A missed call led to the alleged trafficking of a girl from South 24-Parganas in May this year.
The 16-year-old was rescued from a house in Mallapuram in Kerala on August 6. The alleged trafficker was arrested.
“The man befriended the girl with the promise of a better life. The girl had responded to a missed call from the man,” said a rights activist who has spoken with the girl after the rescue.
A missed call or a random friendship message is often the starting point of an operation that lands minor girls in brothels far away from home, said police and rights activists.
In June 2020, this newspaper had reported how mobile recharge stores in Canning, in South 24-Parganas, had seen a surge in visitors during the lockdown. Many men, suspected to have been parts of trafficking rackets, were trying to get access to log books where the store owners list the phone numbers of the customers — many minor girls among them.
In this case, the girl is said to have left home to live with the accused. She had been missing since May 13. The girl’s father, a visually impaired man, said in the police complaint that his daughter had left home for the local market but never came back.
Based on mobile tower locations, the cops first traced the two to Andhra Pradesh and then Kerala.
An officer of Canning police station, where the case had been registered, refused to share details. “The girl has been rescued. We are probing all angles,” he said.
A member of World Vision India, an NGO that assisted the police in rescuing the girl, said a preliminary probe did not suggest the girl was forced into prostitution. “It has only been a couple of months since she was trafficked.... But in the majority of such cases, minors are eventually used for commercial sexual exploitation,” he said.
According to the police, several girls rescued from brothels said they had come in contact with traffickers by responding to missed calls or messages.
In many cases, the caller befriends the girl before calling her on a “date”. Spiked drinks or food is offered to the girl. When she opens her eyes, she finds herself on a long-distance train or in another city.