Shakti Vahini launches India Cyber TIP Helpline to Combat Cyber Crimes related to Women & Children

In our work on cyber enabled trafficking, sexual harassment & exploitation online & sextortion and cyber harassment we have found that many victims continue to suffer silently without lodging complaints as they don’t know the right agency to file complaint or they are not able to follow up. Due to this a lot of perpetrators continue to work with impunity.

In social media and through various platforms cyber traffickers and criminals are openly operating. They know that however fast the government agencies act they will not catch up with them as they are bogged down by investigations and pendency.

India Cyber TIP Helpline is an initiative of Anti Trafficking Organization – Shakti Vahini, to facilitate victims/complainants to report cybercrime complaints online to various law enforcement agencies.

India Cyber TIP Helpline works in partnership with various Cyber Nodal Agencies of State Police across the country. This initiative caters to complaints pertaining to cyber-crimes only with special focus on cyber-crimes against women and children.

Complaints reported on this Helpline will be reported promptly to law enforcement agencies/ police based on the information available in the complaints. India Cyber TIP Helpline will also follow up the cases and ensure strict action through partnership with various state police agencies.

India Cyber TIP Helpline

  1. Help victims to lodge complaints to investigation agencies and proactively pursue the case.
  2. Undertake monitoring of various platforms to ensure internet safety for women and children. Complaints with law enforcement agencies will be launched to ensure that these criminals are investigated and cases lodged.
  3. Follow up cases in courts to ensure proper prosecution.  
  4. Partner with various intermediaries and social media companies to ensure materials which cause harassment to complainants are removed as soon as possible.

FOR ANY CASE RELATED TO

CYBER ENABLED TRAFFICKING /  CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE MATERIAL (CSAM)  /  CYBER SEXUAL HARASSMENT  SEXTORTION / LIVESTREAMING

Report Online to our Website

You can also E mail at

cybertiphelpline@shaktivahini.net

Follow us on

Twitter- @InternetsafetyI

Facebook- @CYBERSAFETYHELPLINE

Article 23 Dialogues-With Vinod Kumar Tikoo, Former Member – National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

My Post (69)As a part of our effort to combat Human Trafficking, we are trying to put a spotlight on individuals who contributed in identifying, supporting and counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking and continues to challenge the impunity of traffickers. There are several people across India who continue to contribute their time and energy to combat crime against humanity, which include public officers, law enforcement authority, civil society, child protection officials, journalists, lawyers, medical professionals, and mental health experts. The Article 23 dialogue, gives a platform to all the people working at the grassroot level to connect with the youth.

Today we have with us Mr. Vinod Kumar Tikoo, is a former Member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights . During his tenure he prioritized and worked on child protection issues.

Sir, can you please share with us your experience on working in the field of Anti-Human Trafficking?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: We started off with establishment of AHTU in all the police stations, unfortunately which has not been functioning in the way we have perceived or visualized. Unfortunately, the amount of money that we received from the Ministry of Home Affairs, could not be utilized for the reason for which it was taken on the first place. Unfortunately, human trafficking being one of the worst menaces for the society around the globe, is still not taken that seriously by the respected state governments or the national governments of various countries. Especially in our country, children continue to be used as a non-entity, because nobody bothers to believe them or even bothers to hear their voices. Sadly, the sale of a human being or a baby per se is a not a cognizable offence as per law. There have been so many efforts taken to make it a cognizable offence, however, it has still not been taken into consideration. There are still advertisements being put on newspapers that states “babies for sale” which in itself is an offence of abduction/ human trafficking, but is not taken seriously which is extremely unfortunate.

The situation is becoming more alarming right now in the prevailing circumstances. How do you see India’s response in combating human trafficking in term of being the source and destination areas for the victims of trafficking? What message do you want to give to government officials, on how to coordinate and connect to India’s response to Human Trafficking?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: This is definitely perceived as a social menace, not to the extent that as the government of India lack that punch to crack this syndicate. There are many stakeholders involved in this, right from the ground level to the top most position, resulting in connection with a politician. It is unfortunate that some people working in the police are also connected to this syndicate. Not only the government of India but also the citizens need to keep a very agile eyes on this especially during the time of calamities like the floods in Assam, like tsunami. All these calamities give an opportunity to the traffickers to grab the displaced children and sell them off. This is how trafficking takes place initially and used for different purposes. The government has to take serious efforts in terms of the laws and implications to look into such matters immediately.

When you were the member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, you created that branch. You tried your level best to bring a change. How did you connect the NGOs and the government officials at the ground level across the country?

edit6Vinod Kumar Tikoo: I believed in asserting my position as a member of the commission. It has its powers. Also, one should have the compassion for the people and for the victims to get them rescued. There have been raids where I went with the police myself to catch the culprits. I tried doing it sincerely. There were many things that happened during that time in West Bengal, Karnataka and North East, in Tripura and Agartala, where we managed to help the 7000 children. In Kerala, where pedophiles used to take children away. I would like to point out that the religion has got nothing to do in these cases. 

You spoke about connecting each other and how the state has to collaborate and target those traffickers who are committing these crimes and ultimately fighting this organized crime. It is because of these front-line individuals, and unsung heroes, this is what the dialogue of Article 23 focuses on. We will be reaching across the country and across the world. We will be bringing the voices from the ground, we will be bringing the voices of the panchayat, of the lawyers who are fighting in the court. Also, police officers at the SHO level, the problems they face in filing the FIRs. Sir when you were there in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, as a member, you coordinated with the law enforcement agencies. How do think are the ways in which we can strengthen the law enforcement agencies and motivate them in terms of fighting organized crimes?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: It is very strange but it is a fact that the network of these traffickers is stronger than of the government. There was a case where a large number of children were rescued in Delhi and were to be transported to Jharkhand. They were being sent by the passenger train. I had to stop the train for two nights in Delhi and put them up in Jharkhand Bhawan. I made sure that the children were provided proper food and every possible amenity. I then booked their tickets in a special train that would not stop in every station because we knew that the traffickers would be waiting at every station to traffic the girls again, which was a fact and will always continue. Their network will always be stronger. The government should sense this, see this and visualize this and feel it from the heart and the brain that this might happen. Since, this kind of incident already had happened, we could save all the children from getting trafficked once again. It is not only the government agency but the public at large has to look into the nooks and corners to be aware of such problem, that is affecting our society at large. That coordination has to be done by an apex level body, it cannot be done by a local level or district level persons. Of course, they are the most important connecting ingredients that will get into the connected points. The rule of CWC is also very important. Aanganwadi workers also play an important role in bringing the change.

 How can we strengthen the law enforcement agencies?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: Law Enforcement Agencies have no option but to get involved since this racket is prevalent across the country. It is ultimately the law enforcement agencies who have to be active and then we have to train the AHTU to be strengthened further. We have to have people especially social workers who are interested in working in these issues. This is one area which is lacking, where we do not have proper recruitment of social workers in this industry which needs to be done. AHTU is one of the most responsible units that need to function. It is not actually functioning the way it should have been.

When you were in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, you have taken active steps in strengthening the child rights protection mechanism. How do you think we can strengthen child protection system? How can we coordinate the Child Protection Officers and strengthen them to prevent human trafficking?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: As an example, I would like to mention that Jammu and Kashmir, was the one state which has not executed MOU under ICPS, the reason being that they have not enacted properly the JJ Act , so I took it upon as a challenge, since from the last 15 years they have been evading it. So I had gone and met the governor and met the minister and called the solicitor general and the advocate general. I also spoke to the chief justice of the J& K high court also. We had a consolidated meeting and I had to insist, the ministry to send the MOU. I asked them to sign it. Seeing that happen, we have to necessarily speak to them for one year to enact JJ Act and had to personally go and meet the governor three times and the minister also. That was the way in which it had to be done. The way in which trafficking was happening, the concern required that much of attention. It is important to involve all the important stakeholders, to take serious attention of the issues. So we have to ensure that we are a hard task master and we need to get the work done.

 Sir, your effort certainly created a lot of changes on the ground. It was because of the effort that you personally took as the member of the commission that brought a change in the system.

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: Unfortunately, through Supreme Court of India, we have issued an order to the states to have State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which did get created because of the fear of the law but sadly, they were not serious regarding their functioning. Until and unless the commission is vested with important powers, it will not take its functions seriously.

It is indeed very important for the state commission to take their responsibility very seriously and to understand the issue of organized crime. Also, as we are going through the COVID-19 crisis, the role of first responders has become even more important now. As someone who has worked closely with the survivors and the victims, what is your suggestion to combat human trafficking during the COVID situation as well as post COVID, also with natural disasters taking place in West Bengal and Orissa, what we can feel is increasing vulnerability and rise in human trafficking cases and child marriage cases. How will you advise the state officials as an experience person who has already worked in these situations?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo:  The local leadership needs to look into the situations where the girls, when being put back are not allowed to go to schools or even leave the houses. Local leaders and the panchayat leaders need to make sure that the girls are not further subjected to any traumatic experience. They have to be provided some economic help. The COVID itself has a stigma attached to it. If a person is suffering from COVID is already treated differently and then when there is a person who is corona positive and being brought from different state, they suffer double trauma of stigmatization, which the government needs to regulate effectively. Especially the local leadership need to ensure that such situation does not take place. The local authorities and local social workers have to play very important role at the district and the state level.

 What is your message to the youth of this nation?

Vinod Kumar Tikoo: My hope for a prosperous India is the youth of today since they are more responsible, accountable and courageous. They are much more knowledgeable and exposed more than I was at the young age. I still have the trust on the youth and hope to see my vision of India to be fulfilled by the youth.

Team Article 23 is Supported by Surbhi Shivpuri -Law Officer Shakti Vahini (Editing) and Shubhashini Kant – Intern (Video Editing)

 

Article 23 Dialogues with Sanjeev Kumar, IPS, Superintendent of Police , Simdega, Jharkhand

My Post (69)As a part of our effort to combat Human Trafficking, we are trying to put a spotlight on individuals who contributed in identifying, supporting and counselling and seeking justice for victims of human trafficking and continues to challenge the impunity of traffickers. There are several people across India who continue to contribute their time and energy to combat crime against humanity, which include public officers, law enforcement authority, civil society, child protection officials, journalists, lawyers, medical professionals, and mental health experts. The Article 23 dialogue, gives a platform to all the people working at the grassroot level to connect with the youth.

Today we have with us, Senior IPS Officer from Jharkhand Police, Shri Sanjeev Kumar, who is currently posted as SP in Simdega. Mr. Kumar in his tenure has contributed in arresting a lot of traffickers, investigating and filing FIR against them. Once upon a time, Simdega was known for high reporting of human trafficking cases, however, because of Mr. Kumar, we have witnessed a lot of changes in the current scenario. Sir, our first question to you would be asking for your comment as a police officer, on how can we fight against human trafficking?

EPl5iJUUcAANrr_ (2)Sanjeev Kumar: I would like to put emphasis on two-three aspects specifically, that I have witnessed as a part of my experience. The first aspect would be on the chain of the crime, which is so organised in nature. Most of the time it includes the family of the victim itself, who are involved in trafficking or someone whom the victim knows personally. It is also an inter-state problem. Like girls from Jharkhand are trafficked to Delhi, Goa, Southern states. So the first challenge is to look into the crime as an organised crime itself and all the states have to work together to investigate into such matters. Since, most of the time we experience lack of support from the police of other states, when we go there for investigation of the crime. Therefore, it is important to sensitize them. It is important to have proper co-ordination among different state officials. Also, I have observed that when police investigate into these matters, the people at the first stage are often caught, and the people at the higher stage, the ones involved in buying and selling, nobody investigate them. Therefore, it is important to have good co-ordination.

People in Simdega, considers Mr. Sanjeev Kumar as a tough police officer especially in matters concerning Human Trafficking. People know that your efforts will break the backbone of the traffickers. What steps did you take to combat trafficking, because Simdega is one place from where lot of migration cases takes place. There are also lot of illegal placement agencies that work in Simdega. How did you create the terror among the traffickers in Simdega and sensitize your officers?

Sanjeev Kumar: We actually worked at different stages. The most important thing is to interact with the people and let them know that we are there for them and whatever we are trying to do is for the benefit for them and their family. We worked on our presence among the people and did a lot of reach out. Also, the other important thing for us was that, Simdega was known for hockey. So, we at different station levels, made a team of girls whose families were vulnerable to trafficking. We worked on their infrastructure. They were very happy and their families started looking at the police with different point of view. So they also started getting in touch with us. So with hockey we got a lot of support from the people. They even got recognition at the international level. So it had a very positive impact in the society. We motivated people to let their children play hockey and let them do what they wanted to do. So with that we also build up a trafficking information network. We started informing people about the different ways in which the trafficking lure children and with the help of that we also caught a lot of traffickers. With the help of community policing also, we started uncle police tutorial, to focus on children, who failed since they are very suspectable to human trafficking. We also started special coaching classes for these children, with the help of different organizations and teachers, who gave free coaching to the children who were weak in studies. I am also very proud to share that, out of all the children we were coaching, around 85% of them has passed their examinations. Also, the children who have failed are also very important for us. We created a record of these children and went to their homes and asked them what did they require. We did not wanted to leave them, because otherwise they would get trafficked. Even right now during lockdown, we are in touch with them on a regular basis and ensuring that nothing wrong happens to them. So the first level is of the Community policing. The next step is to take action. We filed a lot of F.I.Rs. There is also a situation where when the children are being trafficked, the parents are either not aware of the process or do not trust the police, so they do not immediately come to the police to file the case. In a case, the parents came 8 years after their child got trafficked. So in these cases, investigation gets tough. Therefore we made a team and started filing immediate FIRs, especially against the placement agencies. We have also sent a lot of people to jail. We tracked the whole organization and did not leave the case at the first state itself. So because we took immediate steps, people trust us more and are comfortable in sharing information with us immediately. Maybe that is why we have reported a lot of cases. We also got information on the network because of which we are able to arrest them now.

Sir you mentioned about community policing, it is so important especially in times like these, when there is a need to have dialogue between the community and the police. Even with Simdega being such a vulnerable area, you promoted the cause with the games, by doing reach out. With the medium of games, you started your fight against the organised crime. It is very important to appreciate your efforts, especially with that changes your efforts has brought into the society. Also the police uncle tutorial initiative is so important. Police is giving the importance to the education, to the games but it is also important to know about how much and energy it took to make such a huge impact in the society. The method of social policing that you have adopted, how much motivation and confidence has it given to the police officers to fight the organised crime?

Sanjeev Kumar: You mentioned it correctly that the mindset of the police is to catch the culprit. This the traditional mindset. It is very hard for them to accept that we have to go and talk to people, since we are not used to that approach in normal terms. Changing this mindset was important and extremely tough. Since we targeted the children, there are always emotional values attached to them be it any person. The police team, when they went to children and saw the smiles on their faces, it changed them. The changes we brought to the society was different but the changes it brought to our police team was very important. Like one of my officers told me then when girls come to us and call us uncle instead of sir it feels very nice. It changed the mindset of the police. It was very important for us.

Sir, you mentioned about the change of heart of the police as well as of the people from the village, through the smiles of the girls is such a huge thing. It is because of these front line workers and the unsung heroes, our national fight to uphold and implement the Article 23 of the Constitution continues. Coming back to hockey, how many hockey teams have you created thana vice? Also, how U.S Consulate has joined your hockey players in their programs? How your girl players are interacting with the people at the international level, their coaches, and your officers are involved in the selection process. At some point your leadership is reaching at the ground level and till the village because of which the change of heart is taking place. How important was it for you to see the young hockey players being recognised by people internationally and also the strength of your programs has increased after U.S Consulate joined you with their programs? 

Sanjeev Kumar: It is definitely a big boost. It is a big hope in these times of despair in the society. The girls started playing hockey because they enjoyed the game but when they got the boost, because of U.S Consulate and the Middlebury hockey team, it created a very energetic atmosphere in the village. This year, when we started the selection process, they were very enthusiastic to take part and get selected for the game. It also created a competitive atmosphere along with the hope. Also the news of children, who got selected to go to the U.S.A got spread in the village, and now especially the children want to play because they now see that they can get these opportunities as well. They were very happy and has created such a positive atmosphere in the society. If we motivate them, the traffickers will not even think of going to these villages. They have also learned team work because of the games. They know that they are not alone, especially with the police backing them up. We are happy that we were happy to able to do it, thanks to U.S Consulate, Shakti Vahini, all the other organisations that has supported in our mission. Although, we have still a long way to go. It is a long journey and we have to work together to fight human trafficking.

Sir, you mentioned about community policing and also hockey and how that has brought a change in society in Simdega. Like you mentioned that there was migration happening in Simdega along with human trafficking cases, but with the programs that you implemented, a change could be seen in school drop-out and forced migration. What other steps could you suggest to strengthen the community policing especially to the adjoining districts where the problem still exists. Also, what can you suggest on skill development and how that can be used for income generation.

Sanjeev Kumar: This is a challenging time, especially because of COVID-19. It has affected the community at large especially their regular incomes. So naturally, in these situations, the traffickers are very active. Since, we already have a team so we are keeping a watch on them. But it is a time to be more active and vigilant. Like during this time, we needed masks, so we taught girls about tailoring, so they helped us a lot. They made masks for us. We have taught tailoring to at least 100-120 girls, who belonged to the vulnerable communities, in order to empower them. That has created hope. After tailoring they went back home, and started doing it from their homes as well. So that has also created employment generation in the village as well because of which they earning some money. When we get these news we feel nice. We taught driving also to some people, who were not able to go home. We try creating opportunities by skill development for people so that there is no moment of despair among them. This has helped in employment generation and for them to earn some money.

Sir, you have taken so much effort and created so many opportunities in Simdega, it is really inspiring to witness. While talking about policing, you also gave a significant amount of importance to training of the police officials. You co-ordinate with the AHTU and conduct a lot of seminars in the village with them to create awareness on human trafficking. How do you work with your officers, to fight the crime?

Sanjeev Kumar: The thana level is very important because they are the ones who file FIR, conduct raids, so they have to be properly equipped with the arms and ammunitions. They have to have all the training on the processes they are required to undertake. They also have to keep reviewing the old cases, so that we are able to catch hold the traffickers. I think I mentioned it before, that we need to have a good SOP on inter-state cases. Big traffickers, who have opened placement agencies, it is important to track these people. Sometimes, we shut down one placement agency only to realise that the other one has been brought into action. So there is a need to have SOP on placement agencies. If we properly control placement agencies, it will help in controlling overall trafficking rate, since it always starts from the placement agencies. They play a huge role in these cases. So if we are able to control such agencies, we can see a good result in controlling of human trafficking cases.

Sir, you have two daughters and you have also been motivating the girls across Simdega and empowering them. What message do you have for the girls from Simdega and Jharkhand?

Sanjeev Kumar: Children are the future. Their smile can change everything. If they are happy, there is happiness among the society. It is one of the natural laws. So the children should always be happy. So what can we do to ensure that they are happy? What I am doing for the children is not a professional work, it comes from the heart. Everybody feel good, if any of your work bring a smile on a child’s face. So we have to think about how can we as a society can contribute to bring that happiness to a child’s face. So we should try to make them happy.

 

Team Article 23 is Supported by Surbhi Shivpuri -Law Officer Shakti Vahini (Editing) and Shubhashini Kant – Intern (Video Editing)

ARTICLE 23 dialogues with Prashant Chauhan of Amity University on Youth Involvement and AHTC Clubs

As a part of our effort to combat Human Trafficking, we are trying to put a spotlight on individuals who contribute in identifying, supporting and counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking and continues to challenge the impunity of traffickers. There are several people across India who continue to contribute their time and energy to combat crime against humanity, which include public officers, law enforcement authority, civil society, child protection officials, journalists, lawyers, medical professionals, and mental health experts. Today we have with us Mr. Prashant Chauhan, a social worker, educator, practitioner, researcher and a women and child rights advocate, currently associated with department of Social Sciences, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh. He is actively associated with various civil society organizations. He is elected member of National Association of Professional Social worker; he is also general secretary of Uttar Pradesh associations of professional social worker and member of international association of school of social work. He has completed as principal investigator in free service research project on bonded labour, child labour funded by the labour department, government of Uttar Pradesh. He is a convener of a chain maker club, a club of social science students at the Amity University, Uttar Pradesh, which works for Anti-Human Trafficking Issues at various level. He is an educationalist and is contributing by inspiring young people to fight against human trafficking. He has also been in debates at U.S Consulate, Kolkata programs in bringing youth from his college to come and understand and learn from various programs, on gender-based violence and on fighting human trafficking.

Thank you for being a part of our Article 23 dialogue series. Our first question from you would be regarding your experience in fighting human trafficking in the nooks of northern India?

My Post (69)Prashant Chauhan: Human Trafficking is one of the most serious problem in our country and definitely when we are talking on this issue, it is not like a one-time thing, that in an instance it will be solved because we have to understand the aspect of why this problem exist in our country? There are various reasons like poverty and other situations that promotes crimes like trafficking. There are various factors involved which is why all the stakeholders need to come together to fight the crime. As an educator and social workers, I feel like it is one of my responsibility to engage the youth and other people, to make them understand the issue of human trafficking. People are not aware of the crime, which includes many educated people.

How do you see India’s response in fighting human trafficking especially when we see the involvement of the youth? How can youth be brought into this fight against human trafficking?

Mr. Prashant Chauhan: With India’s response, there are many efforts taken on part of the government and different stakeholders like NGO’s, media persons and even university professors to fight the crime. Coming back to the way in which the youth can play an important role, I believe that the youth are the future of the country. If they understand the crux of the problem, then they can definitely put their energy in this regard. Indefinitely, sending students to different events and seminars are a way in which youth can be made aware of the issues pertaining to human trafficking. In order to eradicate the problem of trafficking, it is important to lay out on how to work towards achieving the goal and how can the youth participate in the same. When I realized the ways in which the participation can be sought, I introduced a changemakers Club, to fight on the human trafficking related issues. Time to time we need to have awareness sessions and outreach activities to make people aware. We organized meetings to engage the Panchayati raj society as well. We are constantly planning on how our students can be involved in such activities when it comes to making people aware about the same. We are making a short-film also on how the club has worked in spreading awareness regarding the crime of human trafficking.

You yourself are a change maker and leading the front in the fight against human trafficking and motivating young students in university. The objective of the Article 23 dialogues is to being forward such change makers who are fighting against the crime of human trafficking. Sir, can you elaborate if your students have engaged with the law enforcement agencies in fighting against the human trafficking.

Prashant Chauhan

Prashant Chauhan: We have a concurrent field work component in which the students, twice a week are attached, with NGO’s or child protection agencies, or other organizations. In that regard, definitely youth have the exposure of interacting with the stakeholders, since this is something which they cannot understand by reading books. In practicality and implication, things are very different. To understand those aspects, they should practice whatever they are learning. Our students are engaged in counselling, interviews and other jobs. This way they can learn a lot. They are also taking research projects, so that all the work can be comprehended and can be used in making other children learn about the problem.

Coming to the current situation of COVID Crisis, the essential role of the first responder has become even more important and also become very difficult. As a practitioner, social worker and educator as well, especially during the time where we are unable to reach out to the people at the grass root level, what is your advice with respect to the government’s response to fighting trafficking during his period of crisis. As how can the youth can play a part in the government’s response, not only in fighting COVID-19 but also in fighting the organized crime?

Prashant Chauhan: I feel not only during COVID-19, even post COVID-19, will be worse. Therefore, both the aspects should be monitored properly. Definitely there are certain factors that are increasingly developing vulnerable situations, that will increase the cases of human trafficking. Currently there is increasing rate of unemployment, livelihood opportunities have also become minimal, poverty is rising, there is disruption of education where schools are unable to operate including the health services, will increase the possibility of the problem of human trafficking cases. We have to put 200% of our energy so that such changing situation does not promote the human trafficking matters indefinitely. We all as stakeholders has to unite together with double energy. This is a very cautious time, otherwise all the efforts made in the past will be meaningless. Since the factors leading to human trafficking are indefinitely increasing in this current situation and the families may be compelled to fall under the trap because of such increasing problems. It is important to make people aware and sensitize them on the prevailing issues that efforts taken in the past should not go to waste for which we need to put double the energy.

What message do you want to give to our viewers across the world regarding the Article 23 dialogue?

Prashant Chauhan: Prime minister has rightly said that we should not look at this pandemic as a problem but as an opportunity. Every pandemic gives us new hopes and opportunities. In this way, when we are talking about the effects of pandemic especially in the vulnerable areas, it is important to understand the whole scenario. I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the efforts of the government to introduce employment opportunities, so that people can sustain their livelihood. But for the success of all these efforts, whether it is health or welfare aspect or the social mechanism, this is a time when we should think of what I can do? Even webinar is an opportunity to sensitize people about the current scenario. So, the primary focus is to take all the efforts that we can do individually to help people and to bring a change in the system. In which youth has a major role to play especially with respect to innovation, telephonic counselling or any other way in which they can help. I believe that we can together control this situation if we work together as a team. I would also like to mention that we are opening this changemakers club in the social work department of all our universities with the hope of bringing a change.

How do you want to see the change makers club to function and join your club?

Mr. Prashant Chauhan: We have a big opportunity for students who has passed out of college and also for those who are currently studying. They all can participate. The club has a vision and a motive. They have taken a pledge to work on the heinous crimes in whatever ways they can contribute not only as a student but also in other ways as well.

Team Article 23 is Supported by Surbhi Shivpuri -Law Officer Shakti Vahini (Editing) and Shubhashini Kant – Intern (Video Editing)

Article 23 Dialogues with Smita Sharma, Independent Photo Journalist

As a part of our effort to combat Human Trafficking, we are trying to put a spotlight on individuals who contributed in identifying, supporting and counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking and continues to challenge the impunity of traffickers. There are several people across India who continue to contribute their time and energy to combat crime against humanity, which include public officers, law enforcement authority, civil society, child protection officials, journalists, lawyers, medical professionals, and mental health experts. The Article 23 dialogue, gives a platform to all the people working at the grassroot level to connect with the youth. Today we have with us, Journalist Smita Sharma,  who has been covering issues regarding Human Trafficking across South Asia and in many countries across the world

My Post (69)In order to cover human trafficking issues and to have the strength to go into field, you need to have that sensitivity, to cover such issues. Especially, when survivors, who have just been rescued and being rehabilitated back to their homes, the journalists come and without any sensitivity start taking their pictures. As a result of which Supreme Court has given a clear guidelines on ensuring protection of identity of the victim’s sexual abuse and human trafficking. These orders must have made reporting tough for you, but still you have in your own way supported the voices of such victims. So, my first question to you would be, how do you as a journalist, look into the matter of human trafficking and do reporting in the field?

Smita Sharma: I first came across human trafficking, particularly around 6 years age when I was already working on my project on sexual violence and rape in India. I met a girl who was trafficked from school. At that point of time I started thinking, we never faced anything like that. What was the difference between my childhood and their childhood? When I started investigating, what I found was that mostly the girls from rural areas are targeted and particularly areas in India where there is poverty, where there is desperation. There are lot of human migration that happen in those areas, so there are families where the father is absent. Sometimes both the parents are not there and the grandparents are there to take care of the children. So, the parenting role is completely absent. In some families the parents are there, but these are very large families. There are 8 children in the family and there are perhaps only 2 rooms for the children to put up. So, when people are raised under such circumstances, they are looking for an outlet and the traffickers are very smart. They know how to hook. I use the word hook, because it is used in fishing. It is almost like they are trying to fish for a target and over here the target are these vulnerable girls from the vulnerable communities. So, that is the reason why I started working on this. The question you asked is a very challenging one because as photojournalist we have to be very careful of laws and guidelines.  There are so many things you have to take care of when you are working on this. Not revealing the identity, taking photographs in such a manner that no location could be revealed, even you cannot show a house. What if someone identifies the girl through that photograph of the house. So, when you are writing and when you are visualizing, these are two different things. Also, you cannot show the photo in black or white because that would not show the personality of the girl. And for me it is very important to show, who she is, what led her to such condition and how she is coping up? Because for me resilience is very important because for me resilience is very important. I have met so many girls from different families and different parts of the country, who are extremely resilient despite of what has happened to them. They do not give up hope and I think I have a lot to learn from them. Having said that, the challenges that we face while photographing, is that we use lighting in a very different way. Creatively I use a lot of fabric to create patterns in between the camera and the subject, I try multi-layer the subject so it looks creative. Yet, it is enough to hide the identity of the girl.

Smita_byYeongStudio-009When you went to several districts of Bengal, Jharkhand to cover the issues of Human Trafficking, you met survivors. Everybody brings out the pain of the survivor through their story and you yourself have visited those areas and families. You through your photographs, have not only brought out the pain of the survivors but also their suffering, trauma but also the ways in which the girls are coping with the situation after their rehabilitation. Somehow, your picture also showcases the positivity and energy of the families. How do you do that? I think our viewers, mostly young students, activists, lawyers, they might be eager to understand the way in which you create that image?

Smita Sharma: The element is patience and time. I don’t work like a daily news photographer who go to one situation, spend two hours and come out and ask them uncomfortable questions because first of all it is unethical to ask questions which can be traumatic and can re-victimize them. So I take time. I spend a lot of time with the family. For example: I did this project on the tea gardens, I spend a considerable amount of time there. I spend a lot of time on my research before going there. I make a lot of phone calls. I speak to people and organizations who are actively involved in anti-human trafficking. I try to get in touch with the police, the professors, doctors, anybody who is relevant to that area and to that issue. So two years ago, I worked on a project in that region, and I met many girls and missing families, who did not know where their daughters were. Even now they are untraceable and I never went and ask them how do you feel. Obviously, that is a wrong question to ask anyone because they just lost their daughter. So I generally go and talk to them as a normal human being. And I take time to build my relationship with them. And slowly they open up with me and they tell me things. I let them tell me instead of me asking them. Of course, I make it very clear why I am there. I ask the person about their own situation, I ask about what they like. I just generally listen and talk to them and that is what is shown in the photos because that is not forced.

It is because of photo journalists like you, frontline workers and unsung heroes like you, the national fight to uphold and implement Article 23 of Constitution of India continues. I really congratulate you on this because it is really important to bring out the issues of understanding the survivors family, understanding their trauma, understanding their positive energy and to bring those out in the photographs, which people will see and understand that it is not only about the violence but it is also about what is next after the violence. That is the importance of your photographs and every time your story comes. It is also very important because when you are reaching out in the interiors, you talk about doers, you talked about tea garden areas, people don’t understand your language. They are tribal people. How do you connect with those people in the families because they don’t know you. Suddenly you start shooting with the big cameras making them realise that it is for the story for which you have come there. How do you connect with such families?

Smita Sharma: First of all I want to clarify, that when I work on the sensitive stories, I do not carry a lot of gear, which means that I do not carry huge cameras and I do not carry a huge camera bag. I carry very little equipment, even the lights that I carry are very small portable lights. I just carry a regular bag because I do not want to come across as a photographer or a journalist. I want to look just as one of them. About the language, I have also worked in other countries. I have worked in Kenya, Guatemala and other different countries too. Generally, we work with somebody who is a local. That person can be someone from an organisation , can be a school teacher, can be a local lawyer, anyone who has agreed to work with me. But someone who knows the region, who knows the people and with whom I have developed a certain kind of understanding that they are going to come and help me. That person also travels with me and helps me in the story telling because when there is a language barrier, that person would translate for me. So this is how I work.

I also wanted to ask you a very important question. Being a woman, do you face challenge? Especially in India, females journalists are not always seen, especially in the villages. Since, you are going in the interiors. How do you make them realise that women can also be a part of this scenario of bringing stories as a journalist.

Smita Sharma: Being a woman definitely has a lot of advantages. There are some disadvantages also, which we will talk about later but before we should talk about the positive things. Before woman with a camera was not taken seriously in our country. At least in the rural areas, in the suburbs which is good, because when people don’t take you seriously, they don’t take you as a threat. Because some of the areas where I worked were highly dangerous. It was not just the survivors or missing girls, but it is also about the perpetrators. Because sometimes they are out of jail. Sometimes the perpetrators were never arrested. Sometimes, you know there are group of people who are involved in a crime, but you are still living there because there is no evidence. So I have to work with those limitations and I have to think about how to protect myself when I am out there. So I think keeping a low profile is very important. You do not want to come across as a  hot-shot journalist. You just want to look like one of them. I have been asked, I have been chased by a mob, I have been threatened. It has happened to me many times in many places. It has even happened to me outside India. I think the best thing is to be very calm and to make them feel like I am just like you. Maybe I talk different language and maybe I look different but I am just another human being but I am just here. So I try to work in that manner.  

These are the things which I think the young journalists or the young woman journalists, must realise the importance of your experience because you have gone deep into the interiors, made stories on gender-based violence, human trafficking, prostitution. You have also covered witch hunting. I would also like to know more about your work especially in Jharkhand, where you went for a week and you not only did your photo shoot but also educated young girls in schools, to learn photography. How did you feel when you gave camera to the young girls and told them the importance of a picture/ camera and how do you connect with those girls?

Smita Sharma: I was approached by my friend, who is an American photographer and who also work  for the non-profit and he was very interested to come to India and teach photography. He asked if I would want to partner with him, so I said sure and then I suggested that we go to Jharkhand, which Shakti Vahini organized on our behalf. I think, just the near action of giving the cameras to the girls who have never touched the camera before in their lives, they have not even touched a smart phone in their lives. They have seen mobile phones but they have never touched smart phones. So giving them a camera and telling them that I want to see how you see your life. I want you to show your world through your eyes. And then just teaching them the basics of story-telling, was an incredible experience. The girls were amazingly talented. Their work was really nice. They told their stories in their way. Also the work that I did in Jharkhand in that time, was similar. It was about domestic servitude trafficking. It was about tribal girls who were taken from their homes, with the promise of jobs and who were never paid and were kept in the placement agencies and kind of tramped them. These were the children who were tramped, because they were not given any single money. It goes to the agency. I hope to work some more in that area.

We are very grateful to have you in article 23 debate. There are so many youngsters who want to get into journalism with the opinion that it is a glamorous job for a woman. What is the message you want to give to the young girls and what are the protocols that you follow personally for the cases concerning human trafficking?

Smita Sharma: It is a very important question that you have asked. I also get a lot of messages on social media accounts and emails from both men and women asking to work with me. I think what you said is very true. There is a glamour attached to our profession because you see the end result and the end result is “This is such a fantastic story” and that you get so much attention. But you do not get attention, it is the issue that gets the attention. But you do not know the backstory. And as I said, just getting access to one family takes months. Getting access to police, the bureaucracy, it is impossible sometimes, to build that relationship and also going to these very different regions. One have to understand that when you go to these regions, there is no electricity. They do not have a space where you can charge your mobile phone. So you have to go prepared. There are places where you do not find toilets, so you have to have a very strong bladder  or you have use mother nature or you have to knock on peoples door. So there are different things you have to face. Sometimes, it has happened to me that for 14-15 hours I did not eat because I never got the change to eat because the work was so intense I did not think about food. What I see in today’s generation is that they are in a hurry, I feel. I am generalizing here because there are exceptions for sure. What I see is that everybody is in a hurry for instant gratification. They already have plan of what they want to do after a year. They have a list of the things they want to do. It is okay, one can always aim for something, but you have to give it time. You have to go to that level of hard work. You have to earn that story and in order to do that, you have to work hard. You have to do your research. You have to be there. So it is a mix of many things.

It is definitely a mix of many things. What is your message to the people? When Article 23 will be telecast, what message do you want to give to people ? Because doing stories on human trafficking is very dangerous. What is your message to the next generation?

Smita Sharma: First thing is that to work ethically. Do not be in a rush Do not cook up stories, do not manufacture something which is not there. Don’t tell people to do a certain thing in a certain way because you are in a hurry to get something. I have known some photographers who have staged  things, like can you walk this way, can you look in that direction also people ask uncomfortable questions so the women starts crying. You cannot do that because that is unethical. My only advice is that don’t work unethically. Abide by the laws of the land. Every country has different laws when it comes to human rights and gender rights. Do your research and do not break any protocol. Work sensitively, work from your heart and something good will definitely happen. It will take time but it will surely happen. Also don’t give up. Things don’t come easily so don’t give up easily. Have patience.

So don’t give up is the message given by Smita Sharma, award winning photo journalist, who has done a lot of hard work. She has covered for the New York Times, National Geographic and many International Journals. Every time she does some kind of photo-shoot, it is big. The message for the youth is to keep working as Mrs. Smita rightly said that you have to take your time. You have to understand your issues first and then you have to hit the ground. Before we wind up, one last question I would like to ask you is what is the difference between a story and a photoshoot?

Smita Sharma: I think they are the same. At least the work that I do, sometimes when you are writing a story, you are explaining situation, you are explaining everything and sometime when you are showing it, there is one photograph that tells the story. Of course, it comes with a caption because all the work that I do comes with a caption with information because otherwise it makes no sense. If it is a landscape with a tree, you look at it thinking it is a wonderful photograph. But when you have to show that this is where the body of a 10 year old girl was found, with her head chopped off and she was gang raped then this becomes something else. So it is the context and the visual that comes together. I think both photographs and texts, both tells a story. It is just a different format.

Lastly, how young photo journalists students, who are presently in their college across the country, how can they join you in your effort in joining your story of violence against women and children?

Smita Sharma: Violence against women is not new, it is not unheard of. It happens everywhere. Sometimes right in front of us, we don’t see it. So somebody does not need to go thousand miles away to get something. Sometimes it is just next door. Sometimes it could be the person who comes to your house to cook everyday may be she is having an issue at home. So I think it is possible to work on stories at your own backyard. There are so many issues related to violence against women. For example right now with COVID situation where people are under lockdown, there is a huge increase in domestic violence. There is a huge increase in sexual abuse inside homes. So sometimes you don’t have to look away, you have to look inside. If anyone is interested to work with me, they can apply for an internship and we will be happy to consider that.

Interns and Journalism Students can reach out to you on your Instagram and on your Facebook.

Thank you for joining us in our Article 23 dialogue. We are very thankful that you have given your time to the Article 23 dialogue.

 

Team Article 23 is Supported by Surbhi Shivpuri -Law Officer Shakti Vahini (Editing) and Shubhashini Kant – Intern (Video Editing)

Article 23 Dialogues with Shri Kamal Saksena- “Combating Human Trafficking, requires a more concentrated effort, more organized effort from all stakeholders”

SAKSENA 1Joining us today on the World Day against Human trafficking is Shri Kamal Saksena, IPS presently posted as Director General, (Vigilance) , Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited Shri Saksena earlier served as Secretary (Home) of Uttar Pradesh from 2012 to 2017. During his tenure as Secretary (Home) he led several initiatives to combat human trafficking in Uttar Pradesh.

As a part of our effort to combat Human Trafficking, we are trying to put a spotlight on individuals who contributed in identifying, supporting and counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking and continues to challenge the impunity of traffickers. There are several people across India who continue to contribute their time and energy to combat crime against humanity, which include public officers, law enforcement authority, civil society, child protection officials, journalists, lawyers, medical professionals, and mental health experts. Sir can you please share your experience as a police officer on fighting human trafficking?

Kamal Saksena: It is good to admit that during our training period and as an in charge of district for regular policing and zones, Human Trafficking somehow failed to find a priority which it should have and therefore my experience is largely for as a sectary home, during which I was exposed to the disaster where due to a lot of damage, people were migrated to Himalayan ranges. It was then that we realized that human trafficking used to take place around the border of Nepal. After my first exposure, I realized what a serious crime it is and it should be given top priority by all law enforcement agencies and stakeholders. The issue with this type of crime is that a lot of time there is a lack of awareness among the stakeholders. At the same time the criminals are very well organized and the victim himself/herself or their parents did not know that a crime has already taken place. It is a continuous crime. So during that time, we sensitized the districts around the Nepal border, did video conferencing, we put up play cards at the transit point to make people aware to beware of traffickers and human trafficking. We have rescued a lot of victims and also arrested a lot of traffickers as well. Along with that, through video conferencing, we had also been taking updates from the district administration and police, regarding the current scenario of human trafficking. Through my experience, I have noticed that human trafficking is a kind of crime, whose responsibilities are shared among several stakeholders but to hand hold and collectively take care of the situation. I could witness the convergence happening, which was a very satisfying experience. From there we could see, in which district who was caught and using this what all measures could be taken in other districts, so that was a very good experience, definitely a big learning experience for me.

Can you elaborate more on India’s response to combating human trafficking because trafficking is an organized crime and connects source and destination at some point and there is also transit point. It might appear very tough and difficult. So how do you think can the police strengthen the inter-state responsibility? Also, since you were in the destination state and also the source state of the crime, Uttar Pradesh, it would be tough for lower police officials to understand the whole scenario. So, in which way India can respond from the perspective of the police?

Kamal Saksena: As a country in response to heinous crime of Human Trafficking, it requires a more concentrated effort, more organized effort from the officers at the grass root level. All the officers must be given more dedicated input on human trafficking, with proper examinations and with training in every 2-3 months with latest laws and latest rulings of the court. It is not only restricted to the police but all the stakeholders as well, be it lawyers or judiciary or probation officers because this is a crime which is happening within the society, not only by identified criminals but by opportunists who are exploiting the disparity in the society, be it economy, employment etc or some kind of kind disaster taking place, be it man-made or natural disaster, be it poverty or shelter home are exploited by these people. Also, the market is very high, we can talk about the topics that Article 23 covers, i.e beggary and forced labour. But forced labour got defined as early as in 1982 and today beggary is punished. But while talking about human trafficking, we talk about prostitution, beggary, forced labour and many other forms of exploitation. It is a million-dollar industry today. There is also medical human trafficking where they are using humans as trials for organ transplantation etc. Somehow, for different stakeholders, their training pattern, the execution of their enforcement, the coordination between agencies, are not as they should be. They lack a lot of coherence; they lack a lot of hand-holding. We need to put our efforts together, our resources together, and with the help of NGOs, the judiciary, the police we must keep evolving our methodology. It should never get saturated. It is true that Uttar Pradesh is the destination, the source areas for trafficking and also the transit point. We have a very huge population and therefore people are more likely to get lost. Its high time that we need to make a note of this and we need to be more aggressive, organized and more trained. We should start an awareness campaign and draw a coordinated hand holding from district to district stakeholders.

My Post (69)You spoke about more aggressive approach, more interstate cooperation which is why we have brought Article 23 dialogue with the help of which we are trying to reach people who are working at the grass root level fighting human trafficking. There are a lot of social workers are working towards combating the crime. Therefore, we should be working collectively. Sir, how can we strengthen the law enforcement system especially when an advisory was issued by the home ministry, where they have specified on the training of the police officers? Do you think the training sessions support the police officers or does it help in making the collaboration strong among the stakeholders? Why do you think training is important? Since during the Nepal earthquake you gave a lot of importance to training because of which a lot of traffickers were arrested and we could also notice strengthening of police at that point.

Kamal Saksena: This is very true. At that time, we could train more than 6000 district stakeholders including police, judiciary, probation officers, lawyers, NGOs. There were all with us. We also had a strong resource person because of which we could train the people and sensitize them on the issue of human trafficking. Training is a very essential input and can find a regular pattern and emphasize on IPC, CRPC, which is mandatory. It is important to teach these stakeholders about these subjects with all seriousness. Training should be repeated in every two or three month and within these two-three months of different batches, we should ensure covering all the members of that particular service. Once that is done then each member should have the opportunity to visit the training centers. Meanwhile, the data that is developed because of the pattern of trend of human trafficking, the international laws, these should always be thrown open to make it very vibrant and to initiate day to day interaction. Therefore, the trainings should be regular, repeated and for 300 persons. It should be supplemented with the campaign in the society. Repeated and Regular, through so many mediums. We have FM, Television, newspaper and all. We should make an effort that apart from the stakeholders and the NGOs, the civil society at a larger scale should be sensitized on such issues, and they should join hands in prioritizing such crimes. These things when put together will go a very long way. At the same time, I realize that all the stakeholders, may not have the same level of clarity and commitment because of other issues and because of other responsibilities.  The operation of the AHTU’s should be reintegrated again and again by the officers in charge and should ensure that they are always functional. We need a systematic approach.

For some time you were in UP’s WCD Department and brought a lot of changes during that time with respect to training and strengthening of child protection mechanism. You notice a lot of loopholes and brought changes accordingly. What changes did you bring because of which it was so successful?

Mr. Kamal Saksena: During the time I was in Women and Child Development, we took into consideration the JJ Act Rules. We noticed that in those rules, the child protection agencies at the district level were not formalized. It was an effort to create child protection units at district level. We sensitized the DM’s and the commissioners by conducting conferences at the state level. That was a big success because many of them openly admitted that they were not aware of the heinous crimes taking place and it was high time to put dedicated time to these issues pertaining to children, women and human trafficking. We could sensitize people at the rural level and ground level officers. We could reach out to many government agencies. We ensured to take meetings in every three months to monitor the changes that were taking place.

Right now we are fighting through this COVID Crisis because of which vulnerabilities have increased and people are losing their jobs. Poverty is growing at the source and destination areas. As a police officer in what way can we work with police, what mechanism can we follow to protect such vulnerable communities?

Mr. Kamal Saksena: Human Trafficking in itself is a crime which is also as a result of societies situation or scenarios, like unemployment, poverty, lack of opportunities. These are the factors that push youngsters or the families to migrate from one location to another. COVID-19 has made things very difficult as it has also impacted the economy of the country. Similarly, reverse migration is also taking place because of which the source areas have started drying up. Talking about trafficking during COVID, certain patterns has emerged, for example: in Uttar Pradesh Moradabad few traffickers were pinned down. From Jharkhand the stopover was Bijnor. From Nepal the stopover was Varanasi. The NCR region was flooded with trafficked victims from Uttarakhand. We have certain areas from where boys and girls were picked up. These were the areas of focus primarily; the local administration and government should create a security net and should activate any census within the age of vulnerable age or person could be highlighted. Those areas which has proven that people have been working over there systematically to lure boys and girls to flesh trade and prostitution and promising employment, we should focus on them and develop a methodology accordingly. At the same time, we should also take measures that we have arranged. These areas should be given more priorities in helping people out. There are so many dimensions that have grown, which should be given a priority.

Finally your comment to the youth of this country? How can we unite as a civil society person to assist and strengthen the police and help in fighting the organized crime?

Mr. Kamal Saksena: Each and every youth in this country should know what it takes to be civilized. It is the most inhuman form of crime that takes place. We call ourselves civilized. It is a responsibility to wear the burden of fighting the crime of trafficking. We must be aware of this crime and knowingly and unknowingly should not be beneficiary to this crime. It is a matter of belonging and shouldering the responsibility.

Article 23- Dialogues – Interview with Shri Bal Krishna Goel – Former Member of the Haryana Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Article 23- Dialogues

For our first, Article 23 Dialogues we are joined by Shri B.K Goel, Former Member of the Haryana Commission for Protection of Child Rights. During his tenure as a member of State Protection of Child Rights, Haryana he was always in the forefront on the issues related to child protection in Haryana and also across the country.

He was instrumental in breaking several organized crime rackets who were indulging in child trafficking . Due to his efforts, Haryana has witnessed a lot of changes in its child protection mechanism. Thank you for participating in our first session.

Rishi Kant – Can you please talk about your experience in working on Human Trafficking especially in Haryana and Northern India?

Bal Krishna Goel:  With respect to the ground realities of human trafficking, especially in Haryana, I would like to mention that in the period of 3 years that I was posted there, there have been a lot of changes in mindset concerning human trafficking especially among state agencies.. I used to think that there are not much cases of Human Trafficking in Haryana and thought there were other issues that required more attention. At that time, I thought Human Trafficking could take a backseat. However, what I experienced in my three years tenure, was completely different. To put it in simpler words, there is no district in Haryana that did not have a case of human trafficking. Mr. Rishi Kant would be able to connect with it better since, Shakti Vahini look into inter-state and inter-country trafficking cases and has also seen the root problems in Haryana at the deeper levels. It is even sad to state it since, Haryana is known as consumer state. The consumption of trafficking takes place in Haryana. In our state, most of the women, girls or children who are working as domestic maids brought from other states have been a victim of trafficking. I am not stating any data here because I believe that the data do not provide the real image of the situation. Because most of the time the data states that 4000 children have been trafficked, but then how come 40,000 children were rescued? This means that at some point, there is a lack in the reporting of law enforcement authorities. There are so many cases here in Haryana where children are being forced into domestic labour or bonded labour. Even we intervened in cases where girls with less than 18 years of age were forced into prostitution. There were also cases where people even tried killing these children and then we had to take support of organizations like Shakti Vahini to protect them.

My Post (69)Mr. Rishi Kant: It is really a big issue in Haryana especially for the children who are brought here for domestic help. In such situations the role of placement agencies come into picture. There is another major issue prevailing in Haryana at the moment, which is of Forced marriages, where girls are being sold in villages. What is your suggestion in such cases and how can Haryana look into such crimes?

Mr B.K Goel: It is a major problem in Haryana that the sex ratio in the state used to be very less. With the efforts of the state government, it is improving however, it will take its time. The factor that distinguishes Haryana from the other states is because of bride trafficking factor. It is a serious concern. In this state boys, does not get girls for marriage, because of which girls from other states are specifically sold here for forced marriages. The state government has tried stopping it. The state government in order to regulate the issue has taken stricter actions in the PNCDP Act because of which the sex ratio has been improving.

Mr. Rishi Kant: I would also like to ask your opinion on how should our country respond to fight crimes like human trafficking?

Mr. B.K Goel: Till the time Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) is not properly functioned, there can be no regulation of human trafficking crimes.  AHTU is just available on the papers. Most of the times, Superintendent of Police himself does not know who is the in-charge of the AHTU. The first suggestion would be to activate the AHTU’s properly in every state, the destination as well as the source state. Secondly, the fast track system in court should be followed properly. Till the time the traffickers are not afraid of the judicial system, they will not stop committing the crime. Thirdly, public awareness is very important. It should not be the responsibility of only the organization but also the general public to ensure that such activities do not take place. If a person sees a crime happening in front of him but does not report it, then he is equally liable for the crime.

Mr. Rishi Kant: You rightly said that the AHTU should be strengthened. You yourself in your tenure has taken steps to ensure that AHTU’s function properly and effectively. I would like to ask you one more question, regarding child protection system since you have worked in the area and has also worked with the state commission. What are the problems that the child protection system in Haryana is facing and how can we as social workers can solve these problems? And the ways in which the child protection system can work with the AHTU to strengthen the survivor? Since even after the rescue the survivors face a lot of problem. What all suggestions can you give in order to strengthen the entire process?

Mr. B.K Goel: I believe in the CAT tool and have always been asking people in the child protection system to follow the tool. C stands for coordination, A stands for answer ability and T for technology. Coordination, because it is important for all the stakeholders to work with each other and assist each other. It is important for them to have coordination among each other. Answerability can be used to improve the seriousness of the stakeholders towards the crime. Technology is the biggest tool. It can be used to track the victims easily and help in their rescue. Therefore, CAT is an important tool to strengthen the child protection system. In this corona period, people who used to run away from technology also had to openly accept it and follow it.

Mr. Rishi Kant: Article 23 Dialogues is the way in which the ground realities can be brought forward. Moving on, the current situation of the COVID crisis has brought the entire world to a standstill. People are losing their jobs, having troubles at home, vulnerability has increased. What do you think, in this situation, as responders and social workers can we strengthen the law enforcement system and address such vulnerabilities as an effect of COVID crisis?

Mr. B.K Goel: It is a very important question. Like the Honorable Prime Minister in his speech mentioned that we have to create opportunities in crisis like this, so I was wondering how can we approach this thought process in the child protection mechanism. Everyone is facing trouble in this period of crisis. People are losing their jobs, they have to leave their homes, we are having flood problems as well. We are facing a situation that is beyond the control of the human being. But we also have to look at the positive aspects as well. When I talk about positivity, during this time the strengthening of the child protection mechanism at the ground level can happen very easily. During the time the lockdown was announced, many people at who had children as domestic help, asked them to go back to their hometowns. We have also seen situation where people went back to their homes walking 1000s of km. Hopefully, they will now not be trafficked again. We have not gotten an opportunity to strengthen our AHTUs by alerting them towards the whole situation. We can also strengthen the RWAs by ensuring that they should prevent any child to be placed in any home as domestic help. We also have to ensure the registration of the placement agencies. Some few days back I was reading the interview of the home minister, where he mentioned that in order to strengthen the AHTUs, they have allocated 4 crores from the Nirbhaya Fund. It shows that even the government feels that there might be increase in the rate of human trafficking cases due to the corona crisis. The state governments especially of the consumer states should ensure that no child below the age of 18 years should be forced into labour. In this aspect, the sensitization should increase. The RWA, district administrators should be duly informed and be asked to take active steps. It is a good opportunity to ensure the strengthening of child protection mechanism.

Mr. Rishi Kant: All the points you mentioned are extremely important and there is a need to strengthen the child protection mechanism. Sir, what are your final comments on Article 23 Dialogues?

Mr. B.K Goel: It is in the hands of every person that they do natural justice with everyone. It is important to follow Article 23. In this situation where we are living, families who are not privileged have to fight for survival. When we see a situation where a child is selling balloons or pens at the traffic signal, we think that by buying those things, we are helping them, this mentality is wrong. If we really want to help then we have to make an attempt to get the child out of that condition by looking into who is making them do such things rather than giving them money. If each one of us, can take the responsibility of one kid, to ensure that he gets out of trafficking and to make him capable, with that effort only trafficking can be stopped.

Mr. Rishi Kant: Thank you so much for talking about the problems that exist at the grassroot level. It is important for all of us to take your suggestions to take into consideration.

In the red light areas where there is organized prostitution there is nothing called “consent” or “out of choice”-It is all about exploitation and organized crime which subjugates Women and Children

Ravi Kant President, Shakti Vahini –  Advocate Supreme Court of India

Prostitution in India is controlled by mafia, criminal elements & organized crime syndicates. A close scrutiny of various red light areas across the country prove that it is a crime syndicate which is completely focused on generating high profit for the operators of the sex trade. It uses various form of exploitation to prey upon the victims. The demand for young girls in this trade vigorously fuels the trafficking of minor victims from across the country and neighboring states. There are several cases of sex trafficking of minor girls as well as women which have ended in conviction and closure of brothels. These cases have revealed tales of extreme violence , lurement and entrapment.

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The power dynamics in the red light area or in any place where sexual exploitation takes place is controlled by the organized crime syndicates, money lenders & criminal elements. This is because it is a high profit making business. The profit from exploitation fuels the sex trade. Operators need profit and in order to generate high profit it has to cater to the demand of the people who come and pay for these services. It is a well-established fact that the demand is of young minor girls. As the age of the victim increases the demand for the victim goes down. During the tender years the demand is high and also the revenue generated from the exploitation is also high.

Since the earning capacity of the victims who are controlled by the criminal and organized crime reduces by the age and no of years the victim has been exploited the traffickers loose interest on these women and after years of exploitation many of these women are set free by the brothel owners and are allowed to continue the work independently by paying commissions to the traffickers. In the initial five to ten years the minor victims are forced, exploited and violated by hundreds of men. Their films are made and widely circulated in the internet which generates huge profit for the traffickers.

After years of sexual exploitation, servitude and bondage which may continue for 10-15 years and when the revenue generated from their exploitation goes down they are set free and made partners in the illegal sex trade.

It is a well established fact that high profits and revenues come from the exploitation of minors and new entrants. The business interest of traffickers are more in exploitation of minor victims. In places like the red light areas where there is organized prostitution there is nothing called “consent” or “out of choice”- It is all about exploitation and subjugation of innocent women and children who are trafficked each year from far flung areas of the country.

This is the reason why this exploitation should end. the traffickers are aware on the loopholes of the law. They take the legal process easily and think they can get away with the crime.

It is because of this it is the need of the time that the new comprehensive legislation is passed as soon as possible. the Comprehensive legislation will bring the fear of the law among the traffickers. The law will mandate a national nodal agency to investigate cross border and inter state trafficking cases. It will strengthen investigation of human trafficking cases.The new law will usher in witness protection protocols which is the need of time. It is because of this the traffickers many a times threaten innocent victims and ensure that they testify falsely in the courts. The new legislation will bring in a proper budgeted rehabilitation programme which will help the victims of the organized crime to start life fresh and also end their vulnerability. The proposed legislation will also ensure that property generated out of the exploitation of trafficked victims are confiscated. The proposed legislation will bring in a institutional machinery from the remote districts of the country to the various state capitals and will lead to strengthening of victim response services.

The legalization brigade in India has been spreading misinformation that if the legislation is passed the life of women in prostitution will be made difficult and their livelihoods will be affected and they may be victimized by the police. The supreme court in Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal has already clarified that women in prostitution who have been trapped in the trade should not be victimized and only the perpetrators need to be booked and prosecuted.

The women in fact are entitled to rehabilitation which has been missing since the last sixty years. the new legislation will bring in budgeted rehabilitation initiatives which will help lift thousands of trafficked victims live a life of  respect and self dignity.

It is because of this the new proposed legislation which the union cabinet has already approved should become a law as soon as possible . It is the step in Right direction.

Prostitution is Organised Crime and Violation of Fundamental Rights. Trafficking and sexual slavery is worst form of Human Rights Violation. No women joins this inhuman trade out of choice. Amost 100% women have been trafficked and forced into the sex trade.

 Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 criminalises the organised crime of Prostitution. Organised Prostitution creates a demand for young girls for the brothels which is met by trafficking of minor girls from across the Country.

Giving Prostitution a legal status will be giving boost to demand of young minor girls who will be trafficked. In countries where such legalization has happened it has led to exploitation of women and girls and also commodification of women bodies.

There here is no doubt that women who have been caught in the sex trade  need access to all Government facilities and schemes and efforts must be made to see that they join the mainstream and are properly rehabilitated. Also those who indulge in this organised crime of human trafficking which leads to kidnapping of young girls from across the country need to be properly punished.

The sad part is that inspite of various recommendations from the Supreme Court in various cases no geniune efforts have been made by any Government to see that this social malice which results from Organised Crime be eradicated.

The Supreme Court in its order dated 26 July 2012  has clarified that its endeavor to provide right to life and access to governmental schemes should not be construed as an encouragement to prostitution.

The clarification had come from a bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Gyan Sudha Mishra after additional solicitor general P P Malhotra had drawn the court’s attention to its July 19 ,2011 order in which it had sought suggestions from the SC-constituted panel on creating “conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity”. Malhotra had said there was a danger of the order being construed as an incentive to indulge in an activity that had been termed as an offence under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956.

The Judges on the bench passed had passed separate orders, but both meant to clarify that the panel would recommend steps to create “conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity as per provisions of the Constitution Article 21″. 

Justice Kabir added a precautionary clarification — “The above modification should not be construed to mean any attempt made to encourage prostitution.”

Hearing the Petition  Justice Mishra had clarified, “I prefer to add…sex workers have a right to live with dignity but the collective endeavour must be on part of the sex workers to give up the trade in case they are given alternate platform.”

The Detailed Order of the Bench  Dated 26 /07/2012 is as follows :

ORDER

1. While concurring with the views of my learned brother Justice Altamas Kabir, I prefer to add in regard to the second issue that this Court should not be misunderstood to encourage the practice of flesh trade or advocate the recognition of sex trade merely because it has raised the issue to emphasize the rehabilitation aspect of the sex workers, for which this Court had taken the initiative right at the threshold. I consider this essential in order to allay any apprehension which prompted the Union of India to move this application for modification, by highlighting that the sex workers although have a right to live with dignity as the society is aware that they are forced to continue with this trade under compulsions since they have no alternative source of livelihood, collective endeavour should be there on the part of the Court and all concerned who have joined this cause as also the sex workers themselves to give up this heinous profession of flesh trade by providing the destitute and physically abused women an alternative forum for employment and resettlement in order to be able to rehabilitate themselves. I, therefore, wish to reiterate by way of abundant caution that this Court should not be perceived to advocate the recognition of sex trade or promote the cause of prostitution in any form and manner even when it had stated earlier in its terms of reference regarding conditions conducive for sex workers who wish to continue working as sex workers with dignity.

2. Thus, when we modify the earlier term of reference and state regarding conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution, the same may not be interpreted or construed so as to create an impression or draw inference that this Court in any way is encouraging the sex workers to continue with their profession of flesh trade by providing facilities to them when it is merely making an effort to advocate the cause of offering an alternative source of employment to those sex workers who are keen for rehabilitation. When we say conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity, we unambiguously wish to convey that while the sex workers may be provided alternative source of employment for their rehabilitation to live life with dignity, it will have to be understood in the right perspective as we cannot direct the Union of India or the State Authorities to provide facilities to those sex workers who wish to promote their profession of sex trade for earning their livelihood, except of course the basic amenities for a dignified life, as this was certainly not the intention of this Court even when the term of reference was framed earlier.

3. We, therefore, wish to be understood that we confine ourselves to the efforts for rehabilitation of sex workers which should not be construed as facilitating, providing them assistance or creating conducive conditions to carry on flesh trade for expanding their business in any manner as it cannot be denied that the profession of sex trade is a slur on the dignity of women. Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution be therefore understood in its correct perspective as indicated above.

J (GYAN SUDHA MISRA) New Delhi, July 26, 2012

 

 

 

HC orders Bengal govt to compensate trafficking victim, says right to relief notwithstanding result of criminal proceedings

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The compensation, to be given by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), is to be handed over within ten days of the order.

In a landmark judgment, the Calcutta High Court Monday ordered the state to pay compensation to a trafficking victim even as investigation is ongoing and trial is yet to begin. Justice Rajshekhar Mantha observed that the victim of a crime has the right to receive compensation notwithstanding the result of criminal proceedings.

The compensation, to be given by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), is to be handed over within ten days of the order.

The order was passed on a writ petition filed by the victim’s lawyer after their application for compensation was turned down by both the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and SLSA. The victim was 14 years old when she was trafficked (see box).

Criminal lawyer Kaushik Gupta, who is representing the victim, said, “When the case was filed in West Bengal, it was not filed under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), unlike in Pune…If it is a case of simple kidnapping, the case can be investigated by a sub-inspector. Under ITPA, the minimum rank required is that of inspector. Secondly, police stations and officers-in-charge don’t have the resources to investigate under ITPA, because for that you have to investigate the entire route — in this case from the district to Sealdah to Mumbai to Pune. The officer has to take a team with the victim’s family. Sometimes, it takes years for the cost of investigation to be reimbursed by the state. The probe is therefore limited to surrounding areas of the village from which the trafficking has taken place.

“Therefore, the investigation carried out is often inadequate, as is the chargesheet. For the lawyer to then prove the case becomes very difficult. More often than not, this results in acquittal of accused. This is a landmark order as it shifts the concept of justice from the sole purpose of convicting the criminal, to compensatory justice.’’

Justice Mantha’s order states: “The writ petitioner has been a victim of trafficking. She was identified, traced and brought back from Pune to West Bengal…The victim had filed an application under the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme of 2017. Such scheme came to be framed after the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, was amended to bring in section 357A in 2009.’’

It further states: “According to this law, every state government in coordination with the central government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for compensation to victim or dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation. Article 38 of the Constitution obligates the State to render social justice to its citizens.

Right to receive just compensation as a victim of a crime, notwithstanding the result of criminal proceedings emanating out of the incident of crime can be read into Article 21 of the Constitution of India guaranteeing ‘Right to life’. ‘Right to life’ encompasses within its fold, the ‘Right to live with dignity’. A citizen cannot be asked to forfeit the right to live with dignity just because such citizen has become a victim of a crime. The state is obliged to protect the life and property of its citizens. The victim may or may not receive compensation in the criminal proceedings. The criminal proceedings may result in acquittal of the accused. Disposal of such criminal proceedings with a particular result does not mean that, the incident of crime did not happen or that the victim is not entitled to or requires compensation.”

The order also states: “Acquittal of the accused, ipso facto, does not mean that the incident of crime did not take place. The victim of the crime may require support, monetary and otherwise to mitigate the loss and injury suffered as a result of the crime. The victim may require rehabilitation.”

Justice Mantha observed that the victim must be compensated under section 357A as her fundamental rights under Article 21 (Right to life) have been violated. “Denial of compensation to such victim would continue such violation and perpetrate gross inhumanity on the victim…This cannot be the object of section 357A and the 2017 scheme…I therefore hold that both requirements the accused not being identified or traced as also that the trial should not have commenced, need not be satisfied for entitlement of compensation…,” stated the order.

The Calcutta High Court also directed that the CID take on the investigation.

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Efforts On to Revive Twin Rescue Centres

Social welfare department plans to rope in NGOs to run Ranchi, Delhi hubs

Ranchi: Two resource centres, one each in the state and national capitals, set up around four years back to help women and child trafficking victims and curb the influence of dubious placement agencies, are being revived after these had failed to take off due to bureaucratic lethargy and a lack of clarity on their functioning.

Director of integrated child protection scheme (ICPS) Rajesh Singh said they had begun work seriously on reviving the two centres.

“We plan to outsource the centres to a trusted agency with experience. We have uploaded a notice in this regard on our website asking interested parties to apply latest by the first week of July,” said the director of the scheme under the state social welfare department.

Rescue of abused children and battered women from Jharkhand, who have been working as domestic helps in places like Delhi and UP after being trafficked, is common. It indicates Jharkhand’s failure to have a proper mechanism in place to either keep a tab on those leaving the state in search of a livelihood or crack down on dubious placement agencies that exploit the scenario.

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The continued inactivity of the resource centres has, in fact, invited criticism from Jharkhand High Court. While hearing a PIL in connection with the welfare of victims of trafficking and policies related to child development, the court commented in February that the bureaucracy in Jharkhand was doing the work of the government only on paper.

The resource centre in Ranchi was set up at the CID office at Doranda in association with NGO Save the Children, police and the social welfare department. The Delhi centre was set up at Jharkhand Bhavan.

On issues plaguing the centres, a department official said that so far the partner NGO had been funding staff salaries, while the state government had provided the space.

“Now, this NGO does not want to continue and has withdrawn funding. In any case, we should fund it on our own and run it properly,” he said, adding that the annual cost of running each centre was around Rs 50 lakh.

But Singh claimed funds weren’t an issue. “Earlier, there was no clarity on the mandate of the resource centres. Now, that has been specified clearly,” he said.

The centre in Delhi, he explained, was to gather intelligence on the whereabouts and work places of trafficked women and children, rescue them in tandem with local police and repatriate them in coordination with the centre in Ranchi. The centre in the state capital would need to keep tabs on complaints received about missing children and women from each district, conduct research and ensure rescued individuals were rehabilitated.

Rishi Kant, among the founders of Delhi-headquartered NGO Shakti Vahini, welcomed the state social welfare department’s move to outsource the running of the centres.

“The government’s decision to outsource the centres is a good one. This means, a significant section of the civil society will get involved and this will make a difference. But the selected agency should be able to provide 24/7 service,” he cautioned, adding that the trafficking scenario in Jharkhand and Bihar was alarming.

“Roughly, our organisation has been rescuing 200 children of Jharkhand annually for the last few years. These children were forced to work in inhumane conditions in places like Delhi, UP and Haryana,” he said.

The Telegraph- 15.06.2018