A phone call at the dead of the night is seldom good news. However, for the Aimol* family what followed was not only shocking but also something that would change their lives forever. Their daughter Julie* had bagged a job opportunity abroad the month before and the family had been ecstatic. The employment agency had taken her and seven other girls. The family was waiting for good fortune to unfold. Little did they know that the reality would be dark, dangerous and gloomy. Julie and the other girls were taken to Myanmar, where their identity documents were forged and then to Singapore. They realised they had no clue about their final destination. As luck would have it, they were forced to lodge in a hotel in Yangon enroute to Singapore. Luckily, Julie managed to call home from there.
Back at the hilly terrains of Churachandpur district in Manipur, home to Julie, her family was completely at a loss. They desperately contacted a member of Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR), an organisation working towards ensuring child rights in the state, supported by CRY-Child Rights and You, a renowned non government organisation. CRY is a top NGO in India that works relentlessly for children facing issues like poverty, lack of education, early marriage etc.
With immediate action from the team, the local police department, the Special Investigation Team of the state police and immense cooperation from the Indian Embassy, the State Government, the External Affairs Ministry and the Yangon police, the children were rescued from Myanmar and six persons were arrested.
Speaking about this, Keisham Pradipkumar, member of Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR) says, “Manipur has become not only a source state for cross-border human trafficking, but also it is being used as an easy transit route. Children are soft and easy target, and it is definitely a burning issue for the state.”
“I’ve got a second chance to live. Though I still get nightmares, I know I am lucky enough to be back with my family. Not everyone is as lucky as me. They go missing without a trace,” says Julie.
Unfortunately, Julie is absolutely right. Going by the data on missing children revealed by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report and cited by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Parliament (LS Q NO. 3928, 20-03-2018), more than one lakh children (1,11,569 in actual numbers) were reported to have gone missing till 2016, and 55,625 of them remained untraced till the end of the year. Simply put, that’s 174 children that went missing everyday in India in 2016, and more worryingly, only half of them came back in the same time-period (MHA – 2016). To plot it on a scale of ten, five out of every ten missing children remained untraced till 2016.
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*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the child and her family.