Faridabad maid’s death: One held, second autopsy likely

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NEW DELHI: Six days after a tribal girl from Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal was found dead in mysterious circumstances at the residence of her employers in sector 49, the Faridabad police arrested the owner of a Delhi-based placement agency, Rafiq, on Saturday. He had been booked on the basis of an FIR on a complaint of the deceased domestic worker’s mother. With a second postmortem to establish the cause of death expected only by Monday, the girl’s decomposing body, for now protected by ice bars, lies in an ill-equipped and mice-infested “dead house” in Faridabad.

The police personnel of Dabua Chowki, under Saran police station, arrested Rafiq, who owns Laxmi Placement Agency in Tughlaqabad. He had allegedly brought the girl from her village after taking the consent of a relative, according to the mother, who was unaware of her daughter’s presence in the city.

The police will also be investigating the role of the affluent family that hired the girl for house work in March allegedly for a meagre Rs 3500 despite the fact that she appeared to be a minor. The police have registered a case against both the placement agency owner and her employers under sections related to kidnapping, trafficking, child labour, abetment to suicide and Juvenile Justice Act applicable to minors. The mother also wants a case to be registered under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

The mother, herself a domestic worker employed in Janakpuri, has alleged that her daughter was only 13 and a very strong person who could not have committed suicide. She has claimed that the child, who was going to school in her village, was brought to Delhi without informing her husband who was taking care of the children while she worked in the capital.

The mother has, meanwhile, expressed shock to learn that a postmortem had already been conducted without her permission and the report declared it to be an ordinary death due to hanging, making it a case of suicide. She has now sought a fresh post-mortem.

Compounding the tragedy is the growing concern over the decomposing body and desperate search for space for burial. Social workers from NGO Shakti Vahini were seen frantically reaching out to different Christian institutions as they tried to seek space in a cemetery. “We were shocked when confronted by the demand for a certificate to show that she was a Catholic Christian before she could get burial space. When we told them that we did not have any such document and explained the situation, we were turned away,” said Rishikant of the NGO.

Similar resistance to burying a minor domestic worker from Jharkhand was witnessed last year and had led the NCPCR to issue directions wherein a list of churches and pastors in Delhi was drawn up for such cases. On Saturday too former NCPCR member Vinod Tikoo reached out to YMCA to intervene in the matter and resolve the crisis.

Girl trafficked from Bengal rescued

UTTAR PRADESH TRAFFICKING CASEPUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

A 15-year-old girl trafficked from Murshidabad district of West Bengal was rescued from a village in Shahjahanpur district in Uttar Pradesh on Friday.

The rescue operation was jointly conducted by the police forces of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh along with NGO Shakti Vahini. According to the police, the minor girl was trafficked by one Murjina (40) who sold her as a “bride” to a resident of the Uttar Pradesh village.

“The alleged trafficker, a resident of Sardarpara of Murshidabad district, approached the girl and asked if she wanted to learn shakha pola , traditional bangles worn by married Bengali women. Both became friends and nearly a week later, Murjina convinced her to visit her house, where she offered her food that made her unconscious. On the same day she was taken to Delhi by train,” the police said.

In the Capital, Murjina, a factory worker in Delhi, used to take the victim with her to the workplace so that she could not escape.

“After 10/12 days the girl was handed over to a man who married her forcefully. She was then confined in his house in a remote Uttar Pradesh village, from where she was rescued,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.

The police were tipped-off about her whereabouts in the Mundka area of Delhi. The West Bengal police team reached Delhi and coordinated with the Shakti Vahini team. A raid was conducted in Mundka on Friday and a person Santosh was detained. He, a cousin of the alleged trafficker, confessed that the girl was confined in the U.P. village.

The police and the NGO team rushed to Shahjahanpur district and contacted the local police. With their assistance the girl was rescued. She was then brought to Delhi by the police team, which was accompanied by her father. “The girl will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee, Murshidabad. As per the direction of the Child Welfare Committee she will be given care and protection,” the police said.

Assam girl sold & raped in Haryana flees captivity

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PANKAJ SARMA IN THE TELEGRAPH

Guwahati, Feb. 5: A 22-year-old girl from Assam’s Udalguri district, who was sold to a man in Haryana for Rs 80,000 and allegedly gang raped, recently managed to flee the clutches of her captor.

The victim, who belongs to a poor family, was reportedly trafficked for the purpose of forced marriage by her aunt Meena Kumari, who sold her to a resident of Haryana, Suresh.

The victim used to work as an assistant in a garments shop in Guwahati and was lured by Meena Kumari, a resident of Fatasil Ambari here, to visit Sirsa in Haryana on the pretext of visiting her daughter.

On May 7 last year, the victim boarded a Delhi-bound train with her aunt. On reaching Delhi the next day, she was taken to Jind district in Haryana, about 130km from Delhi, and forced to stay in a house for four days. Her aunt told her that she would come back after which they would go to her daughter’s place together. But Meena did not return, the victim told counsellors of Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO, its spokesperson Rishi Kant said.

After four days, the girl was sold to Suresh, a resident of Haryana’s Kaithal district and the son of a daily wage earner, for Rs 80,000.

The victim told the counsellors that Suresh and his cousin Mahavir raped her. “Suresh even put pressure on her to bear his child. When she refused, she was beaten up severely,” Kant said, quoting the victim.

The girl said she was forced to do all kinds of household work like washing and cleaning. Suresh confined her in his house and subjected her to the worst form of slavery. She would perform household chores the whole day and at night she was sexually abused by Suresh and Mahavir.

“On January 26, the victim managed to escape and reached Kurukshetra, about 50km away, where she narrated her sordid tale to a person who took her to the railway police who referred the case to Kaithal police. Both the accused have been arrested, along with Meena.

Kant said when Shakti Vahini contacted the victim’s family, “her elder brother told us that they did not have any information about her whereabouts”. Kant said the victim’s family members would go to Delhi to bring her back.

A case was registered under different sections of the IPC at Rajound police station in Kaithal district on January 31. The victim is now lodged at Nari Niketan, a women’s shelter home at Karnal in Haryana.

Several such cases have come to light recently. In December last year, police rescued a 32-year-old woman — a mother of two kids and a minor girl from Haryana. Last month, some minor girls trafficked to work as domestics were rescued from Delhi.

25 more anti-human trafficking cells in Odisha

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIAM_Id_451072_Odisha

BHUBANESWAR: The state government has decided to extend Integrated Anti-Human Trafficking Units (IAHTUs) to 25 more district police headquarters to effectively combat trafficking, kidnapping, forcible marriage, sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children in the state.

While the IAHTUs currently function from 12 police headquarters, including the Crime Branch, the finance department two days ago sanctioned to open such units in 25 other districts. The state government’s decision to set up IAHTUs across the state came close on the heels of a Supreme Court directive, asking all states to open at least one IAHTU in each district.

“The finance department has sanctioned extension of the units to 25 other districts. Each unit would be headed by an inspector and assisted by seven constables. The units will take preventive steps to check women and child trafficking and investigate such cases,” ADG (Crime Branch) B K Sharma told TOI.

Crime Branch is the nodal agency of Odisha police to supervise the functioning of the IAHTUs in the state. Sources said nearly 2,000 cases relating to women and child trafficking were registered at 12 IAHTUs in Odisha last year.

The home department has asked the units to identify vulnerable areas from where women are being trafficked and train young women from weak financial background, prone to trafficking, to make themselves economically sound. “The units will have regular interface with women and child development department and NGOs to find out the high-incidence districts to track the source, route and destination places of illegal trafficking of girls and women. Preventive measures will be taken to curb the menace,” Sharma said.

Alarmed at the growing incidence of trafficking in women and children in Odisha, the state government in December 2009 formulated a policy to address the issue. “The policy provides adequate steps for psychological support, economic empowerment and reintegration to ensure that the rescued victims of trafficking do not get drawn into the trade again due to non-availability of other options for livelihood,” said a police officer.

“Though the government established the units, child and women trafficking continues unabated. The government should appoint police officers to exclusively investigate such cases,” said Rutuparna Mohanty, a social activist. “Most women and children are trafficked to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Chhatisgarh and in some cases to Andhra Pradesh, where they are sexually exploited,” Mohanty said.

Brutalised migrants of western Odisha

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU
The chopping off of the palms of two migrant workers is a wake-up call

The gruesome incident of the chopping off of the palms of two migrant labourers of Kalahandi district of western Odisha by the labour contractor mafia in December 2013 should serve as a wake-up call. The incident highlights the ruthless extent to which the mafia can go to meet its ends and brings home the fact that more than 60 years after Independence, the poorest in our country still remain woefully unprotected.

The incident took place after the workers, who had taken an advance from a labour contractor to work in the brick kilns of Hyderabad, got into a dispute with him regarding the payment and place of work. When the dispute could not be resolved, two of them had to pay this terrible price. Gruesome as it is in itself, the incident is but the proverbial tip of the iceberg of a sordid modern day version of human trafficking and the slave trade, exploiting the most vulnerable and robbing them of their dignity. Yes, the police have arrested some of those responsible and the administration has further taken action to stop migrants from going out. Unless more fundamental steps are taken, the impact of such punitive action is more than likely to be undone by the migrants themselves, who see no choice but to hit the migration trail.

Distress-induced

The Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region of western Odisha has long been known for all the wrong reasons — starvation deaths, drought, famines, poverty and distress, and, over the past six years or so, Maoism. With unproductive landholdings and very few means of sustenance, the rural poor are plunged into crisis every year. Their only option is to migrate to other States in search of work. Among the most favoured destinations for them are the brick kilns firing the construction boom in cities such as Hyderabad. A well-entrenched chain of labour contractors and middlemen, starting from dons based in Andhra Pradesh and going down to touts located in the interior villages of the KBK districts, organise the trafficking of labour from these villages to the cities. Every year, after the 60-day paddy crop is harvested around the beginning of September, comes the festival of nuakhai, meaning “eating new rice,” an old tradition of western Odisha. Poor families take an advance from the labour contractors at this time. Soon after, men, women and children start migrating in large numbers to pay off this advance by offering their labour to the contractors. A documentary produced by the National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations on MGNREGA movingly depicts the lives, journeys and choices of these families. They live on brick kiln sites in makeshift shanties, braving the harsh weather with no protection. With no toilets and no sources of drinking water, these sites are hotbeds of misery and disease. Sexual exploitation of women is rampant. On the journey, travelling with their belongings and children in overcrowded trains, people lose life and limb. Attempts to escape from the work site can meet with instant and ruthless reprisal as the two migrants found out. Children are preferred in the brickmaking industry because they are short, so while filling brickmaking frames with mud, they need not bend down like adults. Also, when freshly made bricks are piled up, there is no space for an adult to walk and overturn the bricks for drying. Children can walk on top of the bricks and overturn them without causing damage. So, the labour is contracted according to the traditional pathariya system, where pathariya is a work unit comprising a man, a woman and one or two children. And, in the process, every law of the land is violated to keep India shining.

A study carried out in Nuapada district of western Odisha, at the request of the district authorities some years ago, concluded that the out-migration is distress-induced. That this needed to be established may look ridiculous at first sight. But the significance of this conclusion cannot be underlined enough, for sadly, in government circles, an unwritten code prohibits acceptance of the distress nature of this migration. The logic is deadly simple — if this migration is accepted as distress-induced, the responsibility rests with the administration to stop it. The study further estimated that more than half the rural population in the district is migrant, with more than one-third of these migrants being women and about 13 per cent being children. This human trafficking fetches the touts, middlemen and mafia dons huge profits, with the turnover of the migration industry of western Odisha estimated to be more than Rs.500 crore per annum. An industry of this size cannot exist, let alone thrive, without the patronage of the powerful. And it is widely known in the area that political vested interests, cutting across party lines, are firmly behind this organised racket. No wonder then, that the study on Nuapada was dead before arrival! A look at the way migrant labour is forced to live at migration sites, however, should permanently put to rest any notion that these people will prefer to migrate if they actually have a choice. The point is that they migrate because they do not have a choice. And the tragedy is that being prisoners of circumstance, they too have started believing that this is indeed a choice they are making.

Toward sustainable livelihoods

But the work of several civil society organisations acting in close connect with these migrant families in Nuapada and Bolangir districts shows that given an alternative these people will never go back to “Hyderabad,” a synonym in their eyes of what can go terribly wrong with their lives. Such work also holds out the promise of the change that can be made to happen if the administration decides to muster the requisite will. These organisations have mobilised the rural poor to form MGNREGA wage-seeker committees. These committees try to ensure that MGNREGA plans are made according to priorities that the village community decides, that work is opened on time and wage payments are not delayed. Working closely with selected gram panchayats, these organisations have helped to create assets for sustainable livelihoods of the poor. The results, though on a small scale, are there for all to see. Farm ponds made at a modest cost of Rs.30,000 or so, have provided protective irrigation to the paddy crop and stopped distress migration for several hundred families, in some cases, reversing a trend which has been going on for two or three generations. Enterprising farmers have topped up this public investment with private investment and use the water remaining in the farm ponds after the harvest of the paddy crop for fish-farming and growing vegetables in their backyards. In some cases, community water harvesting structures have helped to give protective irrigation to several hundred acres of paddy fields downstream. Assured employment and timely wages have given workers the confidence that they can break the stranglehold of the contractors. The documentary referred to earlier, and screened in Bolangir and Nuapada districts in several village and panchayat meetings, helped to sensitise the administration and panchayat leaders to the fragile existence of these migrants. Officers with fire in their belly resolved to work hand-in-hand with civil society to leverage MGNREGA so as to stem this migration. In May 2013, the Odisha Panchayati Raj Department, after meetings with these migrant families, announced that the job guarantee would be extended to 150 days per family in the districts of Bolangir and Nuapada. Micro-plans for 150 villages were made with the support of civil society. But, tragically, the officers who had shown the courage to take on the mafia were soon transferred, giving credence to the belief that “big brother” is still all powerful.

But as these examples show, a lot can be done, with the requisite political and administrative will and imaginative partnerships with civil society. The State government needs to ensure that there are dedicated human resources to execute well-made MGNREGA and rural livelihood plans. A provision for this has been made through the Cluster Facilitation Teams provided for under MGNREGA 2.0. Without this capacity in place, extending the job guarantee beyond 100 days is unlikely to go very far. It further needs to work in mission mode for ensuring outcomes, for if employment opportunities or wage payments are delayed, the migrants will go back to the migration route. In its efforts, the government should partner with civil society to achieve better quality of outcomes. All this requires that the distress nature of this migration is first accepted. And that, in line with the recent Supreme Court ruling, officers are provided a minimum security of tenure so that the best of them may be chosen for the task of reconstructing rural Odisha.

(Pramathesh Ambasta is convener, National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations on MGNREGA.)

Sale…Sale….

ei samay 3

EI SAMAY

It’s 1 a.m. I peep through my burkha to scan the nearly empty street. I’m a bit frightened. After all, this is Delhi. Post-nirbhaya Delhi.

But fear won’t aid me today as I wait under the designated light post.

Oily hair. Faded shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Dirty jeans. The man I am waiting for, approaches swiftly. Then an urgent whisper, ‘C-337′ (this was the code given to me, the buyer, for that particular girl. that is how the traffickers work, through code names and numbers).

‘Never ever reveal your identity’, I had been told. I tiptoe with the conversation accordingly. The details of the trade slowly start emerging. I ask him his name. Suddenly he is pissed off.

‘Are naam se kya lena dena? maine kuch pucha kya? kam hone se to matlab…’ I quickly relent. True. Why do I need names when I get the girl? We start talking business.

Business, that is bargaining. He asks me, ‘kab lagega? kaisi chahiye – dubli-patli-gori-kali..?’

I am caught off the guard. Didn’t expect such direct queries. First time at this, you see! Gathering myself, I specify, ‘thin, fair. Should be good in household work. It’s for the agency…’

‘Consider your job done. Come back after a couple of days. 3 lakhs is the price. Agreed..?’

I was speechless for a while. The value of one woman is 3 lakhs? I try to clarify, ‘I need just one girl. 3 lakhs bahot zada nahi hai..?’

He is unrelenting. Everything is getting pricier these days. Why would girls be any different? It seems I am losing the bargain. The pimp is clear – he has to make many pockets happy. The price cannot be lessened. I give in. the deal is struck. (This also I was told beforehand, not to bargain too much. If I peeve the pimp out, our mission won’t be accomplished.)

He tells me to come back after 2 days. Same spot on G.B. Road, Delhi. He takes my number, doesn’t give his.

The streets are deserted now. But not the shacks lining the road. They are brimming with clients. Clients of woman flesh. Sound of a brawl drifts out from one of the rooms. The babu and the kothi malkin are in dispute over the rates.

This is G.B. Road. The prostitution haven of the national capital, where everyday countless girls pour in from every corner of the country. Rather, they are forced to. Once their purses have been filled, the police chooses to look away. How many girls are trafficked thus every day? No cohesive statistics is possible. The numbers are too huge.

From the conversations it was not clear how the pimp would supply me the girl. But it’s not tough to gather. The girls, more than usually from the poorest of poor backgrounds, are lured in and then trapped by offers and promises they cannot refuse. And then they pass on from hand to hand to reach their destination, pre-ordained by the codes and numbers.

Sometimes it’s marriage. Sometimes the lure of a well-paid job. Promise of a lovely future. Promise of visiting the Taj mahal.

Love is the most common and effective technique here. One of the traffickers makes friends with one of the young beauties in the village. How? Her mobile number is tracked from one of the villagers who had been spying on her from before. The missed calls from an unknown number start. 7-8 times a day. With that, texts declaring undying love.

The rest is accomplished by her tender age and inexperience. Soon they meet in person. By now the girl is completely trapped in the web of love. The ‘boyfriend’, leveraged by her trust, then spreads the net some more. He takes her out to a fair.

Police and N.G.O statistics show, village fairs are the hotspots for targeting and trafficking victims. Specially the Durgapuja and Charak fairs. How does it happen? In the fair, suddenly some other ‘friends’ of the ‘boyfriend’ appear. At designated time, the ‘boyfriend’ receives an urgent call that requires him to go off for a while. The girl stays on with the ‘friends’. One of them buys her cold drink, which usually contains a specific kind of drug. A variant of the date rape drug prevalent in the west, these drugs can knock you unconscious for at least 48 hours. The unsuspecting victim drinks and falls prey.

By the time the drug wears off, the girl is already in an unknown place like Delhi, Mumbai or Pune. She then is passed on and on, finally to the main supplier. From there, some prostitute’s kothi or domestic help agency or a beggar racket becomes her new address.

The trafficking racket functions with such precision and organization. After the amendment of criminal laws of the country, human trafficking is considered ‘organized crime’. But the ground reality remains unchanged.

2 days after I received a call from an unknown number. The C-337 supplier. He directed me to be present on the same spot with the money. That night, I, in the guise of Fatima Bibi was present there with 3 lakh rupees. With me were two officers from the anti-human trafficking unit.

A 14 year old girl was rescued that day. The supplier was arrested. Trial is on.

But the story doesn’t end here. Most of the time these pimps are let off. The reason? Witnesses don’t turn up. There’s the fear of social stigma. Also of retribution from the racket. In many cases traffickers are aided by the police itself. They prepare the escape route by constructing weak cases. A senior officer of the Delhi Police, in strict condition of anonymity, revealed, ‘many of our officers help those rackets. They receive money from those rackets. The kothi maiks have bought them off.’

But why do they do this? Such shameless objectification of human beings, where the value of a girl is decided by her complexion and body? What are the perks?

For every girl trafficked, the small-time pimps acquire 50-70 thousand rupees. The middling ones get about a lakh. The rest goes to the big players. About 7-8 girls are trafficked every year. Why would they do anything else!

C-337 was a lucky girl. She could go back to her parents. But the Fatima Bibis don’t reach every girl. And there are too many of them. Each day, the numbers grow.

Info

  • The network is so vast that the big players never get caught. The small-time pimps and suppliers are arrested most often
  • The racket works in four points – source-transit-collection point-destination
  • The people working in each point do not have any information on how the other points are working. Each zone works separately, with local sources

How the racket works

  • Targeting the girl/girls
  • Planning and bringing the girl till the transit point (this does not happen in every case)
  • Bringing the girl close to the destination
  • On reaching destination, supplying the girl to the buyer

The Story of Lakshmi

EI SAMAY WEST BENGAL

PUBLISHED IN EI SAMAY KOLKATTA

Story of Lakshmi

She is trying hard to rub off that thin red line from her forehead. It must disappear. It was not a marriage, but a forceful association for a few days.

This was the first taste of freedom for this 20-year old Bengali girl in the last 6 months- the freedom from a prison named ‘sasural’. She fell short of words when she was trying to reframe the intensity of torture that she had faced there. All she wanted to do was to collapse into the arms of her ailing mother and her elder brother. But she was yet unaware of the fact that she was bearing a child for 3 months. She did not know who the ‘father’ was. So it had to be aborted.

Yes, this is a true story, the story of a poor girl from Jalpaiguri. But this is not the world of fantasy; there is no light here, only a fade silver line bordering the dark clouds of terror.

Surrounded by the hills and tea gardens of Kalchini was a small village, where Laxmi (name changed) had grown up with her family. But this outwardly serene place was devastated from within. It is one of the hot beds of human trafficking in Bengal. Girls are regularly traded to Delhi from here. The traffickers entrap these girls garbed as lovers, well-wishers and sometimes by promising lucrative jobs.

Since childhood, Laxmi was suffering from ill health, which kept her parents anxious. Local conventional remedies had failed to show any effect. Adding to this agony, Laxmi’s father passed away, marking an end to the sole source of income in the family. The eldest sister, who was married, took a work in the tea gardens. But the meagre amount that she earned was not enough to keep together their body and soul, and medical treatment was unthinkable. Being the youngest of the four children, Laxmi was loved by all the family members. In spite of the extreme poverty, she remained the centre of her brothers’ worlds.

On one such day, while she was helping her mother in cooking, suddenly one Muhammad appeared. Around 40 years of age, this man was a familiar face in the locality. Although his whereabouts were not known, people knew that he had gained the adoration of the villagers by proving himself a ‘philanthropist.’

This Muhammad was a spotter. People like him, at first get friendly with the village heads and acquire the minute details of vulnerable groups. Then they befriended that family or the girls, what happened in this case. According to police, Muhammad convinced them to go to Delhi.

Lakshmi is not a healthy girl, her brother is dumb —- nothing evades Muhammad’s eyes. Thus, he started his story of ‘Miracle Baba’ of Haryana, who is known as panacea. His touch made everyone healthy and wealthy. So Lakshmi too would be cured, so would be her brother. ‘Unbelievable’!! As if Lakshmi and family had been waiting for this moment.

Thus, they started for Delhi via Howrah. All of them boarded Poorva Express along with Muhammad. They didn’t have to pay anything; all expenses were borne by the traffickers.

But as soon as they got off at New Delhi station, some men, who look like Goondas, surrounded them. They took Lakshmi and family to a car, which was waiting outside. Since then Muhammad was silent, as if he didn’t even know Lakshmi or any of her family members.

They heard that the Goondas were calling him ‘Rajinder’, not Muhammad.

Something must be wrong, they suspected, but Lakshmi couldnot measure the magnanimity of it. According to Police, by taking several fake names, these gangs operate. Sometimes they just hand them over, sometimes they sell on their own.

The car stopped at Khedi Mansingh village of Haryana. It’s a village by looks, but no proximity with green Bengali villages. Some unknown person became custodian of Lakshmi.

The very next day, the dumb brother and mother of Lakshmi were kicked out in worst possible manner. They were sent back to Jalpaiguri. Thus ended their contact with Lakshmi.

The innocent girl was captivated in the murkiest life. Though, one of her brother’s was allowed to stay back.

Where Lakshmi was staying, each evening there used to be a Majlish. Customers used to come from different villages of Haryana. No, not only for a night’s pleasure, but also to buy wives.

Don’t be surprised. Due to the alarming number of female foeticide, it is girl-less. So, buying and selling of wives are rampant.

What was done to Lakshmi?

She was brought well dressed. The potential buyers used to touch her in various places, the touch which was never desirable. Nights after nights, she was raped by different persons. Not only them, the owner of the house too assaulted Lakshmi and forcefully made ‘love’ with her.

Facing these atrocities, three months passed. Suddenly, she got to know that she was getting married. The groom was a widower with a little kid, named Chandan from the same village.

Lakshmi had to bite the bullet.

But was it a marriage?

According to Hindu Shastra, marriage has been defined as ‘unconditional surrender of soul and body to the spouse’. If we go by this definition, it was nothing but a forceful sexual encounter.

Thanks to female foeticide, Haryana doesn’t have many girls alive. So, there is huge crirsis of girls of marriageable age. According to NGO reports, forced marriage in this region have become an industry. Everything happens in front of police. Khap panchayat is there to give the diktat. Thus, buying of brides an open secret, no one protests. Exactly what happened to Lakshmi too.

The script was perfect. Her marriage took place at Chandan’s elder sister’s home in a different village. Lakshmi’s brother too was brought there. He was threatened to be killed if he didn’t give his ashirvaad to his sister. By immense coercion and threat, the marriage became reality. The photograph of the brother giving blessings to his sister was kept an evidence of ‘all is well’ marriage saga.

Once the marriage was over, the brother was beaten up and was sent back to Jalpaiguri.

Lakshmi was left alone.

Her sasural was nothing but a prison, you may call it hell as well. So many people, all of them treated Lakshmi as maid.

Moreover, it was a total cultural shift for her. Neither language, nor food habit matches with her. She was staying just besides the pen. The filthy place was full of cowdung and other things.

Most of the day, Lakshmi couldn’t eat. Fasting was her normal feature. Praying to god was her only job. The tears made her vision unclear. Tears, her only companion, may be for the rest of her life.

She was tired of hearing that childbearing is the sole job for her. She was repeatedly raped, tortured, tormented.

Lakshmi, who is otherwise a quiet girl suddenly got a strange power. May be, when something hits a dead end, it is the norm. so one day, she ran way. But luck was not with  her. She was taken back by her husband and others. Now, she had to stay in the cowshed, she had to go to her room everynight to ‘satisfy’ her husband.

So, when her didi-jija reached with the rescue team, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Is she dreaming? Isn’t it so good to be true?

Her elder sister didn’t waste a single moment to give her a warm hug and wiping away her tears. By that time police force and NGO had surrounded the home. And all the village heads were there to see, what was happening.

Lakshmi was soon taken to the magistrate. She was handed over to her elder sister.

But neither the rescue operation, nor the event after that was easy. ‘bahurani ko uthake laya hai’ sighting the reason Panchayat members followed the rescue team to Police station and magistrate’s office. The head of them requested the NGO man Rishi Kant that he wanted to have a talk with Lakshmi. He even asked, whether any journalist was present. My identity was then that of an NGO worker, not a scribe. So he told that what’s wrong in this delaing, Chandan’s image would be soiled if Lakshmi was taken away in this way. He even used threat factors, so that the girl could be sent back.

This is not an exception. This is a normal practice; the village boy will be bad named as ‘ghar ka ijjat’ bride is abducted!  But Shakti Vahini and police had tried their best to keep Lakshmi with her family.

Lakshmi is now living with her family. Tagging her as a ‘bad girl’, her family didn’t disown her. She is back to life, again.

What could be the better silver lining than this?

Odisha’s vicious migration cycle: ‘Do you want to part with your leg or hand?’

M_Id_451072_Odisha

PUBLISHED IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS

A December night two desperate men, held captive by a labour contractor, were asked this, and had to make a choice. DEBABRATA MOHANTY reports on the latest victims of Orissa’s vicious migration cycle

It had been a fortnight that Dialu Niyal and Nilambar Dhangdamajhi had been held captive and subjected to physical and verbal abuse. Nothing though had prepared them for what happened on December 15 night deep in a forest of Bolangir district. Labour contractor Parvesh Duni and his accomplices dragged them there and Duni, the two say, asked them which of their limbs they would rather lose: a leg or a hand.

“For a moment I was bewildered. Then Nilambar muttered to the contractor that if we have legs at least, we could walk for the rest of our lives. We told the contractor he could take our hands,” says Niyal, speaking over the phone from his bed in VSS Medical College and Hospital in Burla, Sambalpur district. “They were arguing whether to kill us or leave us maimed. They concluded that they would chop the hand with which we had taken the advance for working in a kiln. First they chopped off Nilambar’s right palm with an axe. As he was howling in pain, they held my right hand and someone landed a blow. Both of us passed out.”

As soon as they came to, they hurried to a nearby hillock and hid. “Despite profusely bleeding, the two walked up the hill and climbed down to a farmer’s barn the next morning. The farmer, after hearing their story, took them to the bus stop. A villager offered them a cheap plastic bag to cover their wounds. They took a bus to reach Bhawanipatna town of Kalahandi, where the locals took them to a hospital,” says Kirtan Nayak, a journalist.

As the news spread, the Kalahandi district administration cracked down. Three days after they had allegedly left Niyal and Dhangdamajhi to die, Duni and his aides — Bana Majhi, Baikuntha Rout, Arjun Bhoi and Gangadhar Dash — were arrested from Nuapara district.

Lying on adjacent beds, Niyal, a 22-year-old illiterate and landless Dalit youth from Pipalguda village, and Dhangdamajhi, a 32-year-old tribal farmer and father of two from Nuaguda village — both from Kalahandi district — say they met for the first time on November 30, when with 10 other villagers from Jaipatna block of Kalahandi district, they set off with Duni’s men for work in Chhattisgarh. Midway they came to know that they would be sent to brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh instead. The 10 others managed to flee, Niyal and Dhangdamajhi paid the price. Duni allegedly took out his anger on them as he had paid the 12 of them Rs 14,000 each, in advance, to work at a brick kiln.

Thousands of villagers like them from the impoverished Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi travel to Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra every year to work in brick kilns.

In Jaipatna, even the rise in agriculture productivity has done nothing for the likes of Niyal and Dhangdamajhi. Schemes like NREGA which the government hoped would prevent migration have been an unqualified disaster in Kalahandi. In 2012-13, out of 74,599 households in the district which got NREGA work, 3,695 housesholds, or less than 5 per cent, got 100 days of work. This year less than 1 per cent of the 63,217 households which got NREGA work have got 100 days’ work. In such a situation, says B K Upadhyay, the district collector, “People fall for the advance from contractors.”

Though officially in the Above Poverty Line category, Niyal’s family of five scrounges for a living. The family of Dhangdamajhi, which has a house under the Indira Awas Yojana and 3 acres of land, lives by selling kendu leaves. “Having two square meals for my sons is a dream,” says Dhangdamajhi.

In November, Duni, through his agent Baikuntha Rout, came offering Rs 14,000 each to the 12 villagers. They left Kalahandi with the 12, including four children, first heading for Khariar road in Nuapada district, from where Duni arranged a bus for them to Raipur. After they reached Raipur on December 5, Duni allegedly told them that they would have to go to Hyderabad. “This led to arguments with Duni and his agents, who insisted that the villagers would have to go to Hyderabad as they had been paid in advance,” says Kalahandi SP Sarthak Sarangi.

Though the 12 villagers boarded a train to Hyderabad, six slipped away between Raipur and Gondia. “The other six were caught by the agents at Raipur station on December 6. Of them, two husband-wife couples escaped after Railway Protection Force men intervened. Niyal and Dhangadamajhi were unlucky,” adds the SP. According to the two, the next day, they were taken to Duni’s village Kotmal, kept under house arrest and made to work in his fields. “Duni and his men kept asking us to get Rs 2 lakh, saying they had paid

Rs 1.68 lakh for the 12 of us. They contacted our families, threatening to kill us if the money was not paid. We told them we could never pay them,” says Niyal.

On December 15 evening, the two were taken in an SUV to Belpada forest in Bolangir, where their hands were cut. Duni and his men allegedly threw the severed palms into a pond nearby and left the two bleeding on the forest road, thinking they would die.

While Orissa Labour Department officials say that 1.18 lakh people migrate every year from the state for work, it has done no survey to determine that figure. According to Umi Daniel, head of Migration Thematic Unit of Aide et Action South Asia, “The numbers could be more than a million. Almost every year KBK (Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi) districts face drought-like situation which results in mass migration. The labour contractors come to villages before winter and pay advances for work in brick kilns. The money helps people pay off their debt. The next year is the same story. It’s a business of at least Rs 100 crore, which keeps local politicians, sarpanchs, labour contractors and policemen enriched.”

Existing laws have proved ineffective. As per the Inter State Migrant Workman Act, 1979, each job contractor who hires at least five labourers for work outside the state is supposed to register himself with the District Labour Officer. But the threat of Rs 1,000 fine and three-month imprisonment is hardly a deterrent for defaulting contractors. Last year, the Orissa government signed an MoU with Andhra Pradesh for reducing vulnerabilities of migrant workers. Orissa is supposed to get job contractors and their list of labourers registered with the district labour office. In Kalahandi, only three contractors have registered. The contractor taking villagers from Jaipatna block was unregistered.

While the state government has announced relief measures for Niyal and Dhangdamajhi, including assistance for an artificial limb, NREGS job card, disability pension and monetary assistance of Rs 4 lakh, Niyal wonders why they had to lose their hands for the government to take note of their plight.

This attention too will last only briefly. P K Baliarsingh, Assistant Labour Commissioner, blames the problem on the labourers, saying “these people are so greedy they fall for the advance given by contractors”. “Do you think we have the necessary staff to deal with all this?” he adds.

Human trafficking rampant in coastal Andhra

By Sulogna Mehta, Published in The Times Of India

VISAKHAPATNAM: In the last six months alone, eight minor girls were rescued from commercial sex workers’ dens in the city as well as from tribal and coastal areas, while a year ago 22 women and minor girls facing sexual harassment were rescued from a brick kiln in Andhra Odisha border, say NGOs. But shockingly none of these cases either found their way to the police records or none of the culprits were booked under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

Trafficking of children and underage girls is rampant in the coastal districts of AP, especially in Agency and coastal areas. Even though the government officials, NGOs and police unanimously admit to it, most of these cases of exploitation take place on the sly, with the result that no cases have been registered under the ITPA.

This despite the police and women-child welfare officials concerned realizing that it is high time they activate the existing district level committees and anti-trafficking squads to step up vigilance. Currently, the existing committees are allegedly lying in a dormant state and lack the teeth being stringent enough to bring the culprits to book.

Girls from this region are mostly trafficked to Goa and Mumbai and sold in brothels or used in sex tourism. Absence of proper vigil and sensitisation programmes among police and district administration has led to an increase in trafficking even though the heinous crime goes unrecorded,” said B Ramu, executive secretary, Grama Swarajya Samithi (GSS), an NGO that works for women and child welfare. “In fact, even if girls are rescued, the cases are not booked under ITPA but are diluted into offences like creating nuisance etc. Most of the victims also suffer from various sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.” added Ramu.

“Taking advantage of the loss of their traditional occupation (agriculture), debt trap, poverty and unemployment, often pimps in disguise lure them with promise of jobs and marriage. With industrialisation, tourism projects and real estate activities, strangers and outsiders have been coming into the region in the guise of contract workers and migrant labourers and some of them are even indulging in trafficking,” Ramu explained

D Bangarapapa, circle inspector, district crime records bureau admitted that pimps and traffickers frequent the tribal and rural areas in the guise of migrants. “There’s no doubt that such trafficking of children and women is taking place in the vulnerable areas of the city, villages as well as the Agency areas such as Araku and Paderu. But since no complaints are filed, we can’t register cases under ITPA. There is also no active district-level committee to look into this issue,” she said.

Concurring that there’s an urgent need to curb trafficking, especially of underage girls, A E Robert, project director of the women and child welfare department, Vizag, said, “We are soon going to activate community vigilant groups in all villages of the district and sensitise sarpanches, supervisors, police constables as well as self-help groups. Families having many girls will be identified through a survey and made cautious about any strangers coming to the village and luring them with jobs or promise of marriage. The awareness programmes will be taken to the grass-root level and the point emphasized strangers should be questioned.”

Sadly, despite a government order highlighting the need for a comprehensive policy and action plan to combat trafficking of women and children as well as rescue and rehabilitation of victims, no concrete measures have been taken despite industrialization, commercial activities and migration making inroads into the vulnerable areas.

 Reference:http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-11-09/visakhapatnam/43854131_1_human-trafficking-underage-girls-itpa