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Study finds Sonitpur hub of trafficking

Guwahati, April 29: Bina Murmu (name changed), 19, had boarded a train for Delhi in July 2012 with high hopes. Her neighbour, with whom she was travelling, had promised her a job in a garment factory on a monthly salary of Rs 12,000 of which she dreamed of sending home at least Rs 5,000.

Reality struck three days after she reached Delhi. Her neighbour was planning to sell her to a person in Haryana, where women from outside are brought for forced marriages because of the low sex ratio.

Bina got suspicious after she heard the woman talking about her to someone on the phone. The next morning, she went to a nearby police station seeking help. The police informed a local NGO and finally she was sent back to Assam. It was a 12-day ordeal but Bina managed to escape a worse fate.

Not many from the tea-rich Sonitpur district of central Assam, from where Bina hails, are as lucky. More often than not, they land up in brothels or are married off against their wishes to elderly men in Haryana.

Bina, like others, was lured by promises of a job and high salary. The daughter of a tea garden labourer, she did not want to work on the plantation and no other job was available.

A joint study of Unicef and Assam government on trafficking of women and children, released recently, has found that 51 women from Sonitpur were rescued from human traffickers between January 2011 and July 2013. It found the district to be a major area of operation for criminal gangs who lured young girls and women with promise of jobs. Of the 207 cases reported during the study period, Sonitpur reported 51, followed by Kamrup with 22 cases.

“Sonitpur led the tally in 2012 and 2013 and the cases of rescued girls from the district stood at 25 in 2012 alone,” the study said.

A CID official associated with the data analysis said Sonitpur was identified as a source area as the maximum numbers of women rescued were found to be residents of the district.

“This does not mean that trafficking is not a problem in other districts. The maximum rescue of women from the district suggests that the police and NGOs in the district are working more actively and following up on missing complaints,” he said.

“We can say that poverty, lack of jobs and poor awareness, especially among garden workers in the district, are the major causes of women falling prey to trafficking. There is a need to carry out a thorough study to identify the push and pull factors of trafficking and intervene seriously,” he added.

Young girls from Assam have earlier been rescued from brothels in Delhi, Mumbai, Siliguri (Bengal) and found to be forced into married in Haryana.

“The number of girls facing sexual exploitation is higher than the number of girls engaged in labour. The only form of exploitation faced by an adult woman in a majority of cases is sexual in nature, which in some cases is combined with forced marriage,” the study said.

The study period, however, found no such cases in Dima Hasao, Goalpara, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts. “This does not necessarily mean there have been no cases of trafficking from these districts during the study period,” the report stated.