HUMAN TRAGEDY: Missing, 2500 girls in a year – Bengal data coaxed out by mom looking for daughter

HUMAN TRAGEDY: Missing, 2500 girls in a year – Bengal data coaxed out by mom looking for daughter – could be yours, mine and ours; tip of the iceberg ?!!

Girls missing in Bengal - official figures of 2,500 a year in just a small are, just a tip of the iceberg; how many more in the whole State deliberately unreported ?!! (HN Files)

FROM THE TELGRAPH
BY TAPAS GHOSH
AND CHANDRIMA S. BHATTACHARYA

Calcutta, Sept. 17: Over 2,500 teenaged girls disappeared from Bengal last year, the state police have declared in a stunning disclosure prised out by the trauma of a mother searching for her 15-year-old daughter.

The piece of statistic was part of a report filed by the police in August after Calcutta High Court sought the information on coming across the plight of Jahura Bibi.

The contents of the report became public today, putting a specific figure to the toll of suspected human trafficking feared to be widespread in several parts of the state.

Jahura, a resident of Kakdwip in South 24-Parganas, had moved the court last year after her daughter Zarina vanished.

When the case came up for hearing before Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Jahura’s lawyer told the judge that a few more teenaged girls had disappeared from the area.

“Realising the gravity of the allegation, Justice Banerjee sent the matter to the chief justice. The chief justice asked the state authorities to find out how many teenaged girls had disappeared in the last one year,” a senior court officer said.

The figure of 2,500 disclosed today was part of that report. The number of disappearances from the two 24-Parganas, Howrah, the two Midnapore districts and Purulia was high, an officer said but did not reveal the break-up. (how many totally in the whole state, not revealed ?!!)

The police have informed the court that most of these girls had been abducted and sent to other states, especially Mumbai.

“The report had prompted the chief justice’s division bench to direct the CBI to send its legal representative so that the issue could be handed over to the agency for investigation,” a court source said.

Today, the CBI counsel informed the division bench of Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Asim Roy that his client was ready take up the matter if the state police provided proper assistance.

However, state advocate-general Balai Ray said: “My government is very much aware of the seriousness of the fact. Let us try to combat the problem.”

The advocate-general’s plea restrained the division bench from handing over the case to the CBI.

The court directed the director-general of police to make his best efforts to find Zarina and produce her before the court on October 1. The hearing will resume on November 11.

Ray also told the court the state government would open a special police cell to check trafficking and has sought Rs 28 crore from the Centre to start the facility.

But activists are sceptical about the cell. If such a cell has to be effective, it has to come with several features that will require a rethink, said Indrani Sinha of Sanlaap, an NGO that works with victims of trafficking.

“It sounds like disaster management,” she said. If there is such a cell, the police personnel manning it should have no other responsibility, she added. She cited the Andhra model, where an entire police department is dedicated to combating trafficking.

The police should possibly brush up their math, too. “Till the other day, the figure of missing girls for the city would be four or five,” Sinha said.

Soma Sen Gupta of Sanhita, an NGO that works with women’s issues, said it had been the police’s duty to combat the crime but it had continued unabated. If a cell comes up, the question of accountability — who exactly is responsible — should be clear, she added.

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