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Cruelty begins at home

Tribal girls are brought from Jharkhand as domestic workers but forced to work for free as placement agencies pocket all the salary. Cruelty, rape and murder are often part of this sad story

The month of May alone has seen three cases of domestic help abuse come to light from Delhi — and all three girls were brought from tribal areas of Jharkhand. The discovery of a dismembered body stuffed in a bag, lying in a drain near outer Delhi’s Mianwali Nagar on May 4, was the most horrific. It cries out for a discussion on domestic workers’ plight in the city.

These are not lone cases of trafficking and bonded labour of girls from Jharkhand. A few areas of the state still have a potent problem of Naxalism, while NITI Aayog found 39.1% people were living below the poverty line (BPL) with the worst affected being STs at 49% and SCs at 40.4%, compared to 23.1% of ‘others’.

These statistics are compiled in its paper ‘Eliminating poverty, creating jobs and strengthening social programs’. No wonder then that luring girls from the tribal regions is an easy feat for traffickers, who promise a “city life” in the capital.

CASE 1
Murder most foul

Accused Manjeet Karketa, who was arrested on May 17, told the police that he and his accomplices Shalu (from Gumla district in Jharkhand) and Gauri (from Bengal) murdered the teenager, chopped her body into pieces and dumped it in a drain in Mianwali Nagar.

Why? Because she asked for her dues, which reportedly amounted to over R2 lakh, for three long years of servitude. The employers allegedly never paid the money over to the 15-year-old girl, instead giving it to the ‘placement agent’ ring leader — Karketa — as he demanded.

When the girl finally got frustrated with her predicament, she started insisting on being paid, and to be sent home, threatening to go to the police otherwise. This is what led Karketa, Shalu and Gauri to plot the gruesome murder, along with another accomplice. Karketa has been arrested but the other three were still absconding when this report went to press.

For all those years that she was away, why didn’t the family report her missing? Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Arti Kujur blames the apathy shown by the family, on the active movement of Naxals in the area, plus lack of faith in the police.
Looking into the details of the case, Kujur tells Patriot, the FIR must include the Bonded Labour Act and IPC section 370 (trafficking).
On the contrary, Additional DCP (Outer) Rajender Singh Sagar believes when a murder has taken place, the other two crimes are no longer important. He told Patriot, “charges were added as per prima facie, there’s no need for other sections because everything fails in front of murder charges.” However, when investigation proves the allegations of trafficking and bonded labour, Sagar says, they will do the needful.

From the statistics point of view, the addition of these sections would give a more authentic figure of exactly how many girls are being trafficked into Delhi, and cases of bonded labour. Furthermore, the need of the hour is to verify each and every so-called placement agency being run in Delhi. Sagar tells Patriot that the agency run by Karketa was a fake one, “without registration, and no formality had been done.”
Questions by Patriot on the number of placement agencies and their verification were not taken by the licensing department of the police nor was an email to the Home Department of the Delhi Secretariat answered. On phone, the standard response from assistants was that the officials were “in meetings”.

Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty Inter-national India, says in a statement that this case pointed to “an endemic problem of girls, particularly underage girls from rural areas being brought to cities for domestic work, and kept in inhuman conditions.” Basu further added that this can only be stopped “when the government investigates and prosecutes traffickers, who pose as placement agencies to lure young girls and boys from poverty to a promised better life.”

CASE 2
Brutal behaviour
Another case sees a minor enter Delhi with the promise of a good job and salary. The 17-year-old worked for 11 months but her pay was allegedly pocketed by Dinesh and Rajkumar — two men running the placement agency.

When she went to the placement agency office, demanding to be sent back home, she was instead confined for over a week, beaten and raped.
The girl, who also hails from a tribal region of Jharkhand, escaped on May 22 and reached the Nihal Vihar police station.
SHO of the station, Dharampal confirmed that FIRs had been lodged against the two agents under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), IPC sections 370 (trafficking) and 376 (rape) and the two have been arrested.

CASE 3
Timely rescue
The third case came to light with a rescue conducted by NGO Shakti Vahini, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and the Delhi Police on May 26.

Shakti Vahini’s media coordinator Rishi Kant told Patriot that first the anti-trafficking unit of Gumla was informed by the minor’s brother — a ‘missing’ report was registered by her family earlier. The report was then sent to the NGO with specific details of the girl. “We contacted Rajouri Garden police station but police didn’t understand the need for a rescue. But as the Gumla anti-trafficking unit had reported it, we told them it was necessary,” he said.

The girl has alleged that she was not paid any salary for the past two years that she worked as a domestic help, and was also underfed. Kant says, “The moment somebody says she isn’t getting money then that’s bonded labour”.

DCW Chief Swati Maliwal alleged the employer claimed to have given R1 lakh to the agent but “he was unable to produce papers in this context”.
The child welfare committee has been ordered to do age verification of the girl, who her family claims is 15 years old.

Maliwal in a statement said girls were being repeatedly trafficked from the “poorest parts of Jharkhand”, and placement agencies that run “trafficking rackets” need to be busted. She further wrote how important it was for the FIR to have the sections “under Bonded Labour Act and ITPA Act.”

Kant says there have been an increasing number of cases of girls from Jharkhand being trafficked to Delhi as domestic help, with their NGO being notified every two days. The pattern they have seen in most cases, is minor tribal girls trafficked by locals, recruited by illegal placement agencies, paid much below minimum wage (if at all), many beaten and sexually abused. The traffickers, Kant says, “Print Delhi Police form, and sign it themselves. When they show this to potential employers, they don’t notice anything wrong”. But abuse is possible, Kant says, because employers “don’t give dignity to domestic help.”

All three cases also showed us yet again, how Delhi thinks nothing of underpaying its Domestic help, or of even verifying how the migrant help has been brought into the city.

This report is part of NFI’s National Media Award Programme