Big bucks, glamour lure northeast girls

Dimapur | October 4 : As the Common Wealth Games (CWG) sets rolling, panic has gripped North East India as reports of 40,000 girls from the region being recruited as “escorts” for the games have surfaced. While the numbers appear exaggerated, the North East Support Centre & Helpline (NESCH), Impulse Network Shillong- the human rights organisation which first came out with the report- and several other non-government organisations in the North East are taking no chances. NESCH has already appealed to the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare Department to take measures.
Founder of Impulse Network, Hasina Kharbhih speaking to The Morung Express said that 40,000 is not an exaggerated figure judging by the number of recruitments that have taken place in the region by various agencies over the past one year. She said her organisation has come out with the astounding figures based on mappings and investigations carried throughout one year.
Kharbhih said that recruitment of girls from the North East saw an upward trend in the last one year and that atleast 40 agencies have recruited girls for various jobs. Being offered lucrative packages and incentives, as many as 600 girls have applied for each advertisement that was published either in newspapers or received through mobiles. “The glamour of the Common Wealth Games is so strong… if not all the girls are dropped, the number is accurate,” Kharbhih said.
The other aspect of the report, though, is that most of the recruited girls are not aware about what their jobs as “escorts” entails them to do. Kharbhih informed that undercover girls in Mizoram revealed the jobs offered by recruitment agencies were not clearly defined. “Most of the agencies offered high pay and told girls they were required to escort tourists during the games,” she said. The interviews were also being conducted in hotel rooms, she added.
In the wake of report, NESCH has also started receiving complaints of “missing” North East girls in Delhi. Madhu Chandra of NESCH informed The Morung Express that within this week alone, 8 girls have been reported missing from the Capital. Chandra said it is new phenomenon and suspects the girls might have been lured by certain agencies for the CWG. He added that NESCH has confirmed reports from sources stating that North East girls are indeed being used as “escorts” for the recent CWG.
Chandra also lamented on the rising number of girls from the North East who have started becoming “regular” escorts. Most of the girls, he said, are ignorant of the fact that “escort” is a form of prostitution and that there is very high chances of them being trafficked outside the country on some pretext. “Some parents think their daughters are earning lakhs of rupees …but do they really know where the money could be coming from?” he said.
But NGOs are not too bothered about the figures; rather, the worrisome trend of girls from the region making beeline for offers placed by the recruiting agencies. Chandra of NESCH and Kharbhih of Impulse both said it is high time State governments take measures to screen these recruiting agencies. They said most of the agencies have contacts/middlemen in the North East states, making their job easier and faster.
Meanwhile, NESCH will be submitting a memorandum to Ministry of Women and Child Welfare Department Monday, asking to take precautionary steps to prevent possible trafficking during the CWG. It has also appealed to the North East communities living in Delhi and NCR to be informed first and inform others about the reality of human trafficking targeting their communities.