The two victims in front of the Delhi Commission for Women office. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Oct. 12: Sexually abused, tortured and forced to slave unpaid as a maid for four years, a 17-year-old from Bengal has stayed back in Delhi after her escape so she can help her peers and put her tormentors in jail.
She is battling official apathy to try and get all the other trafficked girls from Bengal located and rescued. She wants to have Rajesh, the placement agency owner who abused her, arrested and force him to pay up the Rs 2.4 lakh he owes her.
The girl, who had arrived in Delhi aged 13 from a village in New Jalpaiguri, escaped last month from the house where she worked. Her name is being withheld for legal reasons.
Her plight is the latest episode in the continuing trafficking of girls from Bengal, which accounts for the largest number of missing children in the country, according to the Union home ministry. What makes her stand out is her desire to fight back.
The racket is run by illegal placement agencies that have mushroomed in every Delhi locality. NGOs estimate their number at 6,000 and a recent RTI query has revealed that only 119 are registered. The police launch occasional raids following escapes or rescues and arrest some people but the racket goes on.
“Five of us boarded a train and arrived here with a woman we knew. She sold us to Rajesh. She told us we could phone our parents whenever we wanted and go home after a year with our money,” the victim said.
According to the racket’s rules, the homes where the girls are placed to work 16 hours a day pay not the girls but the agency owners. The provisions of the deal:
The agency is to keep the first month’s pay and hand the rest to the girl — but the Bengal teen said Rajesh never paid her a paisa from the Rs 5,000 she earned a month.
The girls cannot leave the house except on their weekly day off, when they are to be handed over to the agency to be taken to its office. Here is where the girls are abused, the teen says.
“I was sexually abused and beaten up. I was told I would be cut into pieces and left in the gutter if I ever spoke of going away,” she said.
After she ran away and went to police, Rajesh’s office was raided but he had fled. NGOs say the agencies pay off local policemen. One teen from the same New Jalpaiguri village was rescued from the agency office.
“She (the first teen) has been very courageous. From the beginning we had tried to unite the girls at the agency office and convince them that we should talk to the police, but they were too afraid,” the second girl said.
In a letter to the police commissioner on October 11, of which The Telegraph has a copy, the first teen has listed the names of all the Bengal girls who stayed at the agency office sometime or the other.
Documents seized during the raid have revealed the addresses of homes they have been placed in, and she wants the police to go to these houses. The police haven’t done so yet.
It’s urgent, says the teen, because all the girls are periodically moved from house to house so they don’t get familiar with the families they are placed with, or the neighbourhood.
The 17-year-old, who is staying with a relative in Delhi, has contacted the National Human Rights Commission and the Delhi Commission for Women, but says they haven’t been of much help yet.
“I won’t leave Delhi till the agency pays me in full and Rajesh lands up in jail,” she said.
“I want to return to my parents and brothers but I won’t give up without a fight. There are so many girls from Bengal trapped here with nowhere to go. I will ensure they are returned to their parents.”
Social activist Rakesh Senger said the girls are usually too scared to stand up to the agency owners or go to the police because “most of the time, even the local cops are in collusion with the traffickers and receive a cut on every girl”.
He added: “The girls are threatened with acid, made to strip and beaten.”
“What he (Rajesh) did with us was dirty and we can’t even begin to describe it,” said the second girl, who wants to return home, complete her schooling and campaign against trafficking in her village. For now, she too would be staying put in Delhi with her friend.