There is nothing more crippling than poverty and there is none more cursed than the poor. Who knows this better than the minor girls in Chitrakoot for whom toiling in illegal mines through the day isn't good enough to earn the daily wage comprising a meagre Rs 200 to Rs 300. Forced by the contractors and middlemen, the girls have to even trade their bodies in exchange for the labourer's job in these mines.
Located 700 km from the National Capital in Uttar Pradesh's Bundelkhand, ironically Chitrakoot is the very town that finds a place of pride in Indian mythology and is known for its ghats and spiritual legacy. Literally translated it means 'the hill of many wonders'. Only for these minor girls from tribal families, it means 'the hell of many tortures'.
Parents give in
As found in a recent expose by a television channel, these girls, usually aged between 12 to 14, are caught in a worse than a vicious cycle of poverty. Making matters all the more hopeless is the fact that the parents give in, despite being well aware of the hell their daughters go through each day. Each day is a choice they have to make between keeping their daughters alive or trading their flesh.
"Just in case anyone of us wants to go to the authorities, we don't know the whereabouts or even the real names of contractors nor is there any proof of us being employed with them," shares one of the girls, during an investigative operation, on why she did not think of going to the police or quitting her job.
As expected, the local administration and the UP Police have been not just admitted ignorance of the matter but denied it completely. However, while the administration is busy looking the other way, the issue has come in for sharp criticism and reactions on the Internet. One twitter user wrote, "Don't ever make the mistake of being born as a female in Uttar Pradesh." While another user replies, "The list is very long. Don't be born as, girl, a minority, lower cast, poor, honest journalist."
This is not the first instance when Chitrakoot has found itself associated with flesh trade, human trafficking and crimes against humanity of the worst kind.
Back in 2010, reportedly a Godman named Shiv Murat Dwivedi, was caught for running India's high-profile prostitution rackets. He allegedly amassed close to Rs 60 crore and even ran an ashram in Delhi and Chitrakoot. Several members of the local bodies and even state cabinet ministers of the time attended a religious event organised by Dwivedi in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh in 2009. It was only last year that yet another dreadful tale of a girl abducted at the age of 8 from Chitrakoot's Ahiran Purwa and forced into flesh trade for the next twelve years, came to the fore.