Boys Sold by Trusted Villager Turned Human Trafficker

Friends Ajay and Durgesh are returned to their families with the help of ActionAid India and the All India Bonded Labour Liberation Front. The boys were tricked into bonded labour by a trusted fellow villager. Credit: ActionAid

By Mehru Jaffer
Lucknow, India, Jan 28 2022 – Friends Ajay and Durgesh were lured from the same village in the remote and poverty-stricken countryside of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) in January 2021.

Friends Ajay and Durgesh were lured from the same village in the remote and poverty-stricken countryside of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) in January 2021.

The boys, aged 16, were whisked away from their homes, transported, and sold as bonded labour to a garment factory in Rajkot in the western state of Gujarat. Rajkot is some 2000 km from Ajay and Durgesh’s village in UP.

Along with two other boys from the same village, Sanjay (15) and Pavan (14), Ajay and Durgesh were befriended by a man, only identified as Gulab, and promised an eight-hour a day job, with a salary of Rs 7500 (about US 100 dollars) per month at a garment factory. The boys accepted the offer immediately because Gulab was from the same village and had known them since childhood.

“At the factory, the boys were thrown in with dozens of other children who were never paid. They were woken at 7 am and forced to work till 11 pm. The factory owner threatened to kill them if they stepped out of the factory,” Dalsinghar told IPS speaking from Lucknow. “The children were abused and kicked when the supervisor felt that they were not working fast enough. None of the children was given enough to eat.”

Dalsinghar, who goes by his surname, is a trade union leader and head of the UP office of the All India Bonded Labour Liberation Front. With ActionAid India, Dalsinghar helped to rescue the four boys in August 2021. The boys are now finishing their studies in their village.

These boys are lucky to have escaped the clutches of traffickers. Ajay found a mobile phone one day and quickly called his family. He told them the exact location of the factory in faraway Gujarat.

The family got in touch with Raju, a volunteer with ActionAid India, who lived near their village. With the help of Dalsinghar, Raju and the district administrations of Kushinagar in UP and Rajkot in Gujarat, the boys were rescued, and their eight-month ordeal at the hands of the garment factory owner ended.

There are numerous incidents of victims being deceived by people they know.

Families celebrate the return of four boys trafficked into bonded labour in a factory far from home. Credit: ActionAid, India

Take Gulab as an example. Gulab came from the same village as the four teenagers he trapped and sold to a garment factory owner.

In the hope of avoiding deprivation and starvation in difficult economic times, the teenagers took up Gulab’s offer. They trusted him and fell for his lies because it did not occur to them that he would betray them.

ActionAid quotes other instances when a loved one has tricked victims. When that happens, the victim often does not fight back.

Sita was sold to traffickers by her alcoholic father in a West Bengal village as a bride. She was taken from place to place until she found shelter in an ashram in a city in UP. The police were informed, and she returned to her village in West Bengal.

Frequently missing children and adults cases include abduction and trafficking. Most of the time, missing people are not reported to the police, and if reported, the reports are not registered.

Children from the poorest of low-income families are most vulnerable. They are the main target of traffickers as poor and illiterate families are most likely not to approach authorities for help. There are instances of children and adults leaving home searching for glamour and fortune in big cities like Mumbai. Once there, touts find them and force them to beg or work as sex slaves without remuneration or concern for their health.

ActionAid India continues to work in villages providing support to survivors of trafficking and violence with medical, psycho-social and legal support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that times are extremely challenging for communities. Schools closures and work opportunities in most villages have shrunk, which means that social activists like Dalsinghar need to be more vigilant today than ever before.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai have rescued thousands of children from the worst form of child labour and trafficking.

Satyarthi has led a Bharat Yatra, a nationwide march in India to demand legislation against child rape, child sexual abuse and trafficking.

The Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation conducted a study in 2020 that concluded there was a high likelihood of an increase in human trafficking in the post-lockdown period for labour.

About 89 per cent of NGOs surveyed said that trafficking of both adults and children for labour would be one of the biggest threats in the post-lockdown period as household incomes of the most vulnerable deplete.

There is concern that the desperate and vulnerable populations of unorganised workers, who are in no position to negotiate wages or their rights, will be a massive pool for cheap labour. Many of these labourers could be children, forced out of school and forced to earn a living.

The fear is that thousands of children will likely be trafficked across the country to work in manufacturing units where they will be paid meagre to no wages and will most likely face extreme physical, mental and sexual violence.

Thousands of children like Ajay, Durgesh, Sanjay and Pavan are easy targets for an organised crime network of human trafficking. It is feared that many more children will be enslaved during the pandemic by those looking for cheap labour when many economic activities have come to a standstill.

“It is tragic when people betray the trust of children,” concludes Dalsinghar.

This article is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.
The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) http://gsngoal8.com/ is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7, which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.
The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such as exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking”.

 


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“Don’t Forget Leprosy” Campaign Gathers Pace as World Leprosy Day Approaches

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, has served as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination since 2001. He is part of Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, which has organized the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign.

By External Source
Jan 28 2022 (IPS-Partners)

Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative is collaborating with 32 organizations from 13 countries to promote the message “Don’t forget leprosy” in the run-up to World Leprosy Day on January 30. The international campaign includes awareness-raising events and outreach to governments and is being publicized via newspapers, television, radio, and social media.

Based in Tokyo, Japan, Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative launched the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign in August 2021 to ensure efforts against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, are not sidelined amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking part are NGOs, organizations of persons affected by leprosy, research institutes, and government agencies from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.

The Initiative’s Yohei Sasakawa, who serves as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly hard on persons affected by leprosy and their families who were in a vulnerable situation to begin with. Lockdowns and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus have caused many problems at the field level, making access to medical services difficult, causing loss of livelihoods, and exacerbating the difficulties that persons affected by leprosy already encounter due to stigma and discrimination. They must not be forgotten.”

From India, which accounts for around 60% of all new cases of leprosy diagnosed globally each year, 13 8 organizations are participating. Activities include intensive awareness-raising events aimed at school children and university students to provide young people with correct knowledge about leprosy and help prevent discrimination from taking root.

In Brazil, the country with the second-highest number of annual new cases and which has yet to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem (with elimination defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 population), the campaign is being carried out by more than 2,000 persons affected by leprosy and volunteers from MORHAN (the Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Affected by Hansen’s Disease). Activities include a focus on healthcare professionals and involve training local public health nurses, strengthening the functions of leprosy referral centers and case-finding.

Activities for World Leprosy Day by Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative
The Initiative has launched a special website (https://gasasakawa.org/) for the Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy. Inaugurated by Sasakawa in 2006 and released in conjunction with World Leprosy Day, the annual Global Appeal underlines the messages that leprosy is curable, treatment is available free of charge throughout the world, and that social discrimination has no place.

As side events of this year’s Global Appeal, the Initiative is hosting two webinars on raising awareness of leprosy (“The role of health professionals at the grassroots level” and “The role of young people: sharing discussions from three regions”) as well as a photo contest on social media. A selection of the best photos, which depict the daily lives of persons affected by leprosy and relief activities, will be displayed on the Global Appeal website.

In addition, Sasakawa has posted a message for World Leprosy Day on the WHO website.

About Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative
The Initiative is a strategic alliance between WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei Sasakawa, The Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation for achieving a world without leprosy and problems related to the disease. Since 1975, The Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation have supported the national leprosy programs of endemic countries through the WHO, with support totaling some US$200 million to date. In cooperation with the Japanese government and other partners, the foundations have played an important role in advocating with the United Nations, helping to secure a 2010 UN General Assembly resolution on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members and the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on leprosy by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017.

See the Initiative’s home page for further details.

About leprosy
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infectious disease that mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Around 200,000 cases are newly reported each year. Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy, but left untreated can result in permanent disability. An estimated 3 to 4 million people in the world today are thought to be living with some form of disability as a result of leprosy. Although completely curable, many myths and misunderstandings surround the disease. In various parts of the world, patients, those who have been treated and cured, and even their family members continue to be stigmatized. The discrimination they face limits their opportunities for education, employment, and full participation in society.

Chart1: List of participating organizations