Aatif* grew up in a small village in West Bengal where he regularly attended school till the 6th grade. At the age of 13 years, Aatif was forced to drop out of school to look for work because neither of his parents were able to earn money. Aatif’s mother contracted a disease leaving her extremely ill and his father was unable to find a suitable job. In an instant, the family’s responsibility fell entirely on Aatif’s shoulders.
Traffickers often prey on vulnerable families by offering loans for which their children are made to work to repay the debt. They lure victims with the empty promises of lucrative jobs and suitable working conditions.
The family was in a financial crisis and had no other option but to send Aatif to work. However, when Aatif reached the facility in Delhi, he found himself working in a small, filthy and dingy room stitching purses and bags for over 14 hours every day with inadequate pay. Aatif’s employer set strict boundaries for him, curtailing his freedom of movement. Similarly, 37 other minors (as young as 12 years old) were trafficked from various states across India and brought to work at the same site where Aatif was working. In order to keep a close watch on the victims, the employers forced them to live and work in the same overcrowded, unhygienic rooms. These young boys were trafficked from Nepal, West Bengal, Bihar and Rajasthan.
On April 16th, 2019 JVI and one of our local partners collaborated with government officials in the rescue of all 38 minors. The rescue team accompanied the victims to a safe location where they were given food and immediate medical attention, after which they were transported to an aftercare facility. The rooms at the facility were sealed for further entry.
JVI’s legal team is following up with the police and prosecutors to hold the traffickers accountable. Our aftercare team will continue to work with the survivors to reunite them with their families, where appropriate, and to ensure that they have access to education and other resources to enjoy sustained freedom.
*name changed to protect privacy