A child-trafficking racket has reportedly been exposed in Bengaluru with the police saying over 150 minor girls were trafficked across India.
The death of a 12-year-old girl, who was trafficked to the city to work as a maid, led to the trafficking racket being busted by the police.
The 12-year-old girl's body was found in an apartment building in the city. Phoolmuni, the girl whose family is from Assam, fell from the ninth floor of the building and died, the police was quoted by Reuters as saying, adding that the couple who had employed her were not at home when the incident happened last week.
More from IBTimes India: Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle pregnant: Report
The couple, chartered account Vishal Mutt and dentist Garima Grover, have been booked for aiding her suicide. They told the police that they were unaware the girl was a minor and that they had employed her through an agency in Delhi that supplies domestic help.
"As it turns out, the girl's father was looking for her for nearly two years. It took days to track him and when he came to take his daughter's body back home, he was just heart-broken," Geeta Menon of Stree Jagruti Samiti, told the news agency.
Stree Jagruti Samiti is a charity in Bengaluru that works for the promotion of the rights of domestic workers.
According to the police, Phoolmuni was trafficked along with 150 other underage girls by a Delhi agency called Milan Enterprises. The police raided their offices recently and arrested four people for supplying minors as domestic help across the country. Most of the trafficked girls are from the north eastern states of India.
They were treated as bonded labour and their salaries were pocketed by the agency. The girls were only given food and clothes by their employers.
"These girls are purchased from their parents and then taken to Delhi. From there, they are taken to different cities. We believe it's a big network. Further probe is on," Additional Commissioner of Police Hemanth Nimbalkar said.
More from IBTimes India: Bohag or Rongali Bihu 2017: Significance, best wishes, greetings to share on WhatsApp and Facebook
In India, around 50 million domestic workers — most of them being women and young girls — are exploited without any legal protection. Cabinet approval is still awaited for a bill that would seek to improve the working conditions of domestic workers by providing them with a minimum salary, social security cover and mandatory time off.
"With many northern states framing laws to regulate people being hired as domestic work, south India seems to have become a safe haven for agents. This case has come as a wake-up call and we hope other girls will be rescued before they die," Menon said.
Last year, an NGO called the Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA) had launched a 16-day campaign called 'Every8Minutes' to create awareness against child trafficking in Bengaluru through street plays, mimes and messages on radio channels.
The campaign was launched following a statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which claimed that a child goes missing every eight minutes in India. Around 40 percent of these children remain untraced, it added.