Women and Child trafficking: Supreme Court seeks information on draft Bill
New Delhi, Feb 27: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to inform it within two weeks about the state of the Bill and other steps taken by it on the issue of relief and rehabilitation of the victims of women and child trafficking.A Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan granted time to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to apprise it about the draft Bill in this regard after it was told that the procedure was in progress.The Court was hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, Shakti Vahini in 2002 questioning the implementation of the ‘Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children.Various suggestions from NGOs and NHRC was taken on record by the court during the hearing.Senior advocate U U Lalit, who has been assisting the court as amicus curiae, in the matter has also put forward suggestions after thorough research and the court has asked the government to consider all those while preparing the draft Bill.Advocate S Wasim Quadri had informed the court that the Delhi Government concurs with the suggestions of the NHRC.
ALKA S PANDE
LUCKNOW:WHEN the UP police needs information on traffickers, it has a trusted ally in Sunita.Her story is a familiar one in Nepal. Lured by prospects of a job, she travelled to Jammu and Kashmir, then to Himachal Pradesh and Mumbai where she was sold to a brothel. Months later, she was rescued and returned to Nepal.
But then, she did not go back to the secure life she led in the Januka Bhatrai village in Morang district of Nepal. Bringing together several others who suffered the same ordeal, Sunita formed the Shakti Samuha which now works to rescue, counsel and rehabilitate women trafficked from Nepal.
The UN Office on Drug and Crime is now considering taking their help in its work in the UP-Nepal border area. “We are looking forward to chalk out a strategy to combat trafficking at UP-Nepal border with the help of Samuha members,” Ajit Joy, project coordinator for Victim Support and Human Trafficking in UN office on Drug and Crime said.
Started 10 years back with 15 girls rescued from trafficking, today Sunita has an all-girl brigade of 30 members – all in their 20s. Besides the field officer and an accountant, all members have been through the flesh trade racket in the region. “We hold regular meetings with the Uttar Pradesh police and share with them the vital information our members have since they themselves have been victims and are aware of the modus operandi of the traffickers,” said Sunita.
Government records say that the 845 km border that UP shares with Nepal, there are at least 104 “cavities” that are used for trafficking. “In the past three years, more than 1,000 girls have been rescued from this porous border and about 100 men have been arrested for trafficking,” says Jata Shanker of Manav Sewa Sansthan which has been working against trafficking over the past 10 years.
The government would soon provide home to an unwanted girl child.In a bid to check the alarming rate of female feticide, the ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has proposed to set up an orphanage in each district of the country where parents can leave their girl child, if they don’t want to bring them up.WCD minister Renuka Chowdhury told PTI that the orphanage would be part of the crèche scheme that the ministry has proposed for the 11th five-year plan.”We want to put a cradle or Palna in every district headquarters. What we are saying to the people is have your children, don’t kill them. And if you don’t want a girl child, leave her to us,” she said.Under the proposed scheme, the government will bear the cost of the upbringing of the girl child, a step considered necessary to correct the skewed sex ratio of the country. The government is already running Rajiv Gandhi Creche Scheme for children of working women and the orphanages would be an extension of the scheme, a ministry official said. “This is part of our ministry’s Integrated Child Development Scheme,” an official said, informing that the proposal has already been submitted to the Planning Commission. Chowdhury felt that the scheme would provide at least a chance to the girl child to live. “It would be better than killing them,” she replied, when asked whether the scheme can lead to parents abandoning the girl child.With the scheme, the government believes the gene pool will be maintained and parents, who realise their mistake, can claim their girl child later.Sex ratio as per 2001 Census in the country was 933 females per 1,000 males. The more affluent states like Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan and Haryana had sex ratio lower than 875. The latest Census figures on infant mortality rate shows that death of girl child in these states is increasing despite government interventions. Chowdhury termed it a ‘national shame’ for a country whose economy is growing at the rate of nine per cent.Email Chetan Chauhan: email@example.com
Hindustan Times Feb 16 Kolkata
Talk about freeing a child from the shackles of labour and our State Government has just managed to balk at the prospect.
The Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the State’s Labour Minister Mrinal Banerjee have recently written to the Central Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, explaining their inability to free under-14 children from their jobs.
As per the latest amendment to the Child Labour (Protection and Regulation Act (1986)—which came into force in October 2006—children who are employed in 15 hazardous industries including domestic sector and restaurants, kids must be freed from child labour and returned home.
In the absence of a rehab policy for children, the State Government has stayed away from taking any action for eliminating child labour. “In many instances we have observed that forcing children to leave their jobs may not be advisable since many of the kids come from families where parents are either disabled or have no income. If we take these children out of their jobs, we will be forcing them to either become beggars or petty criminals”, minister of state for labour (West Bengal) Anadi Sau told Hindustan Times.
Sau said that the new law may be forward-looking but the real enemy of child development is poverty. “So many factories have shut down all over the country. The Central Government has also stopped recruiting for so many of its departments. Unless the Central Government provides economic support for the poorer families, they will continue to send their children to work outside home”, pointed out Sau.
The Labour department nevertheless is making an effort towards rehabilitating some of these rescued children but it is not enough. About 570 schools—each accommodating 50 child labour– have already been set up in 19 districts but the target is setting up 683 schools by 31st March, said Sau. “These kids get Rs 100 per month apart from free education and meals. The average cost comes to Rs 1000 per child”, said Sau.
The Department of Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, which plays a supportive role to the Labour Department on issues like child labour, also feels that rehabilitation of the family is more important than rescuing the child from any job which he may be doing. “There are two schemes under the Central Ministry, the Integrated Street Children Programme and the Integrated Working Children Programme. Both these Central Government schemes are running but they are inadequate as rehab packages”, said S Nurul Haque, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare, Women and Child Development.
The State is now keeping its fingers crossed that the next five year plan may offer more largesse for children and their upkeep.
Indian Express ,Feb 13 2007
PUNE, FEBRUARY 12 :State Director-General of Police P S Pasricha today said he had instructed all nine police commissionerates and 33 police districts in the state to prepare dossiers on missing children across Maharashtra in the wake of the Nithari killings. The DGP also spoke of increased trafficking of women in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai.
“A special drive is being conducted by the social security branch of the police across the state to nab those engaged in the trade,” he said. He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the 60th Foundation Day Celebrations of the State Wireless Department here.
Asked about the steps taken by his office to curb the menace of missing children in the state being highlighted in a series by The Indian Express, Pasricha said, “A circular seeking the details of missing children has been sent to all police districts and commissionerates”.
The Pune police has already begun a drive across the 20 police stations in the city, which reported 212 boys and 241 girls missing in 2006. The actual figure is 549 boys and 627 girls but the city police claims 337 boys and 386 girls were ‘recovered’ (returned home on their own or were traced by their parents and relatives).
Pasricha appealed to parents and relatives of the missing children, who have returned home, to inform the police stations where they had registered the missing complaints. “Our experience shows that 90 per cent of the children return home but parents fail to inform the police about their return, which further compounds the problem,” he said.
Saying both parents and teachers had a greater role to play, Pasricha advised them to sensitise themselves on issues related to their children. “There is need to create awareness about the issues affecting children. A simple thing like exam fever has made many children run away from their homes,” he said.
Police Commissioner K K Paul has held more than one meeting on missing children and a circular has been issued to all units reminding them of the drill in such cases. Post-Nithari, a review of cases of missing children is taken up every Tuesday at a meeting Paul holds at the police headquarters.
In addition to the existing missing persons cell, the police have nine new new cells on the job across the city. This too is post-Nithari. Joint Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, who will be responsible for these cells in addition to their current assignments, have also been identified. Joint Commissioner (Crime) Ranjit Narayan says ‘‘the entire system has been streamlined further’’.
Neeraj Thakur, DCP (Crime) who tracks the progress on cases of missing persons, says ‘‘there is no clear pattern of how and from which parts of the capital do most children go missing. There are as many cases of children going missing, say, from Vasant Kunj to a resettlement colony like Sultanpuri. What’s somewhat common is that children go missing or run away after quarrels at home or from the exam stress. Very often, parents do not get back to the police, especially if it involves girls approaching adulthood.’’
Delhi police say though figures for children gone missing are very high, so’s the recovery rate. Narayan says the 2006 recovery rate was a high 88 per cent.
‘‘This figure would be higher if parents of all children who are traced or have returned home voluntarily get back to the police. Mostly, it’s only the incident of the child gone missing that is reported to the police. Not the child`s return. Often in cases involving missing girls, we find that the family has shifted home. The neighbours tell us that the girl has returned. The fact is that our recovery rate is higher than in several Western countries,” says Narayan
The Indian Express accessed an internal circular sent to all district chiefs by Narayan on February 6 on the subject of missing children. The three-page note indirectly refers to the Nithari incident: “New experience has shown that conducting a search of the immediate area (including drains) would be useful.”
In the circular, eight steps have been listed for the investigating officer (IO) when a child is being reported missing. Spot investigations involve nine stages. The police have identified at least five “motives” behind a missing child:
• Murder — Act of killing itself could bring arousal/gratification
• Ransom — The abductor could make contact
• Profit — In cases of trafficking
• Miscellaneous — personal vengeance by childless mother etc
The new circular notes that “in many cases the culprit resided, worked, frequented or had some association with the immediate area frequented by the missing child. Often it has been seen that the culprit had even been contacted by the IO during initial investigation but went undetected because of hasty and cursory nature of the inquiry/investigation. A very important lesson to be learnt from these cases is that there is no substitute for thoroughness in executing a prompt neighbourhood investigation and search.”
While police blame parents for not getting back to them, it’s also a fact that it’s not easy reporting a missing child and hoping the police swing into action immediately. Autorickshaw-driver Kundan Lal’s son Babloo disappeared from near their home on December 11, 2005. Bimla, the boy’s mother, says no one saw Babloo leave. As Kundan Lal was away, neighbours lodged a missing complaint at the Sangam Vihar police station. The next day, Kundan Lal went to the police station to lodge an FIR. “They refused to lodge an FIR, telling me to look for my child first. I kept visiting the police station but they told me to trace my son,” he says.
Many visits later, the police, says Kundan Lal, agreed to an FIR. “They asked me to arrange a vehicle for the policemen who would go in search of my son. I decided to take them in my auto.” For a week, Lal, who plies a rented autorickshaw, took the policemen wherever they asked him to. A week later, he couldn’t fund the rides anymore.
Kundan Lal approached the National Human Rights Commission on January 25, 2006. Acting on his complaint, the NHRC wrote to DCP (South District) and DCP (Vigilance) asking them to submit an Action Taken Report within two weeks.
Babloo remains untraced.
• Six-year-old Sonia Rao went missing on August 14 last year while on her way home from school in Raipur.She was later found in Nagpur, where she had been sold by child-lifters within hours of her abduction. But it wasn’t the police who sniffed her out. Sonia’s mother, Sharda Rao, led a crowd from her colony to the Collectorate and police station for two days to mount pressure on the administration. “I was shattered but knew that if I didn’t act quickly chances of seeing my daughter again were slim.” The pressure tactics worked, teams went out and Sonia was traced to an orphanage in Nagpur where she had been kept by the Maharashtra Police. Three persons were arrested on charges of involvement in trafficking. It’s another matter that the Chhattisgarh Police learnt of Sonia’s return almost six days later.
The police do not maintain records on the number of children missing in Chhattisgarh. However, there seems to be a pattern in the disappearance of children there. Social activists confirm that most of these abductions are linked to the flesh trade and most of the victims are minor girls. “A majority of these children are taken to nearby towns where they are thrown into prostitution,” said Dr Ilina Sen, member of the Committee Against Violence on Women. “We have often demanded that policing should be increased in certain vulnerable areas of the state. However, the authorities plead there is a shortage of manpower,”
NGOs involved in women and child welfare estimate that only 10 per cent of kidnappings are registered with the police. Which means that the actual numbers could be much higher than the police figures of around 650 children missing during 2006 and about 620 in 2005. “As most complainants in tribal areas are illiterate, they cannot differentiate between lodging a complaint and a First Information Report. All that the police do is make a daily diary entry and issue the complainants non-cognisable receipts, telling them that a ‘case’ has been registered. Since an FIR adds to the crime statistics, the police tend to nip the trouble in the bud,” Anita Gupta, a social activist, alleged.
According to the police themselves, there are gangs in the state that lift children to be sold to brothels in other towns. The recovery of Sonia was a case in point. Tehrunissa, Sheikh Maksood and Ramesh, members of an inter-state trafficking gang, were arrested for kidnapping and selling Sonia. They confessed during interrogation that they were active in Chhattisgarh for the past couple of years. “The accused used to abduct children from Raipur and sell them in the red light districts of Nagpur and in other cities,” a senior police officer said. Since the arrest of the three, police have also decided to increase their interaction with their counterparts in neighbouring states to check the trafficking.
That may be an important step forward since there is no Chhattisgarh Police cell to deal with cases of missing children. The Chhattisgarh Police claims that its priority is the Naxal menace and child recovery isn’t high on their to-do list. This despite the Chhattisgarh Police circulating the Supreme Court guidelines on missing children, which directs the local police to act immediately in such cases. “Currently the local police has been entrusted with the job of locating missing children and we don’t think there is any need for a specialised cell to deal with the issue,” said Additional Director General of Police (CID) S K Paswan. He claimed that they were in the process of compiling the statistics and said the information would be available “shortly”.
When The Indian Express tried to seek the version of DGP O P Rathor, he refused to speak on the issue, firmly saying that no data could be provided on missing children in Chhattisgarh. “I do not want a Nithari-like panic in my state,” Rathor retorted.
Despite the constant reference to the chilling happenings at Nithari and the increasing incidences of crimes against children in Chhattisgarh, Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam also felt that there was no need for the creation of a separate cell to deal with such cases. “We need to understand that the local police is competent in handling the situation,” he said.
It is no wonder then that over 5,000 children have gone missing in Chhattisgarh in the past decade, an alarming 70 percent of them girls. The parents of the victims get very little help from the administration and the search for missing children is almost entirely a family pursuit. A lot of parents, especially in the lower rungs of society, have learnt to cope with the danger in the only way they can; they seldom allow their children to venture out alone.
The Indian ExpressFeb 16,2007
CHENNAI, FEBRUARY 15 :• When E Kathirvel and Nagarani, pavement- dwellers in Pulianthope, woke up on an October morning in 1999, they found their 18 month-old son Sateesh missing. On May 3, 2005, police located the boy. But he had been legally adopted by the Bisessars, a Dutch couple, who had named him Anbu Rohit Bisessar and lived in Almere in the Netherlands. Sateesh spoke only Dutch. The police showed Nagarani a picture of the boy, pinned to a register of a Chennai-based adoption agency, Malaysian Social Service, which was being investigated. “We want him back,” said Nagarani. The police have sought the Centre’s help to bring back Nagarani’s child, now 9.
• Lakshmi Parveen lost 18-month-old Fathima in December 1998. Fathima too was stolen while asleep on a pavement. Seven years later, Varadarajan, an alcoholic who knew Lakshmi’s father, told her it was he who had stolen and sold the child for Rs 2,000. She took him to the police station and his confession uncovered a major adoption racket. Fathima was traced to Neyveli where she lives with her adopted parents. It was during this investigation that Nagarani’s son was traced to the Dutch couple.
If Tamil Nadu police prove that the more than 350 adoptions that Malaysian Social Service processed during 2000 were of children kidnapped from the slums, this could be one of the biggest cases of child trafficking to reach the courts. Booked in the case are P V Ravindranath (who died last year), his wife Vatsala, and son Dinesh Kumar, besides some brokers.
The police record of tracing missing children is, however, good. From 2003 to 2006, of the 8,681 children who went missing, 8,014 were “traced” and 667 were recorded as “untraced”. But much of the credit for the work goes to NGOs who run child helplines in 24 of its 30 districts and work in perfect tandem with police stations and child welfare committees (CWCs), which have been set up in 18 districts. The helplines have proved a lifeline for runaways and children abused where they work.
It was in April 2004 that the police HQ in Chennai provided space to two NGOs, the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) and Don Bosco, in their control room to supervise the child lines. The lines rarely stop ringing, thanks to a well-entrenched network of volunteers and enlightened members of the public, who immediately call the child line when they spot a child who appears to have run away. Since 1999, the organisations have been operating independent helplines too.
The government also has a Missing Child Bureau, under the Department of Social Justice, but the criticism it faces is that it is short-staffed and impeded by bureaucratic lethargy. However, it maintains a website with details of some 300 missing children.
ICCW’s joint secretary Girija Kumar Babu says: “The police in TN are more responsive and responsible than their counterparts in other states.” She said it wasn’t as if police always register cases on their own, but NGOs often play an active role and even help in locating children.
The police and NGOs are also focussing on railway and bus stations. Said T Alagappan, member of a Child Welfare Committee of Chennai, “Trains are the main refuge for runaways.” He gives the example of a girl who ran away from her home in Nepal in 1998 and went to Chennai. Apparently, she wanted to see actor Sridevi.
Many such children are restored by the committees to their parents. Some, like one Pratul from Pune, has refused to go back and now stays and studies in Anbu Illam, a home run by Don Bosco.
Said Chennai Police Commissioner Letika Saran, “We cannot take even a single case lightly. There is a huge risk to children wandering around on their own.”
But Tamil Nadu’s bane has been the alarming number of its children being trafficked, particularly from Cuddalore, Villupuram, Madurai Theni, Dindigul and Ramanathapuram, for labour and prostitution.
“Children of poor families flee villages to cities like Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore and Tiruchy looking for work. Many of them end up in hotels and tea shops as cheap labour or on the roads begging, perhaps even part of an organised begging racket,” said a senior police officer.
In December last year, police bust a begging racket in Tiruchy on the tip-off from a 12-year-old boy who had been held for pick-pocketing. District Collector Ashish Vachani chatted up the boy at the remand home he was kept in and the boy described his horror tale of how he was taken away from his parents when he was seven and tortured with burning cigarettes into learning to pick pockets and steal.
The same night a police team raided two houses in Thiruverambur serving as hideouts for training kidnapped children in burglary and thievery. Four children, including one aged four months, from Nagaland, were freed. They are now in government homes.
“Not always are the police so responsive,” pointed out Vimal Raj, project coordinator of Cuddalore’s Child Line. In January 2006, nine-year-old Ezhilarasi was found with a raw burn wound on her left hand, which she said was caused when her employers poured hot water on her hand. Howling with pain at the Parangipettai bus stand, 30 kms from Cuddalore town the little girl was picked up by members of the public and handed over to the ICCW staff. She had run away from home a year ago, fearing scolding from her mother for beating up her younger brother. According to Vimal Raj, the girl was picked up while wandering around Chidambaram town by a man who sold her for Rs. 2,000 as a domestic worker to Basheer Ahmed, a businessman.
But Ezhilarasi’s woes didn’t end there. She wanted to go back home. “But, the Parangipettai station inspector refused to help. He disbelieved the girl’s story and asked us how her father’s name was Nataraj (a bullock cart puller living in Chidambaram town) when she herself was a Muslim girl,” said Vimal Raj. The ICCW approached the then Cuddalore District SP, Panneerselvam, and managed to reach the girl to her parents. “Now, she is back home and going to school again.”
In fact, the industrial belt in Cuddalore is notorious for touts who buy children from poor villagers and sell them to factory owners.
One such case was that of 14-year-old Lenin. He was purchased by a broker from his parents, Boopathy and Jyothilakshmi of Naduveeranpatti, 5 km from Cuddalore town, to work in a leather factor near Bangalore, with the promise that they would be given Rs 1,000 monthly for their son’s services. After about five months last year, Lenin’s parents wanted him to come home for Diwali. But the employer refused to send the boy. The monthly payments too stopped.
When the father went along with some relatives to meet the boy in the factory, he was told Lenin was not there. Even ICCW’s attempts to trace the boy failed, with the factory owner, whose relatives live in Cuddalore, claiming they had no clue of the boy’s whereabouts.
Said Tiruchy SP Ashok Kumar Das: “All the missing cases in the districts are kept alive. Whenever we get a case of a missing child, the information is immediately passed on to our seniors, who in turn inform the state police headquarters in Chennai and a state-wide search is activated.” People in TN are also very aware of their rights, pointed out the officer, comparing the scenario to Orissa, his home state.
“Once we got a case of two minor boys (brothers) running away from their home in Lalgudi (about 20 kms from Tiruchy). Even as we were trying to follow up the case, the father of the boys had dashed off petitions to the district Collector, DIG, DGP and even the Chief Minister,” said the SP. The two boys were finally traced to a factory in Bangalore, where they had been working. They were restored to their family. But information collated by the Crime Records Bureau for the year 2005 is quite disturbing.
Of the total 1,143 female children and 772 male children reported missing that year, 27 girls were kidnapped (probably for prostitution); a girl and a boy were trafficked; six girls and a boy kidnapped for begging on the streets; one boy child murdered (suspected to have been offered as sacrifice by a tantrik); 250 boys and 289 girls ran away from their homes after being scolded by their parents; 140 boys and 59 girls fled their homes after failing their examinations; five boys and seven girls ran away fearing arrest for petty acts of rebellion like throwing stones at their neighbour’s houses etc; and 170 boys and 263 girls were feared to have been lost during temple festivals and big gatherings and for “other reasons.”
The survey, to begin next month, will also try to find out how many of those missing were forced into flesh trade or bonded labour.
This is the first time that such a database is being created, a district official said.
“We are certain that the actual number of missing persons is higher than the number registered with police,” district magistrate .S. Meena said.
Officials said a UNDP study had revealed that about 15 lakh girls had been trafficked from Bengal over the past 10 years.
The Telegraph had carried a series of reports on how girls were smuggled out of the state with the promise of a better life outside.
“For a 12 or 14-year-old girl from a labourer’s family that lives on at best Rs 1,500 a month, the lure of a job in Mumbai or Delhi, which can fetch up to Rs 1,200 a month is too much to resist,” an official said.
“These girls often go on their own. But in many cases, the parents push them into the unknown.”
Once in a while, Bengal police go to Mumbai, Pune, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or Bihar to rescue them.
“After rescuing these girls, we often realise that their parents had not even lodged a missing complaint. We want to get to the bottom of why such disappearances are not registered. The survey will help us bust the rackets that are in operation,” Meena said.
The social welfare department and the police would jointly conduct the survey. “They will seek the help of the panchayats to trace unrecorded cases.”