Stolen childhoods

Imlisanen Jamir

Dimapur Railway Station has tragically transformed into a gateway for vulnerable children seeking escape from their harsh circumstances. Every day, three to four cases of children running away are reported, revealing a heart-wrenching tale of trafficking and exploitation.

Lozua Kape, the Centre Coordinator of Childline, Dimapur, revealed these distressing statistics during the observance of World Day against Trafficking in Persons on July 29. At an awareness event jointly organized by the Dimapur District Administration, District Hub for Empowerment of Women, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sakhi-One Stop Centre (OSC), and Childline, Kape emphasized that these instances are all part of a sinister trafficking network.

The victims in these cases are often innocent children, coerced into working as domestic helpers in private homes. Their identities are masked, depriving them of their basic rights and humanity. Despite efforts to raise awareness and launch anti-trafficking campaigns, little improvement is seen in the practice of families employing economically disadvantaged children as domestic workers.

Many of these unfortunate children are brought in by so-called agents or through dubious contacts from remote areas of the state. These agents dangle false promises of education or monetary incentives to lure desperate families into parting with their children. Although some of these children are fortunate enough to be sent to school, the ethical quandary remains: How can we justify their education when they are simultaneously subjected to the hardships of domestic labour, which deeply impacts their lives? These young souls, who should be enjoying their innocence and exploring the world with curiosity, are instead subjected to unimaginable hardships that leave lasting scars on their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

The impact of these circumstances extends beyond the individual child to the broader community and society. Nagaland loses potential talents and contributors to its growth and development when children are deprived of their rightful education and nurturing. Moreover, the perpetuation of such exploitative practices reinforces the idea that the lives of economically disadvantaged children are expendable, perpetuating a cycle of injustice and social inequity.

This unfolding tragedy highlights a failure on multiple fronts: a failure to protect the most vulnerable in our society, a failure to address the root causes of poverty that drive these exploitative practices, and a failure to bring those responsible to justice. It is imperative for the authorities to take immediate and decisive action to put an end to this heinous cycle of exploitation.

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