Shillong, Sept 29 (IANS): An estimated 40,000 women from India's Northeast region were recruited by various escort services for the Commonwealth Games, sparking fears that a vast majority of the women could be engaged in a prostitution racket in New Delhi during the 12-day mega event, rights groups and a minister said here on Tuesday.
"We are indeed worried with girls from the Northeast, numbering somewhere around 40,000 recruited by various agencies, luring them of good money and job opportunities... it has all the possibilities of being engaged in an organised prostitution racket," Hasina Kharbih, chairperson of Impulse NGO Network, a rights group working in rescuing women trafficked from the Northeast, told IANS.
According to inputs with the Impulse NGO Network and the Meghalaya government, gullible girls from the eight Northeastern States, including Darjeeling and Siliguri in West Bengal, were wooed by smart operators by putting out newspaper advertisements - promising lucrative remuneration and good assignments during the Games.
"It is not just girls from Meghalaya, but across the northeast who were being recruited. We have alerted and appealed to the public to be vigilant, to keep us informed in case they have any information on such a racket," Meghalaya Social Welfare Department Minister JA Lyngdoh told IANS. "We don't have concrete details or information, but then we are apprehensive."
Questions are asked as to why Northeast women are preferred by escort services. "Northeastern girls are generally fair and have good features and are fluent in English and hence in demand," Kharbih said.
"Today Northeastern girls are in demand in the flourishing prostitution racket in cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and even Bangalore and Pune," another rights leader said.
Most of these women, trapped by organised rackets, come from middle class families.
"Seedy operators also scout for good looking girls from poor families. We have come across and rescued girls in the past belonging to families living below the poverty line who were sold to the traffickers," Kharbih said.
The Northeast Support Centre Helpline, a New Delhi-based NGO, too is apprehensive about such a design.
"We are extremely concerned with thousands of northeast girls lured by placement agencies for the Games and our fear is that they might be misused and fall into wrong hands," said Madhu Chander of the Helpline.
"We appeal to all student leaders of the Northeast based in New Delhi to look out for girls from the region already trapped in this dirty racket," she added.