Bangalore's tragedy of migrant children
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- Bitter legacy of separation
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Migrant children in Bangalore are sold for Rs 500. These kids are later resold to brothels, to beggars and for household work in cities. NGOs in the city have formed a team to rescue these children at the from bus stands and railway stations.
Nina C George, 4 October, 2008, merinews
THEY ARE the children of a lesser God. For Bangalore city does not deem them to be its own. In fact, born elsewhere they migrate to the city in pursuit of a livelihood, only to be ruthlessly gobbled up by unscrupulous traffickers for whom they are just another reserve army for all kinds of exploitation.
Not less than 400 children, mostly girls, migrate to the city every year and are ready-made fodder for human trafficking. The cases of trafficking in migrant children has been steadily increasing by the year. Almost 70 per cent of these child migrants are trafficked in one form or another. The bulk of trafficked children are migrant labourers. While most trafficked children are girls, increasingly, boys are being recruited in the sex industry, besides for menial labour.
According to a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), working among migrant children, most of the these children who come to the city belong to lower echelons of the society; lower castes like Schedule castes and Schedule tribes, minority religious and ethnic groups and broken families. "Most children trafficked are from rural areas. But trafficking from other urban centres is also on the rise," reveals CC Poulose, state convener, Campaign Against Child Trafficking, Karnataka.
Child migrants turning traffickers
A member of the child welfare committee says most of these children come to the city from neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Children do come from the north as well, mostly Delhi, Chandigarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. He observes that migrant children end up in the city on their own or sent by their parents or guardians. Once in the city, the search for subsistence leads them to the traffickers who haunt railway stations and bus-stands looking for their quarry. Children do end up in the traffickers’ net in their home towns or villages as well.
A social worker with a NGO that has rescued several of these children, says trafficking can take different forms. He observes that novel types of trafficking have emerged all over and in fact human trafficking has become the fastest growing business in organised crime.
Children are mostly trafficked for labour. "Trafficking children for the purposes of domestic servitude, bonded labour or work in hazardous industries, factories, restaurants and construction sites has grown. The number is growing as children are perceived as commodities prone to easy manipulation, nimble in work and can be exploited for a longer period," he says.
The mushrooming of unlicensed and unregistered orphanages, faith based welfare/charity homes have opened up a whole new avenue for trafficking of children, avers this social worker. Children are sold and relinquished at these institutions, some are picked up if found abandoned or missing, some are voluntarily handed over by parents.
Pay according to age
Trafficked migrant children are paid according to their age.
The older ones aged between 15 and 18 years earn anywhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1000. The younger ones get paid Rs 500. Children from northern and western parts of the country do end up on the alms street. Physically challenged or maimed children are preferred for beggary.
According to Shobana Kulothungan, coordinator of Makkala Sahayavani in the city, children are brought from Hubli, Shimoga, Dharwad and Davanagere into the city for a lump sum of Rs 5000 by employers for a period of one or two years. "Parents don’t know the going rates and often get cheated. These children then get tortured and abused," she observes. Most distress calls received by Makkala Sahayavani are related to cases of child abuse and exploitation.
Meera Kumari, a lady constable who heads the rescue team at Makkala Sahayavani says most of these children are shocked and confused because they have strangers who take them in on the pretext of giving them jobs and exploit them in all ways.