MUMBAI, INDIA – Four girls as young as 10 were rescued last week from a moving train headed hundreds of miles away from their home to Mumbai.
Police and IJM staff flooded busy train platforms to rescue the girls. They worked together in close collaboration with other NGOs and government operations to pull off the rescue operation.
A train passenger who happened to be an NGO employee had called in a tip to the government social service agency—several girls were seen travelling with a couple that seemed overly watchful and suspicious. The agency called IJM, which immediately mobilized two teams.
IJM staff rushed to the main train station in Kolkata to check train schedules and reservations, while another group of IJM staff in Mumbai worked with local police to catch the couple and rescue the girls. Staff and police quickly mapped out possible interception points and split up to wait on various train platforms.
Timing was critical. The train would only stop for a few minutes, and then they had to find the car with the girls. It was just after 8:00 pm when the rescue team boarded the train, wading through the crowded cars while trying not to raise suspicion.
They spotted the girls! One of the IJM social workers caught a glimpse of the girls who matched the description that had been relayed earlier that day. They were travelling with a man and woman who seemed to be watching the girls’ every move, even accompanying them to the bathroom.
Two IJM staff struck up a conversation with the couple, surreptitiously typing information into their cell phones. By the time the train came to its next stop—about an hour and a half later—police were waiting on the platform. The suspects had become hostile, and police intervened and made the arrests.
The girls started to weep. They were terrified and did not understand what was happening. IJM social worker Lila stayed close, assuring them that they were safe
"It is surreal and incredible to see young girls rescued even before they can be exploited,” Lila reflects later on.
The girls are now at a shelter for trafficking survivors, and IJM will continue to work with the government authorities to make sure they receive the care they need. Most of the girls were able to make contact with their families over the weekend.
IJM Mumbai Director Sanjay Macwan says, "The success of this rescue operation is evidence that regardless of how covert and complex the trafficking network may be, relentless, skillful and determined law enforcement agencies can rescue children--even from a moving train.”