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While working on a project in the hills of Nepal a few years back, Delhi-based journalist Ruchira Gupta noticed a strange phenomenon. "Many villages in the hills had no woman in the age group of 15-45 years." When she asked, the villagers told her that they had gone to work in Mumbai.
Trailing these women Ruchira, 33, came to Mumbai's red light area. This led her to making her debut film -- a documentary titled Selling of Innocents. Made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the film won the Emmy award in the news and journalism section for the year 1997.
The film shows a man selling his daughter for Rs 1,500. Selling the girl child is a common practice in the impoverished villages, as the film points out.
Filming the racket was risky. Ruchira, with cameraman Rajesh Bedi, a noted wildlife photographer, and sound recordist Valson ran into trouble with some local politicians and the mafia. Ruchira says she could expose the racket just by taking the victim's into confidence.
Having spent 13 years reporting starvation, riots, and booth-capturing and getting mobbed while covering the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Ruchira calls herself a muck-raker. With Selling of Innocents, she became a full-fledged social worker. The film was shown at the Stockholm World Congress on Sexual Exploitation of Children and at unicef regional workshops. Ruchira has also started a trust to help prostitutes.