A dozen young girls have been rescued from the Great Roman Circus in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This follows an intense week of lobbying and activity by rights activists like Kailash Satyarthi and some NGOs. While a similar group of minor girls is yet to be rescued, the tales recounted by the liberated one’s is disturbing by any reckoning. Some of them allege that parents and family members were behind their plight. Others were reportedly

‘happy’ to be working than being rescued. It is true that poverty has compelled people from far-flung areas to consider extreme means of supplementing their meagre incomes. But to go to the extent of employing daughters in circuses across the border is to play with their future testifies to the irresponsible and ignorant parental behaviour at its worst.

Except a select few, circuses are otherwise synonymous with low wages and unsafe work environment. The trade itself thrives on extreme sports, often requiring superhuman dexterity and effort. And children fit in this role far better than elders. More often than not, children are at the heart of the success of a circus. Nepali kids form a bulk of the workforce in several circuses in India. With the extreme nature of the dubious sports hangs in balance the future of the children. Neither those performing daredevil feats are covered by insurance policies, nor are they treated with respect and paid proper wages. As one of the rescued girls, Mona, testified, instructors often hurl abuses at young girls and beat them during training. This raises questions as to what is to be done to stop children’s employment in circuses and beyond. The Nepali government, accept it or not, has miserably failed in stopping children from joining circuses and similar jobs. Equally lacklustre is its track record on halting girl trafficking. The laurels in these fronts go to some NGOs and rights activists.

Problems posed by human trafficking culminating in child labour and prostitution cannot be addressed with authority by anyone except the government. It is true that awareness among the parents is indispensable for bringing the practice to a halt. But for this to happen, awareness campaigns are a must. Parents and guardians, who have the last word in sending children away, need to know that life in circuses and elsewhere is not as rosy as the middlemen promise. Together with the return of the children, rehabilitation measures become indispensable. The future of the dozen girls is already uncertain and it is likely that some like Mana Bisanke of Makawanpur are tempted to return to circuses. Difficulties and miseries are a direct offshoot of extreme poverty, the answer to which lies in education and a fair deal back home.