Only after isolated occurrences enter the headlines are discussions of child trafficking and exploitation still frequently take place. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of India Today visited isolated communities in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to learn more about how child trafficking is a problem that persists below the surface.
Investigative journalists set out on a trek to the remote regions of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh after following a trail of leads to discover how girls’ innocence is traded for money in the midst of extreme poverty.
The undercover reporters met Lakhan in the Rajasthani village of Ramnagar, a middleman who is essential to this heinous trade.
Lakhan revealed some startling information about the village’s impoverished residents. Asked about how many girls have been lost to the trade, Lakhan admitted, “Many girls in the village, at least 50 to 60 of them.”
He also offered to introduce the journalists to the young girls and negotiate deals with their parents.
These transactions are often disguised as formal contracts, with the girls presented as singers and dancers for hotels and restaurants.
“We write that they are sent off as singers and dancers. But she will do everything else. In writing, we only mention she’s engaged in singing and dancing. That’s just a cover in case the police inquire. We will not send them forcibly. Everything will be done with the consent of their parents, who will be paid for it,” said Lakhan.
Later that day, Lakhan showed two reporters two possible victims who were young girls in Jitendra’s care. The uncle asked for Rs. 6 to 7 lakh for each of the minors who are under contract for a year.
“These two girls,” Jitendra pointed out. “They are around 15-16 years old. There will be notarized contracts so that there are no further issues. Keep them for a year and pay me Rs 6-7 lakh (per girl).”
In Sawai Madhopur’s Adalwara hamlet, where India Today’s correspondents discovered that the parents of the girls are involved in this illicit trade, the situation is even worse.
Tano, an Adalwara woman, listed two of her daughters for sale, asking Rs 3 lakh apiece. Tano said, “I want to sell her because I want to build my house.
An uncle named Ravi made the offer to sell his young nieces in Jaisinghpura hamlet in the Tonk area of Rajasthan for Rs 1.7 lakh each.
SIT next visited Madhya Pradesh. In the Borkhedi village of the state’s Neemuch district, Vijay offered to exchange his 16-year-old sister for Rs 3 lakh per month. He offered to mask the deal as a loan agreement on paper.
“She will perform the job effectively without displaying any tantrums. She can either be sent to four clients in a day or to a single one for the whole night,” he said.
Vijay insisted that the girl’s name wouldn’t be mentioned in the fraudulent contract. “It will only be you and me signing off on it. It will mention a loan. It will indicate that you borrowed money from me. The charge will be Rs 10,000 per day,” he added.
In the Neemuch village of Bardia, Bablu introduced a young girl as a part of his family and stated that other people like her are “available”. “Four or five more will be made accessible like her. She belongs to the family. In an hour, I will give you a pricing quote,” he said.
In the Ratlam district’s Pipliya Jodha village, Kiran alias Neha advertised her own niece for Rs 2 lakh per month. She is the daughter of my sister, not someone from another family, Kiran remarked. “I will accept the payment, which is $25,000,”
According to the statistics, child trafficking is still a problem in the nation. India reported 59,544 cases of young girls going missing in 2021, a 30.8 percent rise from the year before. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, human trafficking cases in the same year surged to 2,189, with 2,877 of the victims being children.