dirt to them.”

Last year, a doctor couple was taken to court for locking up their 13-year-old maid, who was from Jharkhand, in their house while they were holidaying in Thailand. In 2011, a senior MCD officer and his wife had locked up their minor maid before going to a trade fair; the same year, an industrialist went abroad for a week, handing his help Rs 20 for daily expenses.

According to a registered staff-training and placement agency, around 70,000 families look for household helps in Delhi and Gurgaon at any point of time.

According to rough estimates, there are about 50 million domestic workers who are not covered under any law, such as the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, or the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1926.

The Domestic Workers (Registration, Social Security and Welfare) Act, 2008 — amended in 2010 — is still pending. Such workers have, however, been brought within the ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) law that was passed this year.