Rogue placement agencies mushroom in Delhi, exploit girls

February 18th, 2009 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) Only 24 of the 2,400-odd placement agencies operating in the capital are registered with the government. Most of these agencies provide domestic help and exploit young women who are brought from poverty-stricken regions of Jharkhand, Bihar or Orissa.

After rescuing more than 100 young women in only two years from the clutches of rogue placement agencies, members of an NGO decided to get to the root of the problem and filed an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) to know how many such agencies are actually registered in Delhi.

The response that they received from the labour ministry this January gave them a shock but confirmed their fear. Of the 2,400-odd placement agencies functioning in Delhi which provide domestic help to families, only 24 are registered with the government.

R.S. Chaurasia, chairperson of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), which filed the RTI application, said: “We knew that most of the placement agencies working here are functioning illegally. Every now and then, we rescue girls being brought to the capital from their homes in Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa with hope of a better life and then pushed to labour as maid servants by these rogue agencies.”

According to Chaurasia, in the last two years BBA alone rescued 118 girls and young women duped into working as maid servants for painfully long hours without any pay.

“In most of these cases, it’s the same story. A family acquaintance gets the girl to the city, after promising her parents that she will be educated but probably have to work for an hour or so to help financially.

“Once she reaches here, she is handed over to a family by a placement agency. In a number of cases, the girl, a minor, is beaten on the slightest pretext, made to work for long hours and hardly ever paid,” Chaurasia told IANS.

Priya, for instance, was one of the many girls rescued from the clutches of her abusive employers this month by the police and then taken care of by BBA. Brought to Delhi by her aunt and employed through a placement agency, she was working for nearly a year but had got paid for just two months.

“I was beaten up on the slightest of pretexts, made to work for long hours and sleep on the bathroom floor. I was not even allowed to go outside. And when my aunt called on the landline phone, my employer used to stand by so that I didn’t complain,” said the hapless 14-year-old, with numerous bruises all over her body.

Besides NGOs, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has also been working on implementing stricter norms to tackle this problem.

Accompanying BBA, DCW went on a mission last month in which 35 girls and three boys were rescued from the Shakarpur area of east Delhi.

The children, from Nepal, Jharkhand and West Bengal, were employed as domestic help through three placement agencies - Ajay Thapa, Birsa Munda Adivasi Sansthan and N.D. Placement agency - none of which is recognised or registered by the government.

Reny Jacob of DCW, while lamenting the fact there is no regulatory mechanism to control this racket, said that the commission has met Kiran Walia, the minister for women and child development in the Delhi government, to draft guidelines in order to tighten the noose around such agencies.

“In this regard, there is a case pending in the Delhi High Court, which stresses the point that there should be strict regulatory mechanisms so that such helpless children are not taken advantage of,” Jacob told IANS.

The Delhi government told the high court early February that to curb the instances of trafficking, especially domestic child labour, and to rein in the placement agencies, the government will make a high-level committee to draft guidelines to prevent trafficking.

Hearing a petition filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the court accepted the government’s submission and has given four weeks for the drafting of the guidelines.

Chaurasia added: “Until then, we will keep working to rescue as many innocent children as we can.”

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