Anoushka is a youth activist for 100 Million India. She writes about the risk of child trafficking skyrocketing in the wake of the pandemic, & explains how young people are taking action.
Child trafficking is one of our worst nightmares coming true. Every time we hear news about a child disappearing, the entire community shudders together. A child goes missing every 10 minutes in India, according to the Women and Child Development ministry. The problem of missing children is increasing in India at a substantial rate, where the majority of children remain untraced. By the time you finish reading this article, another child is likely to have disappeared.
For an exploiter, children are the cheapest resource for absolutely anything: production and labour in the informal economy, commercial sexual exploitation, organised forced begging, organ harvesting and so many other terrifying acts. And with the situation at hand, lockdown and the spread of COVID-19, poorer families living in marginalised communities are more vulnerable than ever.
Even though there are rigorous efforts being made by governments for education to be available to each child, using online classes, radio and television, the fact remains that the majority of children from remote areas do not have any access to these platforms or the gadgets needed to use them. With an increase in financial instability, their parents would rather worry about getting enough food for the family to survive than their child attending school. Post lockdown, there is likely to be a massive fall in the number of children going back to school. The children who drop out may be forced to work, some in hazardous conditions, just to put food on the table.
According to the India Census 2011, the number of child labourers in the state of Bihar was 4.5 lakhs (450,000). Bihar leads in human trafficking for cheap labour, commercial sexual exploitation, human organs, and false marriage. In the current situation due to the lockdown, about 25 lakh (2.5 million) labourers have gone back to their homes in Bihar. Now they will have a big challenge to sustain their families and provide accessible education to their children. Floods in Bihar have already affected the economic condition of marginalised families living in flood-prone districts of the state, and there is a prediction of continued high rainfall this year. Child traffickers are ready to take advantage of such situations by luring vulnerable families into a false promise of employment opportunities. Mukti Caravan, a survivor-led grassroots campaign team, supported by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), will be cycling across 10 highly prone districts of Bihar for an intensive door-to-door drive to sensitise the community and engage them to take action so that no child goes missing, or is trafficked, or denied their basic rights to be free, safe and educated (images above and left).
With the situation in India due to COVID-19 and the lockdown, there is going to be an increase in the demand for cheap labour, and there is going to be a financial need to fill this demand from the poor. Financial crises always hit the most marginalised group the worst. The only way to save all of India’s children from having their futures and present destroyed is by enrolling them and keeping them in school. This can only be done when every citizen, when people like you and me, demand action and justice.
Join the Justice for Every Child campaign in India to learn more about how you can contribute.