Darjeeling is geographically known as a beautiful hill station and is famous for tea plantations. But every place will have to bear with bad elements that tend to pollute the social fabric of society. Darjeeling is no exception, and human trafficking has become rampant in this hill station and surrounding areas.
According to Central Ministry of Women and Child development in India, 19,223 women and children were trafficked in the year 2016 as against 15,448 in the year 2015. The rise is alarming with 25% increase within a year.
The idea behind this post is to introduce Ms. Rangu Souriya to readers’ who has stood up against human trafficking particularly of girls by mafias who push these children and girls to brothels or engage them as pimps or touts.
Rangu Souriya is native of Panighata in Darjeeling hills. She grew up in tea gardens where her father was an employee and could as a child she witnessed many children going missing from tea gardens. These incidences created awareness of human trafficking racket rampant in Darjeeling. Thus her urge to fight the heinous act of human trafficking became more serious while studying at Darjeeling Govt. College and she took a pledge to rescue minor girls and boys from the hands of these mafias. Her close association with social activists at college gave her the foundation for becoming a full-time social activist in future.
The determination is fine, but every activity demands financial stability. Rangu worked out a model of dairy farming to fund her activities. For which she borrowed savings of her parents and also took 1 lakh INR as the bank loan. Through this diary, she managed to sustain her missions needs. But later on, she was so busy with her social activist role that she couldn’t concentrate on farming. So she sold off all the cows and invested that money for this social cause. In this process, she had to cross several obstacles, face life threats, ignore the offer of bribes in the form of a huge sum of money to stop her fight against these mafias. Also on many occasions, she had to spend lots of money from her pocket to rescue these victims. Rangu Souriya is not alone in this crusade; she has joined hands with an NGO by name Kanchenjunga Uddhar Kendra, from Siliguri. According to her, Majority of girls she has rescued are from Assam, Sikkim, North Bengal and Nepal who were trafficked to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Patna. Rangu Souriya is clear about her objective and which in her own words goes like this—”I was threatened by goons and mafia on several occasions and even lured with handsome sums of money, but my aim and vision is to free women from their bondage.” She also tells that many parents have developed courage and confidence to report to her whenever their children go missing. This has helped her to speed up the process of tracking those children.
First Rescue operation from Rangu was a small girl who was hired by a tout as a maid and sent to Delhi. When the parents of the girl couldn’t know whereabouts of their daughter for nearly one year, they approached Rangu to trace her. Rangu successfully traced the girl and she was in a locality near Rohini area of Delhi in such a pathetic condition that she was made to sleep with a dog in its kennel and had to work marathon hours without any breaks. This gave confidence to Rangu to take up more such cases and save children from such mafias.
Rangu has already saved more than 8000 children and grown up girls from these rackets and ended their lives as sex slaves. Till date, she has saved over 20,000 children and girls (under 18 years of age) from getting trafficked along the Nepal border and different parts of North East India. These girls and children are usually trafficked from North Bengal, Assam, Sikkim, and Nepal to get them sold for mainly as sex slaves or bonded labors. She has always told that fighting for the cause of children and women gives her immense satisfaction. She often recalls one particular rescue operation of 2005, where she went to Pune in search of two missing girls from Darjeeling and succeeded in nailing down a brothel despite no proper backup. She had an expectation of saving two girls but for her surprise, there were six girls pleading to get them out of that hell. This success she rates as her best effort.
Obviously, it requires a lot of courage to become an activist against crime like trafficking, and Rangu Souriya has exhibited that by overcoming various obstacles. Rightly she has been recognized with numerous awards; she has nearly 20 awards of recognition from various organizations. Prominent among them are Godfrey Phillips Social Bravery Award (The year 2011) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Women Achievers’ Award (The year 2009). She has received Prestigious 100 Women Awards given by President of India for the year 2016. Kalam Fan Club hopes that Rangu Souriya obtains support and recognition from all quarters of the society to intensify her fight against Human Traffickers and play a crucial role in ensuring People are loved in this society rather being used as things.