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Floods also time when children fall prey to trafficking
Sivasish Thakur
 GUWAHATI, July 13 - Adolescent and Child Rights Network, Assam (ACRNA), a civil society platform for organisations working on adolescents and children rights, has voiced concern over the “violation of children’s rights to protection” during flood-time in the State – a time that often sees vulnerable children being lured into human trafficking.

Referring to the prevailing situations in the flood-affected districts, ACRNA has written letters to the district child protection officers, highlighting the vulnerability of the children, and calling for the required interventions.

The flood situation in Assam has turned critical, affecting a populace of over 14 lakh in 25 districts. Children in particular suffer a lot during the floods, with water-borne diseases afflicting many as they often have to live in makeshift shelters bereft of hygiene and amenities. The incidence of children dropping out of schools due to loss of books, uniforms and damage to schools also goes up. Psychological stress and parental neglect, too, affect children to a large extent.

But even more worrying is the growing vulnerability of the affected children to abuse and trafficking during such times. As temporary relief sites lack adequate security, predators are known to prey on defenceless children and even offer money to desperate parents to buy their children – a phenomenon more pronounced in the inter-state border areas.

“There had been various evidences – both hard cases as well as anecdotal – that vested interests were infringing upon children rights, particularly their right to protection during flood and its aftermath. The administrations and all the agencies concerned must be more pro-active in such trying situations,” Dr Chiranjeeb Kakoty, coordinator, ACRNA, told The Assam Tribune.

He said that concerned and confused parents fall prey to people either from the same communities or from outside who with their convincing talks promise a better life for the children in those difficult situations.

“These people, rather traffickers, thereafter engage these children as child labour, some are even forced into the sex trade, while some of them are forced into some sort of marriage. In a number of cases, the whereabouts of such children remain unknown to the parents for a long period of time or sometimes the whereabouts are never known,” he said.

Dr Kakoty added that ACRNA had been concerned regarding this situation and was trying to mobilise communities, civil societies and government departments regarding the need for stepping up vigilance of trafficking – irrespective of the guise.

The districts in the inter-state boundaries in particular have been facing the challenge of trafficking of child to other states for child labour and the consequences have been very negative and sometimes disastrous for the children and the families.

“We have written to 15 districts about the preparedness for child trafficking, etc. We cannot wait for trafficking to happen and then act. There are various measures which can be taken prior and during the floods or for that matter any disaster. We are trying to take the support of the Childline in galvanising local action,” he said, adding that ACRNA was ready to extend its support to the cause.

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