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9 Jan 2017

Bravery award recipients from Darj to remain unsung heroes

Amitava Banerjee, HT, 8 January 2016:DARJEELING: Darjeeling has always been the land of the brave. There have been hundreds in the armed forces who have made supreme sacrifices for the country.
However, this is for the first time that two students from Darjeeling will receive the national bravery award. The two girls had managed to bust an international sex racket which also led to the arrest of the kingpin.
The letter sent by the Indian Council for Child Welfare states that the girls would be presented the award by the Prime Minister in New Delhi. They will be participating in the Republic Day parade in the Capital. While one of the girls studies in Class 12, the other is a Class 11 student in Darjeeling.
The families of the two girls have requested that their identities be kept under wraps. “There is always the threat of retribution as it is an international sex racket. We do not want their identities to be revealed,” stated the mother of the Class 12 student.
The recipients are not interested in hogging the limelight. The Class 12 student, who wants to pursue a career in photo journalism, said “We are happy with what we did. We are not interested in publicity. We helped in busting a racket which otherwise would have ruined many more lives. If required, we are ready to take the same risks again.” “I feel proud that we helped in curbing such a crime. My parents are proud too. I want to become an IPS officer so that I can help end such heinous crimes,” added the Class 11 student. In 2012, a Class 11 student had also helped bust a similar human trafficking racket and had also saved the victim from being trafficked. Three men and a woman were arrested in that case. “VV Thambi, the then DIG (CID), handed over a cash award of Rs 5,000 to the student. We had also felicitated her in a private closed ceremony. The primary aim is to protect these students. Though everybody is eager to know about them, it is safer that they remain unsung heroes,” said Nirnay John Chettri of Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG) – an NGO.
In this case the two students had helped MARG and the police unearth the racket and successfully netted three traffickers from the West Bengal-Nepal border and Gagan Verma, the kingpin from his residence in DLF, Phase 2, in Gurgaon.
Verma allegedly used to traffic and force girls into club dancing and flesh trade. He also used to forge documents like Aadhar cards to traffic the girls.
Most of the girls were recruited and trafficked from Darjeeling, Sikkim and Nepal. The racket was operational in the National Capital Region (NCR), thriving in Gurgaon and Mudrika area of Delhi.
It had all started in June 2016 with MARG receiving information from Maity Nepal, a Nepal-based NGO that Sunidhi, a 16-year-old girl, had gone missing from a remote village in the Sidhupalchowk district of Nepal. She later became part of the racket. MARG has 12 Students against Trafficking Clubs (SATC) running successfully in the schools of Darjeeling district.
They comprise students of Class 10, 11 and 12, who have been sensitised on human trafficking and work in this arena.
The SATCs were alerted regarding the missing girl. Students from a SATC zeroed in on Sunidhi on a social network site and befriended her. They then posed as children wanting to run away from their homes in search of jobs.
Sunidhi immediately offered them jobs. Sunidhi’s accomplices from New Delhi sent them fake Aadhar cards and appointment letters. The police were informed and a trap was laid which netted traffickers Ugen Tshering Bhutia (43) of Jaldhaka in the Kalimpong subdivision and Srijana Rai (22) of Kumai in the Darjeeling district.
The following day Pranita Mukhia (22), originally a resident of Sipchu in Jalpaiguri district but was operating from Delhi, was arrested from Rajdhani Express. The trail then led to Verma, who was arrested from Gurgaon.

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