A sharp rise in Kanyashree applicants — a conditional cash-transfer scheme for school and college girls in West Bengal — has coincided with a sharp drop in girl trafficking cases in the state.
According to NCRB, in 2012, Bengal recorded 4,168 cases of girl trafficking, the highest in the country; the next five years saw this figure drop to 299 in 2017. In this period, Kanyashree applicants shot up from 19.3 lakh to 28.1 lakh. Kanyashree, rolled out in 2011 by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, aimed to incentivise school education among girls to prevent girl trafficking and child marriages.
Sociologist Madhulika Mitra said: “Increase of girls’ education, slashing dropout rate and helping improve financial condition of families have contributed to decreasing rate of trafficking.”
Economist Abhiroop Sarkar said: “When the state started projects like Kanyashree, trafficking was high. But in the last five years, it has significantly dropped, proving that these women empowerment programmes have started yielding results.”
The interesting fact,” Sarkar added, “is other states have similar programmes but it is more a political and administrative policy implemented through panchayats. But in Bengal, it is a socio-academic policy implemented through schools.”
A senior women and child development department official said: “The NCRB reports in 2011 and 2012 reported 3,711 and 4,168 girl trafficking cases in Bengal. However, when these cases were analysed, it was noticed that all Bengali-speaking girls unable to give home address were being sent back to Bengal. This was inflating the numbers. The state signed several inter-state MoUs which stressed that girls would be sent back to Bengal after their addresses are verified or traced.”
“In 2014, we set up a separate AHTU (Anti Human Trafficking Unit), where the nodal unit is CID,” an officer said. “In 2015, 2016 and 2017, a campaign titled ‘Operation Smile’ and ‘Operation Muskan’ was held during which many trafficked girls were rescued,” the officer added.
A senior minister said: “Child marriage leads to trafficking and Kanyashree Prakalpa has been successful in controlling this menace.”
Source: Times of India