Madhya Pradesh government is devising a system that will mandate young men and women to register themselves for going out of their native places seeking employment, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Wednesday, triggering a debate on privacy. 

The Chief Minister said that the move is aimed at curbing missing cases of women in the state. 

Addressing a programme in Bhopal, Chouhan said that the Home Department has been directed to coordinate with other departments and devise a system that will require young men and women to provide their mobile number, local address, and the place where they intend to go for work.

"Under the new system, the young men and women will need to register themselves with the gram panchayat if they are going out of the district and at the district level in case they intend to go out of the state for employment," Chouhan said. 

He continued, "... so that there are a record of their whereabouts and the women will know where they can contact in case of any emergency."

3,000 women missing in Madhya Pradesh

Around 3,000 women are missing in Madhya Pradesh, the Chief Minister said on January 8. "In a review recently, I came to know that about 3,000 daughters are missing. How did they go missing? Where are they? I have given a target to the police to find them and bring them back," he had told a gathering in Bhopal. 

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh ChouhanIANS

The case of missing women in MP

The problem of human trafficking is quite prevalent in rural areas of Madhya Pradesh especially in districts having tribal populations and high poverty rates. Most of the women and children who went missing belong to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) or other marginalized communities.

Hit hard by poverty, these children and women are largely targetted and taken away from their native places in the name of employment in big cities where they are either pushed into forced, bondage labour or into prostitution and even marriage. Chances of their return to home become grim once they land into their trap. 

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Representational imageReuters file

Parents of these women and children sent them for work in hope of a better future little they realize that they would never make it back home. 

The severity of the situation can be assessed by the fact that 22 children were going missing each day in Madhya Pradesh, with 3 children among them never to be found again,  according to an RTI filed by anti-human trafficking activist Prashant Dubey, founder of Aawaj. 

The message against these human traffickers was loud and clear when Chouhan on Wednesday said his government would not spare a single person involved in this heinous act. "The new system would require details of the person who is taking the daughters out for work," he said. 

Blanket law a concern of privacy 

The Madhya Pradesh government, however, has not specified if the skilled labourers like engineers, doctors, managers, and other educated youths going out for work in cities would be exempted from the law, which is a cause of concern for many. 

Reacting to the announcement, many social media users suspected that the government was actually going to put surveillance on the movement of the women and the movement will discourage women from undertaking employment. 

'Surveillance state'

"Instead of ensuring that the police acts swiftly on cases of crimes against women, the onus of ensuring women safety is put on the woman herself. Why don't men register themselves and be tracked Shivraj Singh Chouhan ji?," tweeted a senior journalist. 

"Those who register will be under surveillance & data of their whereabout used as blackmail/pressure/further harassment tool. Those who refuse to register will be blamed for their own sexual assault by men," (sic) tweeted Rituparna Chatterjee.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said that the government is aiming to make Madhya Pradesh a surveillance state in the name of the safety and security of women.  

Tehseen Poonawalla, a TV panelist, said: "Has the Hon'ble CM @ChouhanShivraj lost all respect for the Constitution and for privacy! Why not just put chips in the girl ..and have them linked to satellite beaming in the government surveillance room!"