Kolkata: West Bengal has registered a rise in the number of trafficking cases in recent years as more people are coming forward to report such incidences, a state minister has said.
Over the years, the state government, with the help of various welfare organisations, has been able to convince people to fight the menace, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Shashi Panja said. “People often indulge in blame game, pointing fingers at the state government for the increase in the number of trafficking incidents. That isn’t the case. In the past few years, we have seen more people mustering courage to talk about their plight,” she asserted.
Panja was speaking at the seventh edition of ‘Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave’, hosted recently by the US consulate in Kolkata, in association with Delhi-based NGO Shakti Vahini. The two-day meet saw students, activists, journalists, government officials and security personnel coming together to find a solution to the issue that had been plaguing India and its neighbours.
Lauding Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the internationally acclaimed Kanyashree scheme, the minister said over 47 lakh girls have benefited from the move. Kanyashree aims to ensure that girls stay in school and delay their marriages till at least age 18. As per the scheme, Rs 750 is paid annually to girls studying in class 8 and above, and a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 is paid after she turns 18 provided she is engaged in an academic or occupational pursuit and unmarried. “The scheme is a safety net for many girls, who wish to study and do something with their life,” Panja added.
Echoing similar sentiments, US Consul General Craig Hall, who addressed the inaugural session of the meet, said human trafficking was a global problem. The US and India, as enduring partners of the 21st century, are committed to providing leadership on issues of shared interests, including the strengthening of human rights, he said. “In the last seven years, we have seen great examples of collaboration between civil society organisations and the government to combat trafficking,” Hall added.
Sharing his experiences, Shrikumar Bandopadhyay, the IG of Sashastra Seema Bal, Siliguri frontier, said the porous international borders often make it easy for traffickers to escape law. “We visit schools in remote areas to generate awareness among the youths about the safe use of social media and the risks of giving in to temptations,” he said. “In the past two years, we have rescued at least 150 victims from the clutches of traffickers,” he stated.
Ravi Kant, the founder of NGO Shakti Vahini, said the conclave gave all stakeholders a chance to brainstorm ways to tackle the global menace. “The two-day meet is a great occasion to strengthen our fight against forced labour and human trafficking. It is time that all stakeholders unite to end the menace once and for all,” he added.