India's central state of Madhya Pradesh received the dubious distinction of topping all states concerning the number of children missing as the globe observes the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Saturday.
Every day 30 children go missing in Madhya Pradesh, out of which nine never return, according to data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau. About 10,000 children go missing every year. Most are believed to be trafficked for domestic work, sex, and marriage.
Prashant Dubey, from the Awaaz Foundation, a non-governmental organization on child rights, told Anadolu Agency that the government needs to run a specific program to stop the trafficking of children. Only then can it truly stop the disappearance and trade in children.
In the last three years, 14,553 children disappeared in Madhya Pradesh with 11,885 being girls, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Most of the girls came from poor families and belonged to tribal-dominated districts.
“There are many reasons behind the disappearance of such a large number of children from Madhya Pradesh,” said Dubey, who has been working in the field for years. “Poverty, hunger, and lack of work are the main reasons for this. The caste and community-based discrimination and unfair treatment in rural areas are also at the root of this problem."
Two people abducted Anjela Markam (name changed), who was 16, from the Dindori district where she lived and took her to New Delhi to get her work. Along went two other girls in Anjela’s village.
“I was promised that I would be given 10 thousand rupees ($125) a month and food. But I was neither given money nor enough food. I was made to work all day long," Anjela told Anadolu Agency.
She somehow escaped from her captors and complained to the police, then only she was able to return home.
Angela returned, but the other girls have not, and neither have they been traced. Hundreds of such cases are pending with the police as the parents do not know the whereabouts of their daughters.
No government scheme to end trafficking
“Lack of coordination among various government departments is also a major reason behind slow progress in these cases. There is no program in the government for the prevention of trafficking. This is the reason why the state is not only the source but it is also the transit point for trafficking. The girls are brought to Madhya Pradesh from other states and sent to further destinations," said Dubey.
There are laws in India that regulate trafficking for specific reasons, such as the Immoral Trafficking Act, 1986 about human trafficking for sexual harassment. Similarly the Bonded Labour Regulation Act, 1986, and the Child Labour Regulation Act, 1986 concern the exploitation of bonded labor.
An offender who traffics a minor faces 10 years to life in prison and a fine. For trafficking more than one minor, the penalty is life in prison and a fine. Trafficking of one person is punishable with a sentence of seven to 10 years and a fine. Trafficking of more than one person faces from 10 years behind bars to life imprisonment with a fine.
“The government is trying its best to bring back the children who have gone missing and it has also achieved success. The government is sensitive to the matter of children," Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra told Anadolu Agency.