Girl’s rescue in Delhi exposes trafficking racket in Bengal

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The rescue of the 16-year-old girl, haling from Haroa in North 24 Parganas, from a red light area in Delhi last week, seems to have busted a trafficking racket.

North 24 Parganas police have arrested Sk Sabir alias Rohit, the main accused, who kidnapped and trafficked the girl.

“The investigation has revealed that the accused is a habitual offender and we are probing whether he has trafficked other girls out of the State,” Bhaskar Mukherjee, Additional Superintendent of Police, North 24 Parganas, told The Hindu on Monday.

Mr. Mukherjee said that another woman Tanjina Khatum, an accomplice of the main accused, who used to befriend young girls, has also been detained.

The police said they have rescued another minor from the custody of Khatum. Meanwhile, the police have learnt that Sabir was in touch with two more young girls and was trying to lay a trap for them. It has also been learnt that the main accused is a resident of Purba Medinipur and operated in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts. Sabir was arrested on August 9.

During a joint raid by representatives of a non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, West Bengal police, and the Delhi police, a 16-year-old student of class X was rescued earlier this month. The girl was abducted in June and her brother and other relatives went to Delhi to rescue her. A trafficker identified as Roshni, and hailing from the State was arrested in Delhi and brought to the State.

Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini, said the development points to a trafficking racket operating out of the State. “Since the source trafficker has been arrested he believed that he is involved in other cases of trafficking and it requires attention of a special agency,” he said, adding that the organisation will be writing to the State Criminal Investigation Department to take over the case. The activist added that there is a need to expand the ambit of investigation and bring those operating in Delhi in the purview of investigation.

Jharkhand haats, melas hotbeds of traffickers

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA – BY AMBIKA PANDIT

RANCHI: Wading past the surging devotees, Poonam Devi makes a desperate bid to reach a man walking a few metres ahead of her. Her struggle ends in vain as he disappears in the crowd out to witness the “rath yatra” that attracts thousands to the Jagannath temple every year in June-July. Tired and breathless, she stops to explain that he is the man who took her 14-year-old daughter away to Delhi without her knowledge. It has been a year and she has not heard from her.

The lone breadwinner for her seven children, Poonam is a widow who makes her living as a daily wage labourer. She came to the 300-year-old mela, which attracts both tribals and non-tribals, hoping to find the man who took her daughter away. Most traffickers are known to families one way or other. They either live in the same community or neighbouring villages. Often they operate through intermediaries in the villages. Oblivious to the evils of the larger world, gullible tribals are the softest targets.

Haat 3Over the years haats (weekly markets) and melas, such as the Jagannath chariot festival, have become hotbed of intermediaries and traffickers to track potential candidates. These huge gatherings are social platforms where boys and girls mingle. Targeted young girls are often lured with the promise of marriage and taken outside Jharkhand.

The presence of sleuths of the anti-human trafficking unit from Khunti district at the Jagannath mela further underlines the dangers confronting the youth from poverty-stricken villages of this region. Aradhna Singh, inspector, AHTU, Khunti said that the number of minors reported missing often increases after melas and haats.

Tribal women selling vegetables and other things at a weekly market. (Getty Images photo)

Tribal women selling vegetables and other things at a weekly market. (Getty Images photo)

Poonam said that the man who lured her daughter away had earlier taken her sons too. When the boys contacted her from Delhi she learnt that they were working as domestic helps. Estimates put domestic workers in India at 50 million. Delhi alone has an estimated 10 lakh workers. Most are migrants. There’s no law to regulate domestic work and placement agencies at the Central or state level.

The boys were not happy with the work condition and wanted to return. When she asked the trafficker to bring them back he was non-committal. Finally, she went to Delhi to bail them out of the mess. Before life could normalise, her daughter vanished from the house. It turned out, after a frenetic search that the same man had taken away her daughter too. Poonam now wants the Jharkhand police to catch the trafficker and punish him.

Walking past the stalls in the mela, even a mention of “Delhi” or a casual reference to trafficking invites angry stares from bystanders. A woman is overheard telling another fellow villager to be cautious and not to engage in any discussion with strangers on Delhi and domestic work.
At the sprawling mela, stalls peddle bows and arrows, iron utensils, fishing nets and bird cages made of bamboo. Villager Dileep Kumar, who makes a livelihood selling fishing nets, hesitantly shares his ordeal. He murmurs that his daughter too was taken to Delhi for work about a year ago and he has not heard from her since. Stark poverty drove her to seek work outside, he says. Worried to the bone, he seeks help to bring his daughter back.

Tribal painting on a wall of a house in a Jharkhand village. (Getty Images photo)

Tribal painting on a wall of a house in a Jharkhand village. (Getty Images photo)

Baidnath Kumar from NGO Diya Seva Sansthan admits that the problem is acute and emphasises on the need to create a state-police and NGO coordination mechanism. To that effect, a missing child helpline was set-up in October 2013. The NGO closely involved in rescue and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking is manning the helpline set-up by CID, Jharkhand. Based on calls received 128 cases of missing children have been registered since October last year. Most victims are girls. As many as 78 children were recovered following up complaints made on the helpline.

Kumar said that in 98% cases, the girls and boys are taken to Delhi followed by Mumbai, Pune and Goa. “Girls from this belt are also being pushed into prostitution by traffickers,” Kumar added.
Rishi kant from NGO Shakti Vahini who has been part of the teams that have rescued many tribal girls from Jharkhand in Delhi, particularly over the last two years, warns that more and more women and minor girls are being brought to Delhi for work by traffickers.

“Due to uneven development in states with substantial tribal population such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Assam and Orissa, such migration of women and minor girls is on the rise,” he said. “The migration happens through unregulated placement agencies that often indulge in human trafficking,” he says.

NGOs working with domestic workers say trafficking in Delhi/NCR has grown over 10 years. “Many girls end up in exploitative circumstances and are treated as slaves. Placement agencies make huge profits and the victims never get salaries for their backbreaking work,” Rishi kant says.

Rescued Jharkhand maids continue to be stalked by human traders

Shakti Vahini 24PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA – BY AMBIKA PANDIT

Electricity is yet to touch lives here and few dare to come to Nisha’s village even during daytime. There’s the fear of Maoists in the villages along the forested border of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. There’s an even bigger fear for girls like Nisha: the threat of ruthless human traffickers.

You might have read about Nisha but won’t remember her. She appeared in one of those newspaper stories about maids’ abuse. This was in May this year — a story about a girl who was lucky to escape from the vicious grip of a placement agency servicing upscale New Friends colony and Maharani Bagh in south Delhi.

Two other girls trafficked in April 2013 from Khunti villages failed to survive. One died in Delhi and the other on the way back. There are numerous such cases. Human trafficking from this poverty-stricken, extremely backward part of the world is endemic.

The girls here are very vulnerable — extreme poverty being its biggest cause. Since 2009, Jharkhand has not been reporting figures of missing children and persons to NCRB. Experts admit the available data don’t reflect, therefore, the enormity of the problem.

For instance, Jharkhand CID statistics show a mere 282 registered cases on human trafficking between 2001 and September 2013, while a 2010 report by NGO Bharatiya Kisan Sangh put the number of girls trafficked to metro cities at 42,000. Most victims are below 20 years and the main destination is Delhi.

In Khunti alone, a dozen traffickers have been identified — those taking girls regularly out of villages for work to Delhi or Mumbai with promises rarely kept. Search is on for the small-time traffickers operating as intermediaries.

The danger of human trade is amplified by warnings painted in red and black cautioning against “manav vyapaar” (human trafficking). Detailed advisories are stuck on tree trunks and mud walls. Villagers know about the danger, but can they heed it always?

TOI did a reality check on the status of victim families to see why they can’t. Any promise of money is very tempting for those in dire poverty. Like Nisha’s parents, most villagers here work as farm or manual labour earning a meagre daily wage of Rs 50. Some lucky ones on lucky days can get Rs 250. But never more. And there are several days when there’s no work.

Government anti-poverty schemes might have helped but schemes like MNREGA are yet to reach intended beneficiaries who have no awareness and little access to information. In the circumstances, the poor don’t have either the resource or mental strength to ward off the lurking traffickers.
Take Nisha’s case. Her family does not want her to pursue the case against her trafficker and the village community has already made its discomfort known to the police. They don’t want trouble. To keep her afloat, a school in Ranchi earlier this month agreed to take her on as a caretaker. The opportunity came her way only after the intervention of Khunti’s anti-human trafficking unit. Nisha now dreams of resuming her education.

There are a few stories of hope too. The Dwarka maid is one of them. Remember her? She is the one who was locked her up by a doctor couple while they were holidaying abroad. She now lives in a village 40km from Khunti. After her rescue she was enrolled at a state-run residential facility in Ranchi. She stood first in the Class VII exams. Now in Class VIII, she has so far not missed a single hearing of her case in Delhi.

Her parents live in a mud hut in the midst of a bamboo groove. With their daughter determined to fight for justice, the mother told TOI that some relatives of the doctor couple came to the village and tried to persuade them to close the case with an offer of “lots of money”.

Khunti district’s SP Anish Gupta said the anti-human trafficking unit has drawn up a list of traffickers for investigation. He said the Gumla-Khunti-Simdega belt of Jharkhand was a special target of traffickers and the police was planning to step up checks of public transport like buses to catch traffickers and prevent teenage girls from leaving villages for work with persons posing as relatives.
IG (provisions) Anurag Gupta, who was earlier IG (CID), said there was no mechanism to regulate and monitor migration for domestic work. “We cannot stop people from moving out but a system has to be in place to check trafficking in the garb of migration. Once an incident happens the victim has no dedicated commission or authority to seek help. The matter gets stuck in jurisdictional issues,” says Gupta.

The Jharkhand government is asking boys and girls who want to leave for work in cities to register with the gram panchayats. Education is being posed as an attraction and girls are being given cycles to go to school.

But villagers say traffickers target girls while they are on way to school. As things stand, these measures are no match to the magnitude of the trafficking racket threatening to wreck innocent lives in tribal Jharkhand.

Traffickers linked to Maoists, cops say Intelligence agencies told TOI there are links between traffickers and Maoists. Trafficking of girls from Jharkhand villages to cities like Delhi and Mumbai is a source of income for the outlawed outfits.

Armed with evidence of this link, Jharkhand police is now preparing to impose the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act, 2008, on traffickers. It’s a harsh law that comes down heavily against those having links with banned outfits.

With no central or state legislation in place to regulate domestic work and placement agencies, the Jharkhand police are planning to confiscate the property of identified traffickers having links with banned outfits in keeping with provisions of the UAP Act.

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Teenage tribal girl travels to Delhi to help lead raid on placement agency

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An 18-year old tribal girl Sunita Kumari (name changed) helped the Delhi police conduct raids on an illegal placement agency in Taimur Nagar near New Friends Colony (NFC) a year after she had been trafficked from Jharkhand to Delhi to work in the city. Earlier, this week the girl had travelled from Khunti in Jharkhand to Delhi with officials of Anti Human Trafficking Unit of her home district to help identify the personnel running the placement agency Mamta Placement Agency.

“Initially, Mukesh who ran the agency treated me alright and gave me responsibilities of staff at the agency. My work consisted of accompanying the girls and boys – many of them minors – to houses where we had placed them as domestic workers. But a few months later, Mukesh confiscated my mobile phone and broke it. When I said I wanted to leave, he threatened me saying he had all my school documents such as my class X certificates etc. Then I decided to plan an escape and also get my certificates back from him somehow,” said Sunita.

She said she had travelled from Delhi to Bihar with the other staff of the placement agency to a village they were visiting in Banke and fled from there to return to her village in Jharkhand. Three months after returning home, she approached the district labour department of the district and made a complaint about the Delhi-based placement agency. The labour department directed her to the district Anti Human Trafficking Unit and she traveled to Delhi with police officials and NGO Diya Sewa Sansathan.

“I had worked briefly as a housekeeper at a hotel in Bangalore and there I had learned that Labour Department is meant to assist workers who feel cheated. I had remembered that and complained at the district level” said Sunita. She said that she had left her home in Torpa in Khunti after she failed to clear class XII examinations in 2013. “When I took the police to the agency’s address, I knew they will try to threaten me but I will make sure I get my wage dues back as well,” she said.

Sunita Kumari said she had already applied to appear for class XII examinations in her home district again.

Three persons were arrested from the placement agency premises, though the manager Mukesh Kumar was still absconding.

The National Commission for Women had proposed a draft Regulation of Employment Agencies 2007 but it is yet to be accepted and there are no national laws governing the placement agencies at present. Rishikant of NGO Shakti Vahini who was part of the team that went along with the police for the raid said there was a need for a policy on domestic workers.

“It is commendable that this girl was willing to come all the way from another state to Delhi to give information on her employer and she was so keen to get her school certificates back. We will extend to her all help in getting her wages back as well,” said Inspector Aradhana Singh of Anti Human Trafficking Unit.

“When I said I wanted to leave, he(Mukesh) threatened me saying he had all my school documents etc. Then I decided to escape and also get my certificates back

Sunita Kumari (name changed)

Board exam result brings happiness to trafficking victim

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NEW DELHI: Days after writing her class 10 board exams, 17-yearold Rashmi (name changed) was trafficked from a small village in Assam to Fatehabad in Haryana for forced marriage. For two months, she lived away from her family at a place where she was sexually assaulted and made to do household work.

Rescued earlier this month, the girl was still in shock and unable to overcome the trauma. Last week however, her exam results brought cheers to her life as she passed with 51%.

The survivor hailing from Barpeta in Assam belongs to a farmer family. “She is the eldest daughter of the family and is setting a very good example to her four younger brothers and sisters to work hard. She is an inspiration and proves that poverty cannot always hamper the growth of a family. Despite facing such a tough situation, she is ready to study further and has asked us to assist her,” said Rishi Kant, activist with Shakti Vahini NGO, which had rescued her.

Despite having been traumatised, the girl is optimistic about her future. After having passed her board exams, she now aspires to continue with her higher secondary education. She hopes to one day become a teacher.

“In India, social stigma is very much prevalent throughout all societies, her success is also contributed by her parents’ support who are willing to educate her further,” he added. “These success stories help strengthening government policies for extending their support to victims of human trafficking. These girls whom we call survivors are the real inspiration and strength for us in fighting human trafficking,” Rishi Kant further said.

Rashmi was trafficked to Delhi two months back and was sold to a family in Haryana for ` 80,000. Before selling her to the family she was raped by the trafficker and h

Jharkhand teen leads cops to job agency

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By AMBIKA PANDIT IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: All of 17 years old, a tribal girl from Jharkhand’s Khunti district—a belt affected by Maoist violence—led Delhi Police and an anti-human trafficking team from her home state to the placement agency in Taimoor Nagar in south Delhi on Friday.

A victim of bonded labour, she was not just denied her wages but the owners of the placement agency also took away her certificates documenting her educational growth. Another girl, who is 14 and from the same district, was rescued on May 5 by volunteers of NGO Shakti Vahini from Kashmere Gate ISBT. She had been beaten by her employers in Chandigarh.

The two girls are examples of a worrying trend. More and more girls are being lured in by traffickers from areas suffering Maoist violence to Delhi and other metros by the promise of a better life. These two girls will, however, leave for their native state on Monday.

“I came to Delhi with a few girls who already worked here hoping to get work based on basis of my Class X result and the short course I had done in the hospitality sector. I was shocked when the man tried to place me in a job as a domestic worker. He took away my documents and, when I refused to take this job, hired me to work in his office. He never paid me the promised salary of Rs 7,000. I finally fled to my village in February and filed a case against him with the labour department,” she told TOI.

Aradhana Singh, the police officer in charge of AHTU in Khunti district and here to take the girls home, said most people don’t complain when girls go missing because they fear attacks from the Maoists who may see them as police informers. Social activists from NGO Diya Sewa Sansthan from Jharkhand said in 13 years just about 360 FIRs have been registered in trafficking cases and only in one case a trafficker has been sentenced to a jail term.

Abused domestic help says she is being pressurised

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The victim, who was rescued from Vasant Kunj, says she was forced to sign documents

Seven months after Phul Murmu (name changed), who used to work as a domestic help at Vasant Kunj, was rescued with signs of torture and physical abuse, she has complaint to the police of being pressured to sign documents against her will by two men. She made the complaint to the district police at Sahibganj in Jharkhand on Friday, where her family lives.

“On Thursday, two men came to my house at Atgama village. I had left with my mother to help in her work, lifting sand. They forced my sister to bring them to the river bed where we were working and asked me to sign documents, which I could not read. When I refused, they offered me money and then threatened me. They forced me to sign them,” Phul Murmu told The Hindu over the phone from Sahibganj, where she has been living in a hostel run by NGO Mahila Samakhya. “The girl made a complaint of being forced to sign documents by two men. We are investigating the matter,” said Sahibganj’s Superintendent of Police A.B. Ram.

NGO Shakti Vahini wrote a letter to Jharkhand’s Director General of Police and the Chief Secretary asking them to take cognisance of the matter. “There have been instances of victims being pressured and coerced to change their statements, and this could be one of them. This must be checked and investigated thoroughly,” said Rishi Kant, activist with Shakti Vahini in Delhi.

Phul Murmu, a minor at the time of her rescue in September 2013, bore injury marks all over her face. Vandana Dheer, her employer, was then working as the head of corporate communications with French multinational Alstom.

Murmu had stated that during the four months she worked at Dheer’s house in posh Vasant Kunj, she had hit her with hot utensils, used a knife to peel her skin, and made her drink urine twice to punish her. Dheer was arrested in October under Sections 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons), 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and got bail two months later.

Dorothy, accused of running a placement agency that trafficked Phul Murmu from Jharkhand, got bail in October 2013. There has been a spate of incidents over the last year of domestic workers fleeing or being rescued from Delhi’s residential colonies and placements agencies after they being beaten, and in several instances sexually assaulted. Murmu’s rescue by the Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini was soon followed by a case in November in which Dhananjay Singh, the then Bahujan Samajwadi Party sitting MP from Jaunpur, U.P., and his wife Jagriti Singh were arrested in connection with the death of Rakhi Bhadra, a 35-year old domestic worker, in their house.

These cases have, however, not deterred abuse of domestic workers. On April 27, a tribal girl in her late teens from Singhbhum in Jharkhand working as a domestic worker in Model Town was found dead with injuries.

Her employer businessman Sachin Jindal and his wife Shilpi Jindal were arrested in connection with the death.

Rescued girls receive threat calls, told not to depose in court

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NEW DELHI: As many as seven girls rescued recently from a GB Road brothel have barely recovered from the trauma of being holed up in a wooden box, but their tormentors have continued to make their life a living hell. They girls, who are desperately trying to lead a normal life, are being threatened by their tormentors against deposing before court.

According to the NGO Shakti Vahini, the calls are being made from a West Bengal number. “This clearly indicates that its an organised racket. Trisha (name changed), who is one of the eight survivors, was rescued from GB Road by the joint intervention of Delhi Police and our NGO. She received a threat call and immediately informed us,” said Rishi Kant, executive director of NGO Shakti Vahini.

The caller said, “I will find you and not spare you”. The NGO said the survivors as well as their family were under tremendous pressure and their safety had become a major concern.“The traffickers indulge in a number of tricks and threaten them to not go to the court during trial. It has happened in a number of cases in the past,” added Kant.

The NGO members said that in a recent case of two women traffickers being sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and the brothel being shut, the survivor had received a number of threatening calls.

“In this case too, soon after receiving information, we informed the nodal officer of the anti-human trafficking unit of West Bengal and the Delhi government for their immediate intervention,” he added.

The Delhi Police and the NGO had conducted a joint raid on April 17 at the GB Road brothel. As the girls were kept hidden inside a tunnel, they were initially unable to trace them.

“After receiving more information, we contacted the police and a rescue team was formed and the brothel raided. We found seven girls hidden inside a wooden box in that raid,” added the spokesperson.

“THE SURVIVORS AS WELL AS THEIR FAMILY ARE UNDER TREMENDOUS PRESSURE. THEIR SAFETY TOO HAS BECOME A MAJOR CONCERN.

Seven years for woman who forced girl into prostitution

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The victim, kidnapped from West Bengal, was rescued from G.B. Road during a raid conducted by the police last year

A 26-year-old woman has been put behind bars for seven years by a Delhi court for trafficking a girl from West Bengal. She was forced into prostitution and rescued only after her brother came looking for her.

The court stopped short of directing closure of the brothel being run by convict Teena since the issue is part of a petition before the Delhi High Court.

It, however, slapped a fine of Rs.15,000 on Teena, which would be paid as compensation to the victim.

Additional Sessions Judge Kaveri Baweja held her guilty of illegally confining the victim and under various provisions of the Immoral Trafficking Act for forcing the girl into prostitution.

The girl was rescued from a brothel at G.B. Road by a Delhi Police raiding party.

The team had swung into action after the Kamla Market police station was informed by an NGO that a boy had approached them looking for her sister.

During the raid, the team reached a brothel where the girl came forward and identified the boy as her brother. She was taken by the police for medical examination and sent to Nari Niketan on the order of a magistrate.

The girl and her family’s ordeal were reported by The Hindu . The Delhi High Court had taken cognisance of the newspaper report.

The girl told the police and the court that in January 2013, while she was roaming outside her house in Bengal, two boys came on a motorcycle and covered her face with a cloth after which she fainted.

She said when she regained consciousness, she found herself at Howrah railway station from where she was brought to Delhi and kept in a room. The boys told her that she will have to work as a prostitute. When she raised a hue and cry, she was beaten up and threatened. Then she was handed over to Teena who took her to the brothel.

At the brothel, she was forced to have physical relations with many customers in a day for Rs.300, the victim told the court.

Delhi has no rules in place to care for trafficked victims

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Last November, the Delhi Government had submitted before the Delhi High Court that within eight weeks it would notify minimum standards of care and protection for trafficked victims. Nearly six months have gone by and despite many such cases being reported since, the notification is yet to see the light of the day.

Prior to this, expressing its displeasure over a Nepalese girl being forced to go back to the place from where she was rescued, the High Court had sent a notice to the State government asking for suggestions in this regard.

The notice was one in a series of many issued by the court, which took a suo motu of a report published in The Hindu in May 2013 about a girl trafficked from West Bengal and pushed into prostitution in the Capital. The Nepalese girl, too, was rescued around the same time and by the same NGO Shakti Vahini. She was later set free by a Delhi court, but went back to the brothel “because she had nowhere else to go and there was no institutional mechanism in place to take care of her”.

Since Delhi does not have any guidelines on the care and protection of victims, especially post their rescue, the court directed that it should adopt the ones framed by the Andhra Pradesh Government a few years ago. The Andhra Pradesh guidelines deal extensively with all aspects of standards of care be it accountability, legal aid, monitoring, benefits provided, restoration, diet and even infrastructure facilities available at care homes.

It was on November 27 that the Standing Counsel for the State Government Zubeda Begum informed the court about the eight-week deadline for taking into account the guidelines issued by the Southern State. She added that Delhi would also incorporate some additional features.

Six months on, the guidelines have not been notified. In response to The Hindu ’s question about the current status of the notification, a senior Delhi Government official said the draft has been prepared. On the delay, she said conditions in Andhra Pradesh were different from those in the Capital and hence they have made some changes.

The official, however, did not divulge what those changes were and what additional measures are there in the proposed Delhi guidelines.

Furthermore, the official said they were still in the process of building consensus on the draft. A meeting between all those providing institutional services is scheduled later this month. “Once notified, it becomes very difficult to make amendments. That is why we are taking our time,” she said.