CNN’s untold story - Land of missing children

Yesterday, I saw this very well made documentary on CNN called “The land of missing children”, part of their series “World’s untold stories”.

The documentary was about underage sex workers in the brothels of Kolkata and Mumbai, a dark side of our society which many of us simply keep themselves blissfully ignorant about. For the first time, I saw and heard things I had previously only knew in bits and pieces from newspapers. The episode ended with a raid on a brothel with the “help” of the local police, actually the police chief of the region himself. The raid ended with a farce, with the police letting all the apparently rescued girls run loose soon after discovering them.

Some of the parts of the episode were surreal:

  1. The police chief explaining his personal view is that prostitution is a necessity in the society because otherwise “decent” women would be attacked by the people who frequent these brothels.

  2. Groups of underage girls were found stuffed into small enclosures where just one of us would find it difficult to stay in. In one instance, some of the girls hidden in false ceiling were crying out of suffocation.

  3. When this reporter and his accompanying staff were querying girls on the streets about their age, the local female goons(called madams) came over and asked them to clear off before they are hurt (It is common for these people to attack by throwing acid on your faces).

  4. When the reporter came out of the house beaming after rescuing at least 10-12 girls, he discovered the police chief standing near gate of the house with an idiotic smile on his face saying that all these girls have simply “run off”! And this was supposed to be a police raid! When the reporter told the police that those girls could be in real danger, he confidently said that it was his “personal guarantee” that none would get hurt.

The raid could be held because of the terrific and untiring efforts on the NGO named Rescue Foundation, and its head the late Balkrishna Acharya. The odds that these good people face to do their laudable job was apparent when, at the end of raid the CNN reporter, Sam Kiley, tells Balkrishna “I see what you are up against”. Sam had just seen the complicity of the police(even the police chief) into letting such practices flourish in our cities when he found out to his horror that all the rescued children had vanished into the crowd outside, with the police just standing by.

A telling excerpt from the series blog:

An estimated 30,000 girls are trafficked into the sex industry every year. Some are sold by poverty-stricken parents hoping that their children will find employment as domestic servants. Others are simply snatched off the streets, drugged, raped, and sold to brothel “madams.”

Many of these children come from the far east of India – a region at the crossroads of trade routes with Nepal and Bhutan, which is now a hub of trade in young women. The story of one girl, Pratima, is rare. She was trafficked, rescued, was brought back into the embrace of her family, and is now happily married. Most women who escape the horrors of the business are shunned when they return home, their families refusing to take them in, much less help to heal their wounds.

But Pratima was keen to expose the trade. She told of how she was taken from her home in Siliguri, drugged, and forced onto a train to Calcutta. There she put to work as a prostitute, and then sold on to a brothel in Bombay (Mumbai) known as “Sheila’s.”

Pratima’s story was the reason behind the raid at Sheila’s covered in the episode.

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