Stories of survival and crusade resonate at anti-trafficking conclave in Kolkata

Kolkata, May 21 (PTI) If there are evil people in the world, there are also heroes fighting them, said American thought-leader and social entrepreneur Vanessa Bouche, as she virtually joined the ninth anti-trafficking conclave hosted by the US consulate in Kolkata, in partnership with Delhi-based NGO Shakti Vahini.
The conclave on Friday brought together stakeholders, including students, teachers, trafficking survivors, police personnel and government representatives, from across West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam on one platform, where stories of rescue, rehabilitation and measures to end the menace were shared amid cheers and appreciation by all.
Shakti Vahini, which had been working with law enforcement, state agencies and the civil society to combat human trafficking and violence against women and children, advocated for interstate collaboration to strengthen prevention nets and expedite recue and rehabilitation work.
Rishi Kant, the co-founder of Shakti Vahini, said, “When the Union government issued an advisory in July 2020 for trafficking prevention in high-source areas due to vulnerabilities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we at once started holding campaigns in various places. Due to the leads provided by the communities, several cases of trafficking could be prevented during transit.” The NGO has undertaken intensive workshops and awareness campaigns in North- and South-24 Parganas in Bengal, besides three other districts of neighbouring states – Simdega in Jharkhand, Morigaon on Assam and Sitamarhi in Bihar – seeking to empower local leaders, women and girls to fight against the scourge of trafficking and create awareness among their communities.
“During the second year of the pandemic, 1,910 police personnel were trained in Bengal. The initiative directly provided support in 250 cases, leading to the recovery of 89 children in the state,” Kant noted.
Lauding the measures, Melinda Pavek, the US consul general in Kolkata, pointed out that human trafficking cannot be solved by one country or entity alone.
“Governments, NGOs, judiciary, and others must all work together. It is only when we do so; we can bring an end to this modern-day slavery. As part of our integrated country strategy goals, we are committed to working together with India in the fight against global terrorism, trafficking and other translational crimes,” she stated.
Pavek appreciated the West Bengal Police for its Swayam Siddha (self reliant) initiative, which has empowered women and youth to report trafficking-related crimes, thus effectively curbing the crime.
The initiative, with the help of key stakeholders, has also been implemented in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam.
Wrapping up the session Ajay Ranade, assistant director general of police (Vigilance), explained that after a girl from South 24 Parganas was rescued in a miserable condition from a trafficking net in Delhi some six years ago, brainstorming sessions within the force followed, and ways to end the social evil were discussed at length.
“I had to tell everyone that what had happened to that one girl could happen to anyone. With the help of the state government, several awareness generation activities were arranged and rehabilitation programmes undertaken. Trafficking survivors have now become role models, reaching out to other women and children, sharing their stories and alerting them against the menace,” he added. PTI RMS JRC JRC
Source: The Print
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