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Does Lara know where her maid came from?

An MTV EXIT Special premiered yesterday with Lara Dutta presenting the documentary. SOLD at Taj Land’s End in Mumbai. The MTV EXIT campaign is aimed at raising awareness and prevention of human trafficking.

For reasons unknown, Bollywood actress Lara Dutta inaugurated the show. She is one amongst many international artists who have ‘joined’ the MTV EXIT Campaign.

MTV Exit addresses three major forms of trafficking in Asia and the Pacific: sex trafficking and forced prostitution, labour trafficking, and forced domestic servitude. Due to differences found geographically, the campaign was split into two regions: South Asia and Asia-Pacific.

The South Asia documentary, Sold is a heart-warming fictional depiction of real people in the form of a documentary. Sold featured the real life stories of victims like Pramila, an innocent 17-year-old girl from Nepal who was trafficked into a brothel in Delhi; Afsana, who was trafficked from Bangladesh and forced to work as a domestic servant in Kolkatta; and Zakir, who was just 11 when he was trafficked from Uttar Pradesh into a Zari factory in Mumbai by his own aunt.

Their harrowing stories are told alongside other people in the trafficking chain including Shravan who used to pick up young girls from railway stations to force them into prostitution; a young man from Mumbai whose friends pay for sex; Mohammad, a zari factory owner, who has seen factory owners exploit trafficking victims.

On the positive side there are Ashok and Shwetank who help rescue victims of trafficking; Geeta, a survivor of trafficking who now works as a Border Patrol guard at the Indo-Nepal border looking out for traffickers and potential victims; and Bhuwan, a passionate lawyer, who hopes to see the end of child labour and trafficking in his lifetime.

OK – sounds good. What JAM would like to know is:

* Is this ‘flash in the pan’ social activism? The kind of socially relevant stuff that large corporations with very little social relevance take up from time to time…

Will the MTV Exit campaign DO things which make a difference or just be happy with this vague objective of raising awareness.

* Is there any point in holding this event at a 5 star hotel? Wouldn’t the money spent thus be put to better use helping one the victims??

Documentaries like this should be screened at railway stations, at schools and colleges, in slums, hospitals, government offices… And on MTV Prime Time, uminterrupted by advertising.

* Lara Dutta inaugurated the show. Has she ever asked: “Where does my maid come from?” (That’s the title of the campaign). The celebrity endorser did not say a word to the invited audience!

And by the way, in case we all discover that our maids are abductees from Nepal or Bihar will we ask them to rest and do our own jhadoo katka? Now that would make for a splendid documentary!

– Surya Ragunaathan

For more information logon to: www.mtvexit.org

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