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State battle plan to tackle trafficking

The state government on Thursday convened a meeting to “try and get the act together” on trafficking.

With Bengal topping the list of missing children and women, Shashi Panja, the minister of women and social welfare, admitted a lack of coordination.

“After multiple visits around Bengal we noticed there were groups working against trafficking and for the rehabilitation of trafficked women and children,” the minister said. “I’m very candid when I say that we were uninformed about this. I realised that while the government is proactive and sensitive, there has been a lack of coordination. So we decided to converge efforts.”

The meeting attended by representatives of NGOs, police officers and state departments aimed at “gathering inputs from everyone”.

The two “angles” that will be the focus of the government’s efforts, Panja said, are “prevention and reintegration”. She stressed the need for steps against trafficking, which “happens surreptitiously and has turned out to be the most profitable industry in the world”.

Though there are laws in place, implementation at the village and block levels has been inadequate. “That’s because everybody was working against trafficking but not working together,” Panja said.

Visits to the districts have revealed the key role played by child protection committees. The state government on Thursday announced a set of guidelines for the formation and strengthening of such committees.

“Child protection committees fall within child protection rights. We have formalised the guidelines today. Committees will now be formed at every village, block and ward level. The functions include monitoring, supervision and awareness campaigns and any innovation that one can think of,” the minister said.

The state has signed an MoU with Maharashtra to strengthen inter-state co-operation and ensure prosecution of offenders and introduction of safe migration cards.

Asadur Rahman, the head of Unicef in Bengal, pointed out that “two-thirds of the children being rescued are from Bengal”.

Members of NGOs like Sanlaap, Hope Foundation, Childline, Save The Children, Unicef, CRY, as well as the women and social welfare, panchayat and rural development, labour and health departments settled into groups to chalk out a joint plan of action to combat child and women trafficking.

Panja also highlighted the Kanyashree scheme that has been invited to the UK for a global summit on girls on July 22.