Death, disease and now human trafficking

The spectre of human trafficking looms over the Dooars tea gardens along with death and disease.

Acting on a tip-off last night, police rescued a group of 10 boys and two men from Dhupguri station. The boys, who hail from three different gardens in central Dooars, were being taken to Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, to work as farm hands. A middle-aged man accompanying the group was arrested.

“Based on prior information, our men were posted at the station last night. The boys were waiting for the Delhi-bound Awadh-Assam Express when they were spotted. Their movements were suspicious and when the man accompanying them could not explain what he was doing there, the entire group was brought to the police station,” said Tapas Das, the additional superintendent of police, Jalpaiguri. “During interrogation the boys insisted that their parents had permitted them to go and work at the farmhouse as shepherds.”

The arrested person, identified as Devendra Singh, claimed to be the owner of the farmhouse. “He said the parents of the boys had consented to their going with him. He also claimed to have paid advance wages to some of the guardians,” a police officer said. The cops, however, are likely to file a kidnapping case against him.

Among the rescued, Anil Oraon (14), Lovo Munda (15), Surajit Oraon (15) and Akash Oraon (14) are from Kanthalguri Tea Estate, Otua Oraon (15), Hariram Oraon (16), Budhua Kheria (17), Prakash Oraon (25), Suresham Munda (15) and Ordhar Oraon (35) from Rheabari Tea Estate, while Barful Munda (15) and Manoj Munda (18) are from Banarhat Tea Estate. Of the three gardens, Kanthalguri is closed since July 2002, while the other two are open.

Though Singh claimed he had paid money, some of the parents denied any such deal. Chera Oraon, father of Anil and a resident of Kanthalguri, said: “Since our garden is closed, we went out yesterday morning to look for work outside the garden. When we returned in the evening our sons were nowhere to be seen. We looked for them throughout the night and were going to lodge a complaint this morning when some policemen came and informed us that our children had been rescued from Dhupguri.”

According to a survey done by Dooars Jagaran, an NGO working on trafficking in the area, the trend has become more pronounced in the last few years (see chart). “At least 47 people, including women, are missing from Kanthalguri alone,” said Victor Basu, a member of the organisation.

“People are trafficked mainly to Delhi and Sikkim. While some of them land household jobs, most of them go untraced.”

Source: The Telegraph