Girls fall in placement agency traps

Girls fall in placement agency traps

West Delhi's Shakurpur area is home to over 200 placement agencies for domestic helps, catering mostly to posh Punjabi Bagh areas.

Among them is the `notorious'  Laxmi Placement Agency previously called Bensa Manda Tribal Welfare Society.

It has a reputation of bringing minor girls from villages to the big city and placing them into exploitative work conditions. The agency is run from a three-storey house; its gate remains locked even during day time.

“We do not keep minor girls anymore. Police have become strict and there are continuous raids. The girls are usually from Jharkhand. They look young but all of them are adults,” said Sunita, one of the owners of the agency.

Child right activist Rakesh Sengar said most placement agencies tend to change their address and name every three to four months - since they are involved in illegal activities.

“Laxmi Placement Agency keeps tribal girls inside the house. Once we got a call from one of the girl who was pleading to be rescued but by the time we raided the place, we could not find any girl there,” said Shivani, another activist.

Hoping for a better life, girls come to city with agents to help them find jobs as domestic workers. The agents hand them over to the placement agencies. A labour department estimate says Delhi has around 2,800 such agencies. Out of them less than 300 are registered. They usually charge Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 as commission.

According to activists, no money reaches the girl in most cases. “The agencies take around Rs 10,000 from the household where a girl is placed. They also take about three months of the girl's salary as their commission,'' says Sengar.

Chirag Delhi's Amit Domestic Servant Services gets girls from Orissa. “We can arrange a minor but that will take time. We do not keep the girls at the office. The agent keeps her till the deal is fixed,” said Vijay, a worker there.

“The placement agency owner is usually from the same or the neighbouring village. He gets some relatives to work as as agents at the villages. Since checks at the stations and bus stops have now become more frequent, the agents usually bring two to three girls at a time every month,” added Sengar. The girls mostly come from remote villages in states like Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, where they live in abject poverty. While they are mostly financially exploited in Delhi, several incidents of sexual abuse are also reported.

“There is no specific law which makes it compulsory for these placement agency to register. If they do not, they have to pay a fine of just Rs 200. There are agencies which deal in prostitution, sell girls abroad and abuse them. In our last raid at a south Delhi agency, we found a pregnant girl who was raped by the agency owner,” said Sengar.

A rescued minor victim hailing from Assam is still trying to forget her ordeal. “I came here with a relative on the promise that I will get Rs 5000 per month as a maid. That is a lot of money for us. The agency owner kept me for few months at his place. He tried to molest me whenever his wife was not around. Once he raped me. When I told his wife she called me a liar,” the victim said.

Later, she was placed in a Mayur Vihar house. After learning that no money was given to her, the house-owners gave her three months' salary in advance and arranged somebody to take her back home. “I was lucky but there are many who are missing, even from my village. The parents keep asking about their daughters' whereabouts. The agents say the girls have run away,” she said over the phone.

Rajendra Ravi, member of the National Domestic Worker's Union, said there are about 4 to 5.5 lakh workers in Delhi, out of which around three lakh work part-time, going from one to five homes every day. Around 2 to 2.5 lakh domestic workers are from villages. Some 15 to 20 per cent are minors.