The Madhya Pradesh police have set up anti-human trafficking cells in 24 thanas across the State to seriously probe the disappearance of children, especially from tribal districts

Having struggled with high incidences of rapes, molestations, infant mortality, maternal mortality and malnutrition among others, Madhya Pradesh is now battling with the menace of human trafficking. 

A new report compiled by Vikas Samvaad, a Bhopal-based human rights advocacy and research organisation, claims that over the last eight years, the State has lost 75, 521 children — boys as well as girls — to trafficking. That’s 24 children a day! Of these, 12,936 children are yet to be traced by the police. Also 8,108 girls are reported missing over the last nine years, the report claims. 

To tackle the problem, 24 anti-human trafficking cells have been set up in police stations across Madhya Pradesh, with Rs.7,58,000 earmarked for each cell.  

However, according to the report “Madhya Pradesh mein neelam hota bachpan”, the police have often been found acting indifferent to such missing complaints.

“Till recently, the police just did not take missing children cases seriously. They just registered a complaint, avoided FIRs and advised the parents to look around in order to find their children,” admits Aruna Mohan Rao, Additional Director General, Crime against Women branch, Madhya Pradesh police.

“However, since I took charge in June this year, we have strictly instructed all thanas to take missing children cases very seriously and register them as separate cases and follow up thoroughly on investigations,” Ms. Rao adds. 

The problem is particularly acute in tribal areas of the State, especially in districts like Mandla, Balaghat, Dindori, Khandwa, Seoni and Shivpuri.

“Of all the children gone missing from the State’s tribal areas during the last nine years, 44 per cent are yet to be traced,” says Prashant Dubey, who compiled the report based on painstaking, ground level research conducted over the last one year.

“The better sex ratio in tribal areas is unfortunately proving to be a bane for girls who are sold, purchased and traded across national and even international borders like cattle,” says Mr. Dubey. 

Sex ratio in the tribal districts has been much better than most places in the country, with districts like Alirajpur and Balaghat having sex ratios of 1009 and 1021 respectively. Not surprisingly, buyers are mostly from States with skewed sex ratios like neighbouring Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and not-so-far-away Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. But children are not just being smuggled out of Madhya Pradesh, they are also being brought in from several other States, especially Assam, West Bengal and Odisha and even other countries.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau, Madhya Pradesh led the country in “Importation of girls” (section 366B of the IPC) in the year 2011 when 45 girls were brought into the State from foreign countries. The State, along with Karnataka (12) and Bihar (10), contributed to two-thirds of such cases all over India.

Children are traded for several purposes including household work, industrial labour, marriage and even prostitution.

 Last December, the Madhya Pradesh police rescued 57 minor girls from Mandsaur, engaged in prostitution, from the clutches of human traffickers. In another case, 19 child labourers, mostly from West Bengal’s Burdwan district, were rescued from the busy Sarafa market in Indore. Recently, the railway police rescued 20 children, bound for Gonda, Uttar Pradesh, from the Bhopal railway station. Last month, minor girls from Assam were rescued when the police busted a high-profile prostitution racket in the city’s posh Koh-e-fiza locality.

Once some girls from a village go out, they are sent back to bring other girls from their village. In return, they are paid a commission of Rs. 500-1,000 per girl. Girls are sold for prices ranging from Rs. 5,000 to 70,000 and more.

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