Relatives and neighbours of the tribal girl who was rescued from the clutches of her employer in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, blame the couple who took away the girl on the promise of employment for her plight. Gathered around the family’s hut in Atgama village of Sahebganj district, 450 km from Ranchi, they directed their anger at Lukhi Ram and his wife from a nearby village.

“We did not know Lukhi Ram and his wife. They are from Nipaniya in Talchari panchayat and had come to Balandina Soren’s house in our village. They said they were looking for girls for employment in Delhi,” said the girl’s aunt, Baha Murmu, speaking in Santhali.

She said her niece had offered to go because her father had died a couple of years earlier. The family has only 0.2 acres land.

The girl’s mother, who left for Delhi on Wednesday to be with her daughter, works as a farm labourer, finding work for only four to five days a month. The family does not have a below the poverty line card.

The girl’s malnourished grandmother, Phoolmani Hasda, was in tears when told about her granddaughter.

“We were worried as we did not hear from her even once in four years. Every time we tried to ask, Lukhi Ram said he did not have any details. Then Reena, who had left for Delhi a year after my niece, came to our house in June and gave us Rs.10,000 that my granddaughter had sent. With that money we got the hut repaired and we hoped that she will visit us soon,” Phoolmani said. In the village government middle school, where 255 students study from Class I to VIII, the girl’s name is registered as admitted in year 2000. No one was able to say with certainty when she dropped out.

Villagers said 12 girls between 15 and 18 had left for Delhi and Mumbai in the last five years. A district official said agents from placement agencies in big cities were very active here, looking for girls to recruit for employment.