India’s Train Line Remains Home to Human Traffickers, Passenger Sends Alert

One man sets an example of heroism to rescue girls from trafficking.

By Allegra Thatcher Published on July 12, 2018

A pair of sharp eyes saved 26 girls from human traffickers last week in India, but what about the thousands of other children without heroes to look out for them?

Children trafficked in India isn’t exactly news, but the common factor in many of their stories is fascinating. Various publications report many children vanished at train stations.

In 2017, The Guardian revealed the astonishing number of children who go missing from train stations in India each year. Often, abductors wait near the stations for children who are at risk. Some are traveling alone, others make their home on the train platforms and car parks nearby.

The numbers are heartbreaking. But everyday heroes give hope that trafficking can one day end, or at least diminish. One such story happened last week on a train.

Saved by a Tweet

Traveling by train through Uttar Pradesh on July 5, Adarsh Shrivastava found himself in a cabin with 26 visibly distressed girls, reported the Good News Network. All were between the ages of 10 and 14. Some were crying.

This modern-day hero created a new Twitter account on the spot and tweeted a post. He tagged the railway minister, the railway itself, and India’s prime minister, to name a few recipients.

Shortly after, he posted a second time, voicing a concern that the girls were being trafficked.

The Ministry of Railways Twitter account responded to the message half an hour later and alerted more authorities. After several stops, Railway Protection Force staff (RPF) in civilian clothes boarded the train. They intercepted the two men detaining the girls.They then escorted the minors on the train till it reached Gorakhpur. Here, the girls were deboarded and taken to the local police station, according to the Indian Express.

The Express reported the police confirmed a connection to trafficking when the girls were unable to answer details about their families or their addresses. Authorities alerted the anti-trafficking unit and Childline, a helpline number for children in distress. After this, they informed the girls’ families of their whereabouts.

When news of Shrivastava’s actions went viral, Twitter users called for him to be awarded for his “heroism.” He simply responded, “Thanks, but as a citizen of India, it’s our responsibility to help people.” To Shrivastava, attentiveness to others around him is just part of his role as a human person.

The Reality of the Horror

Yet while the horror is over for those 26, it continues for many victims of trafficking in India.

This incident occurred just a month after India’s Railway Board launched a campaign to raise human child trafficking awareness on the railroad, said Global News. The campaign was in response to a statistic claiming that over 9,000 Indian children were victims of human trafficking in 2016. Sadly, Reuters found even higher numbers of victims, saying nearly 20,000 women and children were trafficked in India that year.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, among those tweeted, spoke recently at a briefing about his goal to make trains safer through the campaign. “We will take 2018 as a year where we collectively fight against atrocities against women and children, especially human trafficking,” he said, according to the Financial Express.

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Between June 2016 and May 2017, facts show 1,628 children were rescued from kidnapping or sex trafficking near the Sealdah station, says The Guardian. This is the largest number a single station can claim, but other stations have high rates as well. It is difficult to know just how many cases are prevented because many abductors are not caught.

Thousands of Indian children take a train alone to seek a new life or work. Some fall victim to drugs, and some simply disappear. All are in grave danger.

A Glimmer of Hope

However, people are stepping up to fight the evils of trafficking. Organizations such as Railway Children are working to get at-risk children off the streets and away from potential traffickers. Trained outreach workers talk to the children at stations. They offer them a place to stay and a life off the street. The organization also trains older children who have lived on the street to assist the younger and more vulnerable.

Train stations remain highly dangerous for traveling children. With more eyes looking out for trafficked children and passengers willing to intervene to help them, children can be saved.

Many Twitter users say Shrivastava has inspired them to do what’s right. As one woman said, she’s “making sure I’ll never stay quiet if I suspect a crime [is] taking place.”

Simple acts can make a difference in the lives of these children. Whether it’s by a tweet or by becoming an outreach worker, individuals have the power to help others in desperate need. Care and awareness could save a life. Or 26.

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Jennifer Rothschild
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