Thursday, January 17, 2019
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Secret notes from students help Chennai police nab traffickers

High school teacher Rajkumar Kotal had run out of ideas.
News about his students being pushed into early marriage and lured by traffickers reached him, but often too late to stop it.
But when police officials put a letter box in a discreet corner of the Ramgarhat High School in east Indian state of West Bengal, the problem was suddenly solved.
"The anonymity of that box gave students the confidence to ask questions, alert authorities and slowly we built a campaign around it to stop child marriages and prevent trafficking,"Kotal, who teaches English, told the reporters. West Bengal accounted for 44 percent of human trafficking cases reported in India in 2016 and also had the most missing children reports, according to government data. Young girls from poor families are lured with promises of marriage or jobs and trafficked to cities where they are sold to brothels or into domestic slavery, campaigners said.
The state government and charities working to prevent human trafficking have initiated a host of measures, including efforts to create a database of known traffickers.
The letter box scheme is part of a larger initiative by the West Bengal police which has proved so successful that now more than 20,000 students across 200 schools in the most vulnerable districts of the state have"shared secrets"and sought help. Recognising the impact of the initiative, the UN children's agency UNICEF has now partnered with the police to expand the scope of the programme across the state.
"Girls from the state were being trafficked and then dumped on the streets of Delhi to die,"said police officer Ajey Ranade, who is heading the initiative that is largely targeting school girls in vulnerable districts. Police officers in plain clothes first started visiting schools in South 24 and North 24 Parganas districts - identified as trafficking hotspots - in 2016 to talk to students.
Many policemen had been on rescue missions and had been"emotionally moved"by the plight of trafficking survivors as they saw the impact it was having on young girls, Ranade said.


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