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Glare on job agencies but court points to need for law

Darjeeling, Aug. 7: Darjeeling police have put job placement agencies under the scanner to curb inter-state trafficking but social workers said the measure was not enough and only a proper legislation on lines of recent directives issued by Delhi High Court could serve the purpose.

According to figures released by the Bengal CID to an RTI query filed by the Delhi based anti-trafficking organisation Shakti Vahini, the number of missing people in the state has increased from 196 to 6514 between 2001 and 2010.

While only three missing cases were reported from the six north Bengal districts in 2001, the number increased to 1089 in 2010 — one of the indications that a large number of people were leaving the region to seek job elsewhere in the country.

The figure, according to Shakti Vahini, continues to rise, yet there is no clear data on the placement agencies working in the state.

“Along with Delhi police, we rescued two girls, one from Mirik in Darjeeling and the other from Sikkim during a raid on a placement agency (in the capital) on July 30. The police seized documents with details of those given jobs by the agency, a box of identity cards and a Nepalese passport belonging to one Tek Bahadur,” said Rishi Kant, a social activist with Shakti Vahini.

The girls were produced before the Child Welfare Committee at Lajpat Nagar in Delhi on August 1.

Delhi High Court then directed the Govindpuri police station to conduct an ossification test on one of the victims to determine her age, check out the condition of all those who had been placed by the agency, rescue the children and also trace a 14-year-old girl in Jaipur.

Kant said the raid proved that quite a number of children were being forced into bonded labour and prostitution but the placement agencies continue to work undeterred because of a lack of proper legislation in Bengal.

“On December 24, 2010, Delhi High Court said emphasis should be laid on the regulation of placement agencies,” said Kant.

The court had then observed that a single window enforcement agency should be created and directed the labour department to register all placement agencies within a specified date.

Until the registration of the agencies was completed, the court asked the Delhi labour department to provide all available data on placement agencies, including the age of the workers who had been provided with placements, employers’ names and the addresses, to the Child Welfare Committee and the Delhi Commission for Women.

“Such measures also need to be taken up by the Bengal government. In this state anyone can run an inter-state domestic placement agency by merely getting a trade licence,” said Kant.

The Darjeeling superintendent of police D.P. Singh said he was not aware of any regulation on the working of placement agencies.

“However, we have put placement agencies under the scanner. We recently started cases against three of them for providing jobs abroad without clearance from the immigration department. We are randomly sending our officials to various placement agencies to verify the genuineness of their purpose,” said Singh.

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