â€¢Â Every Sunday, 17-year-old Rita was forced into sex with at least 50 men.
â€¢Â Vijay was still in the womb when his mother fixed the price he was sold at.
â€¢Â Seven-year-old Parulâ€™s meals were thrown into a toilet bowl. She had no choice but to eat.
â€¢Â Priyanka was nine when she was shot in the thigh for eating too much.
â€¢Â Preeti has not been allowed outdoors since she was eight. Itâ€™s been 15 years.
â€¢Â Two months into their marriage, 14- year-old Pujaâ€™s husband began pimping her to his friends.
EVEN THOUGH Indiaâ€™s poverty rate has dropped from 60 to 42 percent according to the World Bank, the number of Indians scraping by on less than Rs 60 a day is at an astronomical 467 million. That hunger has almost half the Indian population in its grip is not all that this figure implies. Among huge swathes of Indiaâ€™s poor, life is little more than a bare, often brutalised attempt at staying alive, a struggle in many cases hijacked by human trafficking, deemed by the United Nations the worldâ€™s third-largest illicit industry, after arms and drugs. Extreme poverty and the low premium traditionally placed on female lives sees thousands of girls, most of them more children than women, sold into unmitigated hell by family members and acquaintances. As TEHELKA witnessed at close range during a three-month investigation, the grievous trade in human lives is plied not only in the countryâ€™s brothels, but in urban domestic placement agencies and rural bride markets as well.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: TORTURE AND DOMESTIC SERVITUDE
PM Nairâ€™sÂ Trafficking in Women and Children in IndiaÂ indicates that nearly 75 percent of the victims of trafficking are tricked into it by the promise of a lucrative job.
With the nuclear family fast becoming the norm among the urban middle-toupper classes, the demand for the live-in maid servant (euphemism: â€˜domestic helpâ€™) has exponentially risen. In response, domestic placement agencies have mushroomed across the countryâ€™s metros. Posing as the mother of a three-year-old, we visited several such agencies in Delhi and saw at first hand how easily minor girls are brought from villages in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to live under extreme exploitation, first at the placement agencyâ€™s â€˜transit areaâ€™, and then at the employerâ€™s house.
Husband and wife Kiranjeet and Julie, known only by their first names, are traffickers from Alipore Dwar, West Bengal. In trade jargon, they are known as â€˜johnsâ€™: they supply placement agencies with girls from the villages at commissions ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000 per girl. TEHELKA got Kiranjeet talking about his profession.