From L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh is the home state of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi – the founder of ‘Bacchpan Bachao Andolan’.
Satyarthi was born 60 years back at Vidisha, a district headquarter town about 55 kms from Bhopal. He did his schooling and degree in engineering from the government engineering college at Vidisha but instead of going for a cushy job, he chose the turbulent path of a crusader for child rights.
Ironically, his home state is infamous for child trafficking and for children who go missing from their homes, never to return. Madhya Pradesh is only second to Uttar Pradesh is crimes against children.
A recent report on ‘Exploitation of children in Tourism’, based on extensive surveys carried out in two tourist destinations of the state, present a very sordid picture of the state of children in Madhya Pradesh.
The first is Khajuraho, where the number of foreign tourist visitors is only second to the Taj Mahal. And second, Ujjain – one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage centre of the country. Besides ordinary people, a large number of top politicians, officers, lawyers, judges, film actors and other prominent personalities visit Ujjain regularly to pay homage to Lord Mahakaal. Mahakaal is one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’ of the country and every 12 years, Kumbh (known as Simhastha) fair is held at Ujjain, which draws tens of lakhs of Hindu pilgrims.
Both these centres of tourism are also centres of exploitation of children- both boys and girls. The survey says that the children are exploited in temples, hotels and many other places. A large number of children are made to beg to take advantage of the gullible pilgrims, who want to earn some ‘Punya’. And in many cases, this is done with the approval of their parents. A group of 8 child beggars of Ujjain told the researchers that they come from extremely poor families and earn Rs 100 to Rs 200 per day as alms from the pilgrims. The money is used by the children and their parents for buying intoxicants. The child beggars are put on work when they are as young as 3-4 years old. The most distressing aspect of the issue is that almost all children working in hotels or indulging in begging are addicted to intoxicants of one kind or the other. They mainly used whitener and nail polish removers for the purpose. They work the whole day and in the evening, buy Whitener to get intoxicated.
Though the district administration has banned the sale of Whitener in Ujjain but it is available easily. Besides begging, small kids also work in hotels in Ujjain. Their working hours are not fixed. On occasions, they have to work from morning through the night. During the festive season, they beg during the day and work in hotels in the night as pilgrims keep on coming to and going from the city the whole night. In Ujjain, many small boys and girls have also been caught in the whirlpool of sexual exploitation. Besides local girls, the pimps also bring girls from other parts of the state to Ujjain. Earlier, there used to exist a red light area called ‘Pinjarwadi’ in Ujjain but now prostitution and sexual exploitation is rampant in many other parts of the city. The sex workers of Pinjarwadi have been shifted to other locations in the city. It is said that many houses in the city have become known centres of prostitution. Women and especially minor girls sing and dance before the ‘customers’ to entertain them. This continues till the customers keep on shelling out money. In the end, bidding is held and the highest bidder gets a chance to have intercourse with the girl. Autorickshaw drivers take tourists to such houses and they get a hefty commission in return. Tourists take snaps of minor girls. They are taken to their homes to shoot their nude pictures and their MMS are made. Children selling sexual literature (like Kaam Sutra) are a common sight.
What is worse is that all this is happening with full knowledge and tacit consent of the administration and the police. The administration does nothing to put a stop to such nefarious activities. Childline is functional in Ujjain for the last seven years. The cases which come before it are mainly related to making children beg in the vicinity of temples, molestation of children by family members or by neighbours, child labour, child trafficking, children going missing and children getting addicted to intoxicants. The Childline is not doing anything to extricate the children trapped in sex rackets.
The condition is worse in Khajuraho. The survey revealed that sexual exploitation of children and child labour are very common in and around Khajuraho. Hotels of all types are centres of sexual exploitation of children and they include starred hotels. The boys subjected to sexual exploitation are locally called ‘Lapka’. Besides Indian, a large number of foreign tourists are also involved in this horrific exploitation of children. Many foreign tourists stay with the families of such children and take the children out for sexually exploiting them. The boys take the tourists for sightseeing on bikes. “They give us everything and in return we give them sex”, was the rather shocking admission of a young boy. Some boys do not see this as exploitation at all. They consider it a business. And their family members concur. In many cases, some foreign tourists make repeated trips to Khajuraho and stay with the same families. The tour operators also bring boys from other states for the purpose. In Khajuraho, sexual exploitation of boys is a big business, involving thousands of persons. A large number of young boys also develop sexual relations with foreigner women tourists.
The surveyors were told that not a single case of child sex exploitation is registered against any foreign tourist in Khajuraho though there are couple of cases against the Indian tourists. No complaints have been lodged with police with regard to child exploitation by the tourists. The police do not have much understanding and sensitivity about this issue either.
The organisations that conducted this survey included Bangalore-based ‘Equations’ which works to check child labour, sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking. ‘Vikas Samvad’, which analyses social problems and suggests solutions for them also joined the survey. These two organisations conducted the survey in collaboration with CRY (Child Rights and You). (IPA Service)