A young girl’s unfaltering determination and implacable memory have given the police the chance to capture 10 persons who were part of an interstate trafficking and prostitution ring. The 13-year-old was abducted from Habra, West Bengal and taken to Gujarat, where she was forced to take ‘customers’ who basically raped her. She was rescued by an NGO two months later, in 2007, after which she has been able to lead the police to every address she was taken to in Gujarat, and provide them with the names of her captors and details of what was done to her. Society has truly gained from her journey into hell, and her firm testimony in court has given the case against the alleged traffickers a solid foundation.
This would have seemed as happy an ending as is possible under the circumstances except for the fact that she is now HIV+. She, however, is an extraordinary girl, making sure that justice is done so that she can put the horror behind her and start life afresh, with study and hard work. But one of the major problems for the police is that not all victims of trafficking are like her. Many of them are unable to adjust to their old life after rescue. Neither is every one accepted. Rehabilitation, both material and psychological, is a huge task, and needs as many specialists as does the pursuit of traffickers. West Bengal is one of the most vulnerable states, yet it does not seem to have really got going against traffickers before the mid-2000s. Poverty, porous borders, the desperately low value attached to women and children (for boys are trafficked too), the hope of poor parents that the working daughter will send money home or will be “married” and happy, or even the conscious barter of a child for money, make it easy for traffickers to pick out the prey to be put to work sexually or commercially under conditions similar to slavery. Perhaps it is only in the last three years that rescues are sometimes making the news. Howsoever small a dent these make on the actual numbers of trafficked persons, they show that the government and the police are moving at last. Nine integrated anti-trafficking units have been established in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and West Bengal, while the Criminal Investigation Department in West Bengal has devoted a special cell to the crime. Yet trafficking has been allowed to become such a vast operation that it will take a long time of hard work — and perhaps more young people determined to identify their captors — before any significant headway is made.