Dipali, Manju and Sahanara (names changed) were all beneficiaries of West Bengal’s most talked about conditional cash transfer scheme, Kanyashree.
However, despite being beneficiaries of the scheme, which according to the State government has 56.09 lakh beneficiaries so far, these three young women were trafficked between 2016-18.
Of the three trafficking survivors, one a resident of State’s South 24 Parganas district Canning area told The Hindu that she was abducted in front of a bank in 2017 where she had gone to check whether she had received benefits under the Kanyashree.
Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra ( GGBK), an organisation working with survivors of trafficking in South 24 Parganas, has been involved in the rescue of 21 trafficking survivors in 2018. “Of the 21 girls who were rescued, four of them were beneficiaries of Kanyashree,” Subhashree Ratptam of GGBK said.
Krishnachandrapur High School, located in South 24 Parganas Mathurapur region has about 1,700 beneficiaries of Kanayshree. Principal Chandan Maity said that of these 1,700 beneficiaries, there have been at least 50 cases, where beneficiaries have either been trafficked or married early.
Manisha Banerjee, headmistress of the Labhpur Girls High School in State’s Birbhum district, said while the situation had improved due to intervention of Kanyashree, there were still cases of girls from school going missing and being trafficked.
The school administered by Ms. Banerjee has 700 Kanyashree beneficiaries.
Launched in 2013, the Kanyashree scheme has two categories of benefits. Under the first category or K1 category, ₹750 is paid annually to the girls in the age group of 13 to 18; under the K2 group, a one-time grant of ₹25,000 is paid after a girl turns 18, provided that she was engaged in an academic or occupational pursuit and was unmarried.
Experts working with the non-government organisations on the issue said trafficking is a complex problem and one scheme, which provides impetus to girls to remain in school, cannot put an end to trafficking. Moreover, they also feel that under the K1 scheme the benefit of ₹750 annually is hardly a deterrent to trafficking.
Kanyashree is an overarching scheme apart from several other schemes aimed at combating trafficking.
In September 2018, West Bengal government rolled out Swayangsiddha scheme to prevent trafficking. Under the scheme (which means self reliance) complaint boxes have been installed in the schools where girls can submit any complaint of stalking or harassment faced by them or any of their friends.
Sanghamitra Ghosh, secretary of the State’s Women and Child Development department said, “These are different sectors of government working together for the same objective of empowering the girl child and preventing child marriage and trafficking. Syawangsiddha is a scheme run by the West Bengal police and is not as widespread as Kanyashree.”
Ms. Ghosh also pointed out that cases of trafficking are recorded more in West Bengal because of a robust reporting of cases relating to missing of girls. As the per NCRB data, West Bengal reports the highest number of cases. Data for 2016 shows that of the 8,132 cases in the country, 3,579 cases (around 44%) were from West Bengal.