Climate change: Farmers' kids fall prey to child traffickers

Climate change: Farmers

With the financial conditions of small scale farmers in the state of Assam deteriorating as a result of adverse impacts of climate change,

With the financial conditions of small scale farmers in the state of Assam deteriorating as a result of adverse impacts of climate change, such families have steadily come into focus of child traffickers, who lure such families with hope of good future for their child but finally ends up as domestic workers in far-away towns or sometimes in brothels.

Assam, which is an agrarian based economy, has a huge number of small scale farmers and the state being very poor in irrigation, a majority of the farmers in the state are dependent on rainfall. However over the years with the rainfall becoming erratic and unpredictable as a result of climate change, farmers who are solely dependent on rainfall are being severely affected.

According to officials of the Assam agriculture department, the state has over 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of cultivable land, and much of it is rain-fed.
Presently almost 50 percent of the irrigation projects in the state are non-functional and as a result of this only about 20 percent of the total cultivable land in the state could be irrigated, points out officials of the department.
“Presently only 20 per cent of the total cultivable area of the State could be irrigated so far and 165 schemes of the Department are non-functional as of today,” said Assam irrigation minister Ardhendu Dey.
Unseen to the state government and the machinery, this has become a catch for the child traffickers.
With climate change affecting the farmers and shattering their economy, many of the farmer families are having difficulty to make ends meet.
Gramya Vikash Mancha, an Assam based organization had done a study on how climate change is leading to trafficking and migration of young boys and girls from farmer families, and concludes that it is alarming.
“Hundreds of young girls are trafficked from different parts of the state every month and only a small handful comes into the notice of the government and police, but a majority of the instances of trafficking goes unnoticed,” said Prithibhusan Deka, of Gramya Vikas Mancha (KVM).
16 year old Barsha (name changed) , had never imagined that one day she will have to give up school and will have a life of misery.
Hailing from the Baksha district in the state, she was the only daughter of a farmer there, and the family was always well off as they always used to have a good harvest and was able to earn enough money. However things changed with climate change, as the ground water slowly dried and the rainfall became erratic. For 4 years they had a bad crop, and this shattered the family financially. So when a neighbor offered the family a job for Barsha as a domestic help in the house of businessman at Guwahati city, the family was more than happy to send their daughter with the neighbor.
That however changed the young girl’s life, and very soon she found herself not at Guwahati but in a brothel at Shillong, capital of Meghalaya. The police later rescued her and several other young girls from there.
Barsha is not the only such victim. According to GVM and other civil society groups, this is going on in the state for a while, and young girls of poor and improvised farmer families are not only trafficked within the North East region, but to other bigger cities in North and South India as well.
According to civil society groups, this whole issue has raised new worries about the dangers facing young girls as their already poor families struggle to cope with added burdens brought on by climate change.
"This raises questions about human trafficking in the name of searching for alternate means of livelihood,” said Deka.
The Assam government when approached said that it is looking into the issue of uplifting the financial conditions of farmers by providing various schemes, and also hybrid seeds.
“The Assam government has entrusted the agriculture department to look into the issue urgently, and to look for means through which the economic conditions of farmers could be uplifted,” said Assam agriculture minister Nilomoni Sen Deka.

(The author has received a travel support under the HICAP media grant)
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