“The exodus of the migrant labourers due to pandemic have exposed these younger children to be trafficked for some monetary gain and sustainability in life”, observed the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday.
The division bench had taken cognizance of the alarming rise in child trafficking and child rights abuse.
The bench further remarked that the adolescent children are the most vulnerable class and susceptible to be trafficked either in lieu of a better future or for economic sustainability of the family, which they belong to.
“It is a common perception that the natal family is the safest heaven of the younger children yet they are trafficked by the family itself because of poverty and uncertainty of social stability”, said the Court.
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“Recently it has come to our notice that a report has been filed by a NGO “Bachpan Bachao Andolan” before the Hon’ble Supreme Court wherefrom it appears that 136 minor girls being married off in Bengal due to the lockdown and the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan”, narrated the bench.
It took note of the apprehension expressed that on lifting of lockdown there is likely to be a massive spurt in child trafficking – for labour and commercial sexual exploitation.
The State of West Bengal has many porous districts and incidents of child trafficking are not uncommon. The middlemen are quite active in some of these porous districts of Bengal. “We would be failing in our duty if we cannot protect the children from any kind of abuse including their exploitation”, said the Court.
“The report submitted by the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights is alarming where child marriages and trafficking are being reported. Such report is not only troubling us but percolates the disturbing features appearing therefrom, which pains us and is a scar on the society. Trafficking in the garb of the child marriage or child labour are more disturbing because of the involvement of the family members of the children”, the bench lamented.
The bench called for the report from the District Judges with regard to the implementation of their earlier direction in respect of recording of statements under Sections 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in POCSO cases. The Calcutta High Court on May 18 had expressed that the failure in recording judicial statements under Section 164, Cr. P. C. on account of the national lockdown and the consequent delay in filing charge sheets in POCSO-related cases, resulting in the accused persons being granted bail, is a “matter of great concern”.
“All the Secretaries of the District Legal Services Authority are directed to ensure that the child rights are protected and shall take up any incidence of child abuse either reported or apprehended immediately with the appropriate authorities”, announced the court, directing the Registry to upload this order immediately.
The bench called for details with regard to the institutional quarantine, home quarantine and what exactly would mean with regard to the expression “Higher Referral” and “other specific action taken”. The court also wanted to know as to why mental health support was provided only on 13603 children out of 29658 children and COVID – 19 test was carried out only in respect of 3005 children.
“We would also like to know the infrastructure of the Institutions, which were designated as institutional quarantine centers including the number of Doctors and Councilors attached to such quarantine centers”, it was sought from the Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare.
Read the order here: