Daughters of dark
remain in dark
This piece is not meant for those, who lead cosy life and roll in wealth and splendour. Please don’t read. We have no intentions to chisel a ‘Gautam Buddha’ out of ‘Siddharthas’. This is a sad tale of the daughters of darkness who live and die in the dark.
Not many feathers were ruffled when a destitute mother sold her four-month-old son to a wealthy Nepalese couple for a paltry sum of Rs. 62 (Rs. 100 in Nepal currency) to feed her two other children and the ailing husband. The Raj Bhavan is engaged in a row with the Bihar AG over its audit report. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has, however, asked the police to locate the woman, who had reportedly gone missing after sacrificing her ‘Aankho ke tara’ (most loved one) at the altar of hunger. The human tragedy has given a powerful salvo to opposition RJD, LJP, Congress and Left parties. They said that the Shannu case has exposed the Chief Minister’s much hyped and sushasan claims. “What type of development it is when a poverty stricken woman is forced to sell her child for few rupees”, asked RJD leaders?
The police later ‘recovered’ Shannu Khatun loitering in her village, forlorn and dejected and took her to the house in Madanpur village of Araria district. The cops found her physically challenged husband Mohammad Shaheed sunk in a cot. A ‘very hungry’ Shaheed asked for food. The government has provided temporary shelter for the lady and her dependents.
The story of Shannu, in her mid-thirties, is not exclusive to her. This is a sad story many Shannus wallowing in hunger amid plenty. A Nawada woman put up her children on sale with a price tag of Rs. 4,000. The mother in that woman had apparently died. But, her children were lucky to escape ‘permanent subjugation’. Some NGOs volunteered and adopted the children for a better future.
It is quirk of fate that the ‘river of sorrow’, Kosi has been writing obituaries of hapless people residing in the districts nestling in the mighty Himalayas. The recent Kosi deluge has turned the entire region into a cradle of poverty. Here too several voluntary groups in India and abroad have offered to support the woman and her family. Yes, Shannu may also get a house under the Indira Awas Yojna and other benefits of the government welfare schemes. But, the moot questions remain here. How many Shannus will get such benefits? Will such temporary props make the people wriggle out of the quagmire of poverty, illiteracy and want?
It is now an open secret that the Kosi region has become a gold mine for woman and traffickers. Hundreds of children and young women are lured away to metro cities for working as domestic helps and end up as sex workers. The tragedy is that their fate is consigned to the sex markets. Very few girls rescued from the hail are accepted by their parents and the society. Stigma is permanent and un-washable.
The safe route for traffickers is UP. Children and girls are ferried to Benaras from Bihar, Nepal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. While most of them are forced into prostitution and begging, many are made to work as bonded labourers. Many of them work in the bricks kilns and carpet industries around Benaras. Between 20,000 and 40,000 people are brought here to work as bonded labourers, while about 1,000 kids are turned into beggars, say survey reports.
The organised gangs of traffickers have evolved yet another route to make quick bucks. Poor girls of the area are literally bartered away in marriages to men quite older to them from different parts of the country. A poor mother from village Betauna gave away her young daughter in marriage to an elderly man from Moradabad in UP. The marriage was solemnised at the Singheshwar Shiva temple, Madhepura. Many villagers attended the marriage and blessed the ‘unmatched’ couple.
The modus operandi is quite simple. Prospective bridegrooms, mostly from UP, engage brokers who, in turn, go hunting for poor parents having marriageable young daughters. These brokers use all possible tricks to cajole and persuade the parents by painting a rosy picture for their daughters. If the prodding falls flat, they lure the poor parents with hefty amount to get their daughters married to their candidates. The entire cost of marriage is borne by the grooms and the brokers extract their own pound of flesh. Scores of girls from Madhepura and neighbouring Purnia district have been sold in such marriage markets during the past few years, informed sources said.
Meanwhile, Bachpan Bachao Andolan activists rescued 18 minor children from Purnia-New Delhi Seemanchal Express at Katihar station when they were being taken to New Delhi to work there as child labourers. The mastermind behind trafficking of these children, however, escaped. The children were spotted in a general bogie. After persuasion, some of them got down from the train. A few of them, however, boarded the running train. The rescuers rapped Railway police for taking no interest in the matter at Katihar station. As a result, the rescued children were lodged in a hotel at Katihar by Bachpan Bachao Andolan organisation. The government machinery swung into action only when a Patna-based Child Right Protection Commission member intervened in the matter. There could be no better example of the enormity of the problem and official apathy and callousness.