Bhimtal is a town located in the Uttarakhand state in upper north India, close to the Nepalese border. Around 10,000 people live in this village, which attracts many tourists for the surrounding breathtaking countryside.
Due to the remote location, people living in the region struggle in difficult living conditions, with 39% of people living below the poverty line. Children are most vulnerable to this poverty, and to the prevalent child trafficking in the state.
Since 1984, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Bhimtal.
Child trafficking, which is the kidnapping of a child for the purpose of slavery, forced labour and exploitation, still happens in India. Children coming from vulnerable backgrounds, experiencing extreme poverty, are more prone to be exposed to traffickers. Uttarakhand tops the list of Hill states in cases of human trafficking, which could be partly due to the proximity of the Nepalese border.
No exact data can be given; but in the last years, around 200 girls were saved from traffickers. The government of India has made noteworthy progress in eradicating the problem, but for now, it is not enough.
Uttarakhand, where Bhimtal is located, is mostly rural, with 70% of the population living in towns scattered throughout the mountains.
This makes it hard for people to access health care and education. Health care is not always available locally and many cannot afford to travel and pay the medical fees in urban areas.
Furthermore, there is a lack of proper roads and transportation possibilities. This makes economic development in the area difficult, with 40% of people living below the poverty line in rural areas.