Child trafficking rampant in tea gardens, says study

Background: Child trafficking, Child rights, Right to Education (RTE) Act.

  • A study conducted in 20 tea gardens of two blocks (Madarihaat and Kalchini) in West Bengal’s Alipurduar district points out that while dropping out of schools is common here owing to lack of financial resources, there is also rampant trafficking in children through placement agencies.
  • The report points out that traditional modes of trafficking such as child marriage, fake marriage, abduction or kidnapping are not used in the trafficking of minors in these areas. In a survey in 2016, ActionAid identified 36 missing children from 10 sick and closed tea gardens of Alipurduar.
  • The survey found 16 trafficked survivors in five sick tea gardens, living in extremely vulnerable conditions without any rehabilitative support.
  • Studies have pointed out that majority of those missing belonged to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and were usually taken to Sikkim, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kerala and Nepal.
  • The survey carried out in two blocks found 333 cases of children dropping out of school. Almost 70 percent of the parents and children said they had to drop out because of financial crisis owing to distress in the tea gardens. Majority of the dropouts were from the Scheduled Tribes.
  • Provisions of the Right to Education Act should be implemented providing children free and compulsory education till 14 years and a check should be kept on the placement agencies.
  • Among other issues, the report also pointed out the poor nutrition level of children in these tea gardens.  Low wages, water shortage and poor sanitation were also affecting those living here.

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