Rescuing poor Darjeeling tea garden girls from traffickers’ traps

Rangu Souriya is the recipient of the Godfrey National Phillips Bravery Award, 2011

Rangu Souriya grew up in Darjeeling. Among her several childhood memories, she remembers clearly how young girls in and around Darjeeling used to go missing. Many of them who lived in the Darjeeling tea gardens and also in the villages were lured by jobs and were trafficked, never to return.

Among her recent memories, she vividly recollects how in 2006, for the first time she rescued a 13-year-old girl from Delhi, where she was working as a domestic help. Souriya says the girl, who was taken there on the pretext of job and had harrowing experience there.

“On the promise of a better lifestyle, she was hauled up in a house in New Delhi as bonded labour and was treated like an animal,” she says.

Souriya, now 32, runs an organisation called ‘Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra’, located in Silliguri. She helps in the rescue of girls from the hills, particularly of Sikkim, North Bengal and Nepal, who have been trafficked to various cities in India and even abroad.

“It is because of the prevailing poverty and poor living conditions in tea gardens, that a lot of traffickers are able to lure women and girls by assuring them jobs. They either sell those girls as bonded labour to other states or push them in flesh trade in Arab countries,” says Souriya.

The girls from North Bengal, Nepal and Sikkim are particularly trafficked to Mumbai, Delhi and Pune. Souriya says recently many girls are taken to Arab countries from where it becomes very difficult to bring them back. Souriya with the help of NGOs in Saudi Arabia was able to bring back five trafficked teenage girls back to India in February 2011.

However, she points out that there are still many trapped there. Souriya was honoured with Godfrey National Phillips Bravery award 2011 under the category of ‘Special Social Bravery Award’ for her contribution to changing lives of so many girls.

She still rues the fact that she is able to bring back only 12 women from the clutches of traffickers operating in Gulf countries.

It was during her college days that Souriya made up her mind that she will do something for the girls and now she says that it givers her immense pleasure and a great feeling when she sees the missing girls unite with their families.

With the help of a few like-minded people, she is trying to set up a home for the rescued girls. She says the girls who are unable to get back to their parents should be provided some kind of training so that they are able to sustain themselves.

“Since 2004, We have helped rescue 500 women and girls who were either sold as bondage labour or were pushed in the flesh trade in different parts of India and other countries. Officially, it is 300 girls in police records,” said Souriya. She admits she does not get cooperation from the administration in her work. In some cases, delay on the part of the administration helped the traffickers escape away with the girls. She has also helped the authorities get some traffickers behind the bars.

Source: Express India