Looking at Trafficking in Jharkhand

The authors conducted a study to assess the underlying factors of trafficking in Jharkhand.

In recent years, Jharkhand has emerged as a vulnerable state for trafficking of women and children for forced labour and slavery, which is carried out via placement agencies and organized crime syndicates (Ghosh 2009).

We conducted an exploratory study on trafficking victims in the Khunti and Ranchi districts of Jharkhand, focusing on victims currently being rehabilitated in shelter homes and also those who had returned home to their families. Using in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) to interview 30 victims, our study aims to explore and understand the underlying predisposing factors and other issues associated with trafficking women.

Among the 30 study participants, 18 were minors, five were older than 18, and the remaining seven were unaware of their age. All except one were trafficked by people known to them, the traffickers often being the victims’ own relatives and neighbours. Most of the victims were trafficked for domestic servitude in Delhi. Extreme poverty accompanied by illiteracy, unemployment and alcohol addiction seemed to be the underlying factors favouring the victims’ decision to leave home.

What factors lead to a willingness to migrate?

‘…garibi thi to hum log bheekh mangte the paisa poora nahi padta tha’ (Poverty made us beg, but that too was insufficient)

Five respondents clearly mentioned that the absence of a sustained source of income led to a willingness to leave home. Additionally, addiction to a local alcohol called “Hariya”, reported by almost respondents, was a serious concern. Six of the study participants mentioned that such addiction by their fathers and older brothers drove them to migrate.

 ‘….ghar mein koi kaam nahin karte the aur bhaiya nasha karke peetta tha aur mere papa ka haath tod diya tha’ (Nobody in the family was earning and my older brother would become violent after drinking alcohol, to such an extent that he once broke our father’s hands)

Seventeen participants in the study had lost a parent. The trauma of losing a parent coupled with the hostile behaviour of a stepfather or stepmother drove them towards leaving home. A weak family structure, compounded with poverty, illiteracy, and addictions, made children extremely repulsive towards their own families and increased their vulnerability towards trafficking.

Where Does Trafficking Begin?

Most victims were trafficked by known relatives, neighbours and friends. In 28 of the 30 cases, the process of trafficking began from the victims’ homes. Traffickers took advantage of their impoverishment and lured them by promising a better life in cities like Delhi, Pune, and Chennai. Often, the traffickers themselves were female. The most commonly stated purpose of migration was an assured job as domestic help (20 out of 30 participants), while others went with traffickers on the promise of higher education and marriage. Some were also disposed towards exploring the outside world.

Victims were first taken to a transit homes situated in other districts of Jharkhand, either by bus or train. From here, the victims  were handed over to another person and carried to second transit place. From here, they were taken to cities where they stayed and worked for a longer duration. In 20 (67%) cases, it was Delhi.

Almost all of the trafficked women were subject to various forms of abuse—verbal, physical and in one instance, sexual. Many of them were also denied salaries despite working for months.  

Were the Parents Unaware?

In 12 cases, the traffickers took due consent from their parents. Although unwilling initially, the parents were convinced that the sole motive was to earn money and provide some financial assistance to the family. They were led to believe that their daughters would live in a better environment than what their parents were able to provide in their homes.

Reporting Trafficking

A United Nations report highlights an increase in the proportion of minor girls as trafficking victims, from 13% to 17% (Santhya et al 2014), a figure which corresponds to available statistics in Jharkhand. Young girls are more inclined towards migrating from their homes due to a lack of social support and an increased difficulty to meet financial needs for survival (Shared Hope International 2011).

In Jharkhand, girls are trafficked mainly for domestic servitude in metropolitan cities. According to the National Crime Record Bureau,, among the various purposes of human trafficking, trafficking for forced labour is the most prevalent, followed by prostitution (NCRB 2016).

According to the NCRB, only 18 out of 412 nationwide cases were reported for domestic servitude. This figure indicates substantial level of under-reporting in the data as the districts of Khunti and Ranchi alone provided 30 cases of trafficking.  The lack of awareness surrounding the legal procedures related to trafficking further accentuates under-reporting of cases (Hopper 2004).

Similarly, cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence are also vastly under-reported. It is also reasonable to assume comparable under-reporting in human trafficking, especially as the traffickers often convince their victims that the police are to be feared rather than thought of as potential rescuers (Heinrich 2010).

Reporting trafficking crimes also suffers due to its overlap with certain traditional and other customs prevalent in the community.  A report suggests that “Devadasi tradition” (a traditional practice of dedicating young girls to gods or goddesses) is evident in Andhra Pradesh. Poverty and other social practices lead to daughters being sold as forced brides and child brides in Haryana. Additionally, the majority of forced child labour in Rajasthan is sourced from Bihar (Hameed 2010).

Limitations

During our study, compelling the victims to provide information on their experiences was fraught with challenges. Sexual and physical abuse was even more difficult to discuss due to the attached trauma.

One of the limitations is that the study was confined to two districts of Jharkhand that may not have presented the complete picture of trafficking. The IDIs and FGDs were conducted in presence of the shelter home management staff; hence there may be a possibility of introducing some bias in the findings.  Some of the study participants were not able to accurately express their age, but we still recorded their response. Some information, particularly on their experiences of staying in the shelter homes, may have been affected due to the presence of the management staff, but information regarding the process of trafficking was less likely to have been influenced. During the study, we were able to reach those places where trafficking rate is reported to be the highest. Conducting the interviews with the survivors along with physical inspection of different regional factors validated our findings.  

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