Pallabi’s life and career have been devoted to the single cause of rescuing children from being trafficked and giving them a better life. In total, she says she has managed to rescue 10,000 odd children by partnering with several organisations. And later on, she started one of her own — the Impact and Dialogue Foundation.
The English literature graduate circles back to the incident she witnessed in Kolkata in 2002, calling it the one that “altered her life”.
“While the man was running amock searching for his little girl, an onlooker told me this wasn’t rare. He said, ‘Ek bhaiyya aate hai Yamaha mein aur inhe leke jaate hai (A man comes on a Yamaha and takes these girls away)’.”
Pallabi was shocked. Why was no one keeping track of their children, and if they were, how could someone just pick the child up? Where were these children taken? Did they ever come back home?
While a couple of weeks later, her vacation came to an end and she returned back home, the incident never left her mind. Attempting to understand the children’s fate, Pallabi began speaking to her parents, her friends and others around her. But no one seemed to have any answers. So, when she was in Class 11, she decided it was time to probe into the matter herself, and went to the first place she could think of — the railway stations of Assam.
“The typical language here is Bengali, but strangely I noticed several children at the station were fluent in Hindi. I spoke to them and they divulged that they were not from here but from Rajasthan. I connected the dots together and realised I was seeing cases of child trafficking,” she told.
In fact, she goes on, not just railway stations, but the children were also taken to brothels, where they were trained as sex workers. With every probe, the problem seemed to get murkier.
What was more horrific than these realisations was that every conversation that Pallabi had with a child who had been trafficked revealed one common problem. When asked how they landed there, their response was unified. “We were lured into this with a promise of a better life”.
Since its inception in December 2020, the foundation has provided numerous girls, from areas of West Bengal, Assam, Bhutan, Myanmar, etc, with better lives.
At its helm is Pallabi who says she never imagined she would be able to make such an impact considering the circumstances in which she started. “Firstly, COVID had just broken out. I myself was infected five times. To add to this, when I would visit homes in my target areas of Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, etc, trying to speak to the women about trafficking and get an understanding from them, they would shut the door. In the months that followed, I changed my approach. Instead of interrogating them, I started conversing with them and what do you know, in a few weeks they were calling me for tea!”
In the span of a year and a half, Pallabi managed to reach out to 75,000 odd women in the Northeast and educate these women about social evils through a bounty of programs, workshops, narratives and more.
Her happiest moments were when one of the village women would tell her they had managed to stop a child marriage or had noticed a child trafficking case and notified the police. In time, she also started a mapping program in Assam that would enable rescued girls to learn a skill and earn through it.
“The stitching program was in a convent and to date, 40 girls have been trained through it. With this newfound financial independence, the girls’ minds have broadened,” says Pallabi. While young girls are engaged in skill building, the survivors of domestic violence who she rescues are inspired and empowered to take part in farm activities.