Teenager rescued from flat
A 17-year-old girl allegedly forced into prostitution was rescued from an apartment inside a housing complex on the south-western fringes of the city on Friday.
Five persons, suspected members of a trafficking racket, were arrested the same day, three from the flat and two from Sealdah station.
The rescued girl, daughter of a rickshaw puller, is a school dropout who was lured with the promise of a job, police said.
Friday’s arrests followed a police swoop on a Behala apartment on November 1 when a 14-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman allegedly forced into prostitution were rescued. A man and a woman, alleged traffickers, and the woman who had rented the flat were arrested.
Interrogation of those arrested from the Behala flat and information shared by the rescued teenager led the cops to Friday’s arrests.
“The gang was involved in trafficking minor girls from poor families and forcing them into prostitution. Instead of keeping the victims in brothels, the perpetrators sent them to hotels and private homes,” a senior police officer said.
Prasenjit Banerjee and Abhirup Nandy were arrested while they were trying to board a train from Sealdah station on Friday, police sources said.
The two were questioned and based on their statements a team of cops raided a flat inside a sprawling township by the Hooghly in Batanagar and found the 17-year-old girl.
Two women and a man — identified by the police as Arpita Das, who rented the flat, Laxmi Sarkar, an alleged trafficker, and Rabi Pramanik, who allegedly took her to clients —were arrested.
The girl, a resident of Behala, allegedly told the rescuers that she had dropped of school after failing her Class X mid-term exams. “Her father, a rickshaw puller, had a drinking problem and would abuse her mother regularly,” said a volunteer of an NGO involved in counselling the teenager, who has been sent to a government shelter.
The girl allegedly told police that she came in contact with Sarkar four years ago at her elder sister’s marriage. “Sarkar lived near her sister’s husband’s home. She gradually befriended the teenager and lured her with the promise of a job. She was taken to multiple places, where she was exploited. The flat she was rescued from is one of them,” an officer in Lalbazar’s anti-trafficking unit said.
“The girl had to engage up to 10 customers a day and was frequently abused. The practice common in red-light areas is a new trend in private locations. Proactive investigation by the police has broken the spine of a criminal network,” said Saji Philip, director of operations of the Calcutta wing of the International Justice Mission, the NGO that is counselling the teenager.
Both the minors — rescued on November 1 and 8 — were school dropouts lured into the trade because of poor economic conditions, said Philip.
The five arrested on Friday were produced in Alipore court and remanded in 14 days’ police custody. They have been charged under the Indian Penal Code sections related to procurement and trafficking a minor into prostitution, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.