Monday, October 22, 2018

How a few volunteers at Bagdogra airport are helping curb trafficking of Nepalese women

The women stood out in the crowd on a September evening. Raj Kumar Gurung and Rajesh Singh spotted the three – one clad in a saree and two others in worn-out jeans and T-shirts – looking “totally lost” next to the pay-and-use toilet in front of Bagdogra International Airport.
Gurung picked up a conversation with them. The older woman in the saree was 45, and the younger two were 18 and 24. All three were from Jhapa district in eastern Nepal. They only had printouts of their tickets for Delhi and little money in their handbags. They had no luggage, and no idea where in the big city they would be staying and with whom. From Delhi they were to go to Oman in the Persian Gulf as domestic workers “soon”.
Gurung and Singh knew right away they were potential victims of trafficking.
The two men are members of the transit monitoring team set up by the non-profit Kanchenjunga Uddhar Kendra in Siliguri. Their goal: to prevent the crossborder trafficking of Nepalese girls and women through Bagdogra airport. The team of volunteers catches potential victims, counsels them, and tries to take them back to Nepal. The monitoring unit was set up in May at the airport that is barely 20 km from the India-Nepal border. Since then, it has sent close to 100 Nepalese women home.
The three women were sent back too.
Human trafficking from Nepal rose after the devastating earthquake of 2015, as thousands of lives were lost, houses flattened and livelihoods disrupted. A trend emerged of vulnerable girls and women being lured with money and sold into child labour, forced marriage or sexual slavery.
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