Why Chennai Central needs an anti-trafficking help desk

A total of 1269 children were rescued in Chennai Central and Egmore railway stations; close monitoring of these train stations would help in preventing incidence of trafficking and faster support for victims.

A malnourished boy, in shabby clothes, stood trembling in fear at the Chennai Central Railway station. Unaware of the surroundings and people, he sat in silence at the railway station for hours. Only when the Railway Protection Force (RPF) employees initiated a conversation, did he open up about his risky escape from a confectionery unit in Karnataka. The 17-year-old boy, a resident of Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu, was coaxed into work by a middle man, when he was barely 13.

The promise of a decent job and good salary soon turned sour, as the boy was forced to work for over 16 hours a day. “He was not allowed to talk to his father. Neither was he paid enough, as the family had taken an advance from the owner,” says M Devasitham, associate director, strategic development, International Justice Mission.

The boy was lucky to be able to escape from the confectionery unit and travelled without a ticket to Chennai Central. “He looked frail and desperate. He seemed frightened, a hint that led us to approach and eventually help him,” said an RPF official, adding that the boy is now reunited with the family.

A case was filed against the owner of the confectionery unit, under the provisions of bonded labour system abolition act, 1976.

Railways ease cross border trafficking

This is not a lone example, as Chennai Central and Egmore railway stations, being major hubs for human trafficking in South India, witness hundreds of such cases in a year.

In the past one and half year (2017-2018 till date), Childline Foundation in Chennai has rescued 1269 children in Chennai Central (847) and Egmore (422) railway stations. Among them, almost 20 percent of the children have been rescued with the help of the Government Railway Police (GRP).

“Train stations are used by traffickers to lure both adults and children away from their homes with the promise of good jobs, and then push them into sex trafficking, domestic labour, or bonded labour. The railways have also been used by victims of trafficking who have escaped and are trying to make their way home,” says Dr. Annie Vijaya, Superintendent of Police, Railways.

A good number of victims were rescued from the trains commencing from North India including Howrah Express and Bhubaneswar express, a Railway Protection Force (RPF) inspector said.

A step towards prevention

The role played by brokers or middlemen needs to be understood, as a first step towards prevention. Middlemen target families that are economically vulnerable and usually convince them with promise of employment. Promising a decent job and lifestyle, they collect all original proofs of identity before taking them to the place of work. Children are the easiest and primary targets. It is a strategy to give handsome money as advance and then make them toil for long hours, without food and salary.

Having studied the chain of events in human trafficking, experts say it is important to nip them at the root – at railway stations or bus stops. In order to sensitise the Government Railway Police on identifying the victims of human trafficking and bonded labour, Childline Foundation and International Justice Mission conducted a workshop on April 19, in which they also discussed about the various laws to deal with the issue: IPC 370 of Human Trafficking, Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, Inter State Migrant Act, The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 and The Child Labour act.

In the workshop, it was unanimously decided to set up a help desk at Chennai Central railway station, manned by personnel from RPF, GRP, NGOs and social work institutions.

“The pilot project is in the preparatory stage and we are expecting it on board within three months. A four-member desk would be set up to identify the victims and provide support, which includes reporting to the Child Welfare Committee and helping in reunion with the family,” says Annie Vijaya. ““Citizens are often oblivious of what to do, or whom to report to, even after spotting vulnerable individuals at the railway stations. The helpline is aimed at bridging this gap; police officials at the desk would file the case immediately and provide support and guidance to the victims,” she added.

Social work institutions and NGOs would play a key role in identifying the victims, initiating a sensitive conversation and providing support and rehabilitation.

What can you do?

*If you spot a person with bruises or injuries, or looking lost, you could softly converse with him/her; ask if they need help. Most of them look vulnerable and famished.

*Victims of trafficking mostly travel as a group, taking commands from a single person. They would not have their identification documents with them.  

*Take the help of the GRP officials if the language is a barrier or if they are unwilling to talk.

*Do not probe for more information, after they tell you about their situation. It is important to maintain sensitivity.

*Reporting the case in itself would be of immense help. If there is a special help desk at the station (as proposed) or in the premises, you can report the case there. Alternatively, you can call up various helplines, some of the more important ones being:

Child helpline – 1098

Railway Protection Force – 04425353999

Anti Trafficking Unit – 9884326993

Women helpline – 1091

Bonded Labour-8056080000

Police – 100

Ambulance – 108


  1. Mou_Lee says:

    Well written.. That too with sub headings.. ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Lok Sabha 2024: Know your MP — Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma, West Delhi

Parvesh Verma, who is the son of former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma, has made rapid progress in the BJP in past decade.

Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma is the incumbent MP for West Delhi Lok Sabha Constituency. He is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and has won from West Delhi twice, in 2014 and 2019. Parvesh Verma is one of the many rising young stars in the BJP, who got elected in 2014 at the age of 36. He is the son of the former chief minister of Delhi, Sahib Singh Verma. He also served as an MLA, getting elected from Mehrauli in 2013. With the rise of Narendra Modi and the advent of AAP in Delhi, Verma got elected…

Similar Story

Lok Sabha 2024: Know your MP – Manoj Kumar Tiwari, North East Delhi

Former Bhojpuri actor Manoj Kumar Tiwari has represented the North East Delhi constituency for two consecutive terms. A look at his last tenure

Manoj Kumar Tiwari is a two-time Lok Sabha member representing the North East Delhi constituency. He was an actor-singer in the Bhojpuri film industry. He began his political career with the Samajwadi Party; he contested and lost the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Gorakhpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He then joined the BJP in 2013, contesting the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections from North East Delhi Constituency, and emerging victorious in both.   Read more: Lok Sabha 2024: A people’s manifesto for urban areas In 2019, Tiwari got 53.9% of the 16,35,204 votes cast in the constituency, which was 25%…