Trafficked maids to order: The darker side of richer India
Under pressure from civil society groups as well as media reports of cases of women and children trafficked not just to be maids, but also for prostitution and industrial labour, authorities have paid more attention in recent years. In 2011, the government began setting up specialised anti-human trafficking units in police stations throughout the country.
There are now 225 units and another 110 due next year whose job it is to collect intelligence, maintain a database of offenders, investigate reports of missing persons and partner with charities in raids to rescue victims.
Parveen Kumari, director in charge of anti-trafficking at the ministry of home affairs, says so far, around 1,500 victims have been rescued from brick kilns, carpet weaving and embroidery factories, brothels, placement agencies and houses. "We realise trafficking is a bigger issue now with greater demand for labour in the cities and these teams will help," said Kumari. "The placement agencies are certainly under the radar."
The media is full of reports of minors and women lured from their villages by promises of a good life as maids in the cities. They are often sent by agencies to work in homes in Delhi, and its satellite towns such as Noida and Gurgaon, where they face a myriad of abuses. In April, a 13-year-old maid heard crying for help from the
balcony of a second floor flat in a residential complex in Delhi's Dwarka area became a national cause celebre. The girl, from Jharkhand state, had been locked in for six
days while her employers went holidaying in Thailand. She was starving and had bruises all over her body. The child, who had been sold by a placement agency, is now in a government boarding school as her parents are too poor to look after her. The employers deny maltreatment, and the case is under investigation, said Shakti Vahini, the Delhi-based child rights charity which helped rescue her.