Mukti Caravan launched in Bihar to combat child trafficking and child labour during COVID-19 pandemic

Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation

One of the largest survivor led campaigns, Mukti Caravan launched in Bihar to combat trafficking during the present COVID-19 pandemic.

Patna, Aug 11: Today when the threat of child trafficking for various forms of exploitation has gone up due to the severe economic crisis induced by lockdown clamped across the country to contain the present pandemic, the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation launched the Mukti Caravan on bicycles across 10 districts in Bihar to raise awareness about trafficking of children, and the laws to combat the same. Mukti Caravan also will be an instrument to prevent trafficking of children and to collect information about movement of traffickers in the villages covered by it.

The campaign was launched digitally by hosting a webinar which was addressed by Prof. (Dr.) Pramila Kumari Prajapati, Chairperson, Bihar State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Mr. Sunil Dutt Mishra Member Secretary-Bihar State Legal Services Authority, Sri. Vyas Ji Vice-Chairperson Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, Ms. N Vijaya Lakshmi Principal Secretary, Ms. Pramila Kumari Prajapati, and two MLAs of Bihar Ms. Ranju Geeta and Mr. Shakeel Ahmad Khan. The webinar was also attended by Shri. Dhananjay Tingal-Executive Director Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

Mukti Caravan is a survivor-led campaign on wheels which has been extremely successful in the past in creating awareness on issues relating to child trafficking, in trafficking prone areas of India since 1997. The present campaign is being run on bicycles. The 10 districts, which the Mukti Caravan will cover include Katihar, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Madhubani and Gaya, which are all notorious for child trafficking. Every year, hundreds, if not thousands of under-age children are trafficked from these districts to big cities and forced to work as cheap labour in factories running in houses and make-shift accommodations under hazardous conditions.

The campaign’s focus on the northern and north-eastern districts of Bihar is also due to the fact that floods in these parts have rendered a large number of families homeless and impoverished them. This in turn has exposed children of these families to all kinds of dangers, including trafficking.

Needless to add, child traffickers are ready to take advantage of such situations by luring vulnerable families by making false promises for providing employment to their children.

A cohort of 50 survivor activists will lead the intensive door-to-door Bicycle Caravan that will be focused in Bihar’s top 10 trafficking prone districts, covering 1,000 villages in six months and reaching out to 10 lakh people. The grassroots activists will mobilise 2,000 youth volunteers in rural and urban areas through digital interventions to amplify the on-ground work. The team will work in partnership with the state government and aims to strengthen the Village Child Protection Committee to ensure the creation of child-friendly villages.

Among the other objectives of the campaign are awareness generation about government schemes available for the welfare of the poor and the marginalized.

Commenting on the launch of the Mukti Caravan awareness drive, KSCF Executive Director (Campaigns) Bidhan Chandra Singh said, “There are real fears that incidence of child trafficking will go up as a consequence of the return of migrant labourers to their villages and lockdown induced poverty. What is historic about this campaign is that it will be led by youth who have survived child labour. They will undertake their responsibilities seriously because they have previously suffered the terrible consequences of child labour and trafficking. At the same time, we will also support the steps being taken made by the state government to make the state of Bihar child labour and trafficking-free. In the event , SCPCR Chairperson Pramila Prajapati said ,

“In this time of crisis, child traffickers have been active to lure children from poorest of the poor families. I am trying to reach out to those parents and would like to request them not to send their children away with traffickers.

“We wish to create an efficient system for solving the issue of child labour and trafficking in Bihar, for which we are going to need more coordination between SCPCR, SALSA, NGOs, Police, etc,” said Sunil Dutt Mishra, Member Secretary ,Bihar State Legal Services Authority.

“Recently I met Satyarthiji, and we discussed in detail the issues of child labour and trafficking. A lot of work has been done, but there is a lot more to do. Till the time we would not reduce poverty, illiteracy and provide jobs to parents, we will not able solve this problem in totality,” Dr. N Vijaya Lakshmi, Principal Secretary ,Government of Bihar said.

What is surprising is that Bihar of being at the third position in incidence of cases of child trafficking in 2017 with 395 cases left behind states like Rajasthan, Karnataka, Delhi to be the state with the highest number of trafficked children (539) in the year 2018. Further, according to a study on Extent of Child Labour in The National Capital Territory of Delhi and Their Safety by the KSCF, on the basis of the data of child labourers rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan in Delhi, more than half (54 percent) were from Bihar. Bihar shares the dubious distinction with Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam and West Bengal for being a major source of child trafficking. It is the fifth poorest state and ranks lowest on school attendance. With 2.07 million workers aged between five and 17, the state accounts for 10.7 percent of India’s underage workforce and has the second-highest number of child and adolescent workers. According to Census 2011, the number of child labourers in Bihar was 10.9 lakhs. Bihar leads in human trafficking for cheap labour, body trade, human organs and false marriage. About 25 lakh labourers returned to their villages in Bihar when the lockdown was imposed in March. These labourers will now find it a challenge to run and sustain their families.

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