AP trafficking victims will be paid to testify

Many cases against traffickers in humans in Andhra Pradesh fall apart because the witnesses, usually the victims themselves, don’t want to testify. And it’s mainly because they do not have the money to appear at hearings.
So for the first time in the country, the Andhra police are heading a UN agency plan to compensate witnesses for coming to testify. They will get fare to and from their village to the court, said P Umapathi, inspector general of Women’s Protection Cell. “We also propose to give them daily minimum wages for the period that they are in court. They will get some money for child maintenance, too,” he said.
The court currently pays witnesses only Rs 8 for food. The money for the new initiative is coming from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The agency will give each of the five worst-hit districts Rs 5 lakh for a year. “While it will be funded by UNODC to start with, the state will eventually take over the programme,” said Umapathi.
He said the aim is to introduce the compensation scheme to all 23 districts. The payment scheme will also cover men who appear as witnesses.
Karn Kowshik
Posted online: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 0000 hrs

Andhra has the highest number of cases of trafficking in women in the country. Records show that last year, 1,431 arrests were made in 458 cases under the Immoral Trafficking Act by the Andhra police across the country.
While the police are still compiling figures on those rescued, an official here said that in the last three months, they have had 300 rescues and a similar number of arrests. About a quarter of those saved are minors.
The police here say victims of trafficking often shun the courts because they are unsure about what the police are doing for them. In many case they want to go back to the brothel or the pimp who they were with, for reasons ranging from financial security to fear of being ostracized at home. But the main reason, said a senior Women’s Cell official, is that victims lose their daily wages when they come to court to testify. “They have to spend money on transport and food, as well as food for their children,” he said.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/25564.html

In child smuggler’s words, villagers called him ‘God’

KOLKATA, March 13 : Police ki ankhon me mein child smuggler, lekin gaonwale mujhe bhagwan samajthe the. Dada, mein bacche smuggle karta tha, ismein bahut paisa hai (Police may call me a trafficker, but I was god to the villagers. I used to traffick children. It gives good money),” says Tushar Bashar (name changed), once a child trafficker in Sandeshkhali, South 24 Parganas.

According to locals and police, he smuggled at least 50 children out of the villages in Sandeshkhali. Business was good for Tushar, a well-built man with thin moustache, till he sold one of his own relatives to the child trafficking racket and later came to know that the girl had landed into a brothel
in Delhi.
“I was full of remorse. I was repentant. I had brought the girl from my poor maternal uncle’s home with the promise that she would find a good house and paid a decent salary in Delhi. But once out of Kolkata, the agents who had taken her away could not provide any information about the girl for months and not a penny reached my uncle. Finally, I learnt that she was in a brothel. I had to leave my house as my uncle and other relatives kept visiting me and insisted on getting the girl back. This is my new address that my relatives do not know. They have lost track of me. I have also changed track to settle for other things,” says Bashar. He now works as a security guard with a well-known group in Kolkata.
Talking to The Indian Express, he narrated how the racket works at the grassroot level in villages like Sandeshkhali.
“I could speak well and convince people. Once you earn the confidence of a couple of homes in a particular village, the urge to send children to places like Delhi and Mumbai is like a tide,”
he says.
“There are so many children and so many mouths to feed. We were hailed as gods by the villagers, as they thought we could provide their children with jobs. Parents depend on the income of their children. It used this to our benefit. We told them that the children would find work as domestic helps in good households of Delhi and Mumbai.
They will earn substantial money. But they were sold,” says Bashar, sitting with his wife in the lawn of his house, in Sandeshkhali village.
According to Bashar, the agents in the districts and in Kolkata have people in villages who work for them.
They often also have tie-ups with agencies in Delhi, Mumbai and other big cities which provide domestic help services.
The children are moved to railway stations and transit lodges in Kolkata in groups of 10 and 20. They are taken to bigger cities by the agents through trains and buses, tells Bashar.
Once in Delhi or Mumbai, they are sorted according to their age and looks. The good-looking and young children are sold into sex trade. The others are sent to brothels or to households.
“A good-looking young girl fetched me anything between Rs 4000 to Rs 6000,” says Bashar. The chain upwards is intricate and is not disclosed to those below, Bashar adds.
“The parents are promised Rs 1000 to 1500 per month, but in most cases the payment is only for the first or second month. The standard story then is that the child has escaped from where he was employed and hence could not be contacted.” There were over 70 such agents in Sandeshkhali block when he was into the racket about a year ago, Bashar says.
He also ackowledges the involvement of both local police and local politicians. “Regular share was given to the police as well as the local village panchayat members of political parties. I used to work as a trafficker under a former village panchayat vice-chairman who belongs to the CPI(M). A good network in the villages and the financial condition of the families in the neighbouring villages was essential to run the racket,” says Bashar.
Members of an NGO, Save the Children, which is working for rehabilitation of the rescued trafficked children say that at least nine traffickers have been persuaded to get back to the mainstream in the past two years in Sandeshkhali.
http://www.indianexpress.com/story/25567.html

Low on police priority, missing cases on a high

Ravik Bhattacharya
Posted online: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 0000 hrs

Kolkata, march 12 : If the report by Kolkata police’s Missing Persons Squad is any indication, an abnormally high number of children disappear every year from city homes. Out of about 40,000 people gone missing from the city between 1996 and 2005 (as per the latest figures available with the Kolkata police), the number of children is significantly high. Over 15,600 children have disappeared during this period from the city.

Meanwhile, for a small fragment of those who make it back home, the return is often due to providential escape. Take the case of Sudha. The 14-year-old girl of a split family moved several hands on the promise of job and safe upkeep. “At one house, the day I landed, the drivers downstairs targeted me. I was sexually exploited for nearly a year in that multi-storeyed house,” she said. One day, Sudha managed to call the STD booth near her house and pass on the address she was staying at. She was rescued by the people of her locality with police help.
Detective Department chief Gyanwant Singh traces a pattern in the missing links. Data analysis shows, those in the age-group of five to six years are mostly lost and found cases and are mostly reported from slums of the city. A small number account for “kidnapping” cases, engineered mostly by their near and dear ones. Bad school results and family atrocity account for a large number of cases in the age-group of 10-15 years, Singh says.
A new trend, he says, is homosexuality, the expression of which is said to be forcing some, though a small fraction, to flee homes. For example, two Class IX girls of a reputed Kolkata school fled to Siliguri in 2006. Traced to a hotel, the girls reportedly confessed their plans to marry and live together.
A study, sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission, on trafficking of women and children in the city reflects the shocking state of affairs. It says: “It is alarming and it is true… Kolkata seems to be most unsafe for children among all the cities in the country.” The study, in collaboration with the Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences, over a six-year period from 1996 to 2001, found a whopping 133 per cent rise in the number of children gone missing in Kolkata.
The response of the police missing squads is abysmal. There are two separate units in the state to deal with such cases — the Kolkata police, having jurisdiction over the municipal area of the city, and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that looks after the cases in the districts.
“It is true that such cases are dealt as general diary cases in local police stations because missing children cannot be related to any crime. It is also true that apart from recording the diary and occasionally visiting the victim’s house, little else is done,” said Banibrata Basu, an inspector general of police, who has served as the head of both the Detective Department of the Kolkata police as well as the Missing Persons Squad of the CID. Basu acknowledges that the problem in Bengal is inextricably linked to human trafficking and, therefore, needs a co-ordinated approach of the police, the panchayats and the NGOs.
But both the units are restricted by shortage of manpower, funds and resources. At times, the cops agree to undertake the journey only if the victim’s party is willing to bear the costs. But that often is an unofficial arrangement and the poor can hardly afford to foot such bills.
Moreover, the missing cases are given the lowest priority since they are not considered crime until linked to kidnapping, trafficking or smuggling. The Missing Persons Squad of the Kolkata police, at present, comprises barely 12 persons, including two inspectors, five sub-inspectors, three assistant sub-inspectors and two constables. Their job is restricted to recording the cases and arranging for publication or flashing of the missing persons’ photographs in newspapers or television channels.
The CID Missing Persons Squad, too, has around 14 members, headed by an inspector and a deputy superintendent of police.
“We have to deal with a tremendous volume of cases. Everyday, at least 20 people come to us. What can we do? The officers are busy recording the statements and talking to the victim’s relatives. Let alone taking up investigations and search operations, the process of maintaining the records and publication of the victim’s details in the media are in themselves difficult to handle,” said an officer, in charge of the department. Then, the officials get a meager travelling allowance for the job.
“We are trying to tackle the issue by way of inter-linking police stations with the CID missing persons’ squad to speed up the process. In 2007, we are targeting human trafficking as the thrust area,” said Sanjay Mukherjee, DIG CID (Special), who also holds charge of the Missing Persons Squad. Biswanath Chowdhury, state Minister for Social Welfare and Jails, said, “It is a serious crisis. A state-wide survey is underway with the help of three universities to find out details of missing and trafficked children and women.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/25462.html

India facing shortage of women

By Julia DuinThe Washington Times

“Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor’s garden.” — Punjabi saying

PAONTA SAHIB, India — By early afternoon, wedding festivities were well under way for Gagandeep Singh, 29, and Taranjeet Kaur, 26, in this touristy town in the Himalayan foothills of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Mr. Singh, the groom, works at an American Express office near New Delhi. He is seated cross-legged in a large, gracious white Sikh temple overlooking the Nagar River. His ceremonial finery includes a dagger and ornate turban. Beside him is his bride, her hands heavily hennaed with designs befitting a newly married woman. She is dressed in a magenta-colored gown and spends much of the ceremony gazing down at the floor. Nestled beside her like a flock of bright birds are female relatives dressed in brilliant jewel-colored tunics known as salwar kameez. In front of the couple are Sikh priests. They alternately pray, sprinkle holy water on the crowd and instruct the couple to circle around a low-lying altar as a trio of musicians tap out rhythms on tabla drums and a harmonium. Later, back at the wedding hall, the bride’s father, Amarjit Singh, reveals he has given a refrigerator, TV, washing machine, clothes and a DVD player to the family of the groom. “This is not dowry,” he protests, “these are just gifts the father likes to give for his daughter.” Miss Kaur is his only daughter and later that evening, she sits in her family’s living room as guest after guest shoves stacks of rupees into her purse. Eventually, a car pulls up containing the groom’s family. Wailing and clutching her parents for the last time, she slowly marches toward the waiting car that will bear her 30 miles southward to Yamunanagar, the city where her new husband’s family lives. “Indian brides handle these partings with great theatrics, often wailing uncontrollably,” observed American journalist Elisabeth Bumiller in her 1990 book on the trials of Indian women, “May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons.” “I decided this was the only rational response, given what was in store for many of them,” she said. More boys than girls India is facing a shortage of women like Miss Kaur. In most places in the world, a mother can find out the sex of her unborn child, but in India, it’s illegal to do so. That is because if she’s a female, there is a good chance she will never be born. Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 — or 10 million over the past two decades — creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world’s largest democracy. Ratios of men to women are being altered at an unprecedented rate in India and neighboring China, two countries which account for 40 percent of the world’s population. According to UNICEF, India produces 25 million babies a year. China produces 17 million. Together, these are one-third of the world’s babies, so how their women choose to regulate births affects the globe. Female infanticide — whereby tiny girls were either poisoned, buried alive or strangled — has existed for thousands of years in India. But its boy-to-girl ratio didn’t begin to widen precipitously until the advent of the ultrasound, or sonogram, machine in the 1970s, enabling a woman to tell the sex of her child by the fourth month of her pregnancy. That coupled with the legalization of abortion in 1971 made it possible to dispose of an unwanted girl without the neighbors even knowing the mother was pregnant. In 2001, 927 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, significantly below the natural birth rate of about 952 girls for every 1,000 boys. In many regions, however, this imbalance has reached alarming levels and it continues to grow. In 2004, the New Delhi-based magazine Outlook reported, sex ratios in the capital had plummeted to 818 girls for every 1,000 boys, and in 2005 they had slipped to 814. The issue is highly sensitive for the Indian government, which had given the nation’s sex imbalance scant attention until this month. “It is a matter of international and national shame for us that India, with [economic] growth of 9 percent still kills its daughters,” Renuka Chowdhury, the Cabinet-level minister of state for women and child development told the Press Trust of India news agency in an interview that was widely published in the national press. Mrs. Chowdhury announced plans to set up a nationwide network of orphanages where women can drop off unwanted daughters with no questions asked. “We will bring up the children. But don’t kill them because there really is a crisis situation,” she says. Yet the practice of “female feticide” is so widespread and deeply ingrained in the nation’s psyche, scholars and activists fear that even the most vigorous attempts to combat it would require a lifetime or longer to restore nature’s balance. “There has always been a deficit of women: Infanticide, neglect or they’re left to die if they are sick, but technology has accentuated it,” says Prem Chowdhry, a New Delhi-based scholar and specialist on male-female relations in India. “The volume has grown. Culturally, these things are not new, but now they’re taking a new shape.” Early this year, the British medical journal Lancet estimated the male-female gap at 43 million. Worldwide, Lancet said, there are 100 million “missing girls” who should have been born but were not. Fifty million of them would have been Chinese and 43 million would have been Indian. The rest would have been born in Afghanistan, South Korea, Pakistan and Nepal. China gave an even bleaker assessment last month, with the government saying that its men will outnumber women in the year 2020 by 300 million. One Geneva-based research center, in a 2005 update on the phenomenon, termed it “the slaughter of Eve.” “What we’re seeing now is genocide,” says Sabu George, a New Delhi-based activist. “We will soon exceed China in losing 1 million girls a year.” The date may already be here. In a report released Dec. 12, UNICEF said India is “missing” 7,000 girls a day or 2.5 million a year. Although India has passed laws forbidding sex-specific abortions, legions of compliant doctors and lax government officials involved in India’s $100 million sex-selection industry have made sure they are rarely enforced. Several companies, notably General Electric Corp., have profited hugely from India’s love affair with the ultrasound machine. As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country. As sex-specific abortions increase, the destabilizing effects on Indian society are bound to greatly impact a country with expanding economic and strategic ties to the United States. India’s estimated $23 billion defense budget relies on military hardware from U.S. corporations, and the U.S. Congress voted in November to permit the sale of nuclear technology to the country. In September, The Washington Times sent a reporter and photographer to spend three weeks in different parts of India chronicling this problem. They asked: What are the cultural reasons for this genocide? Why is the government allowing it? Who is fighting against it and what steps can be taken to stop it?

Four Andhra girls rescued from brothels in Delhi

Published: 01/03/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)
IANS
New Delhi: Police have rescued four girls from Andhra Pradesh and two minors from brothels in the capital.
The girls were rescued from the brothels in the city’s red light area on Monday night after a special Andhra Pradesh police team conducted a raid with the help of the local police of the Kamla Market police station.
“In response to five cases of trafficking registered in Andhra Pradesh, a police team from the state arrived in the city and conducted the raid with our help and rescued the four girls,” said Rakesh Giri, Station House Officer of the Kamla Market police station, without disclosing the names of the girls.
While the victims were counselled and interrogated, the Andhra Pradesh police also managed to arrest four of the traffickers.
Giri said that apart from rescuing the four girls from the southern state, they also rescued two minor girls from the brothel.
“We rescued two minors during the raid as well. They have been sent to Nari Niketan, a government-run counselling home,” Giri said.
According to the United Nations (UN), Andhra Pradesh records the highest number of human trafficking cases in India.
In an effort to prevent the trade and exploitation of human beings in the country, an Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was established in Andhra Pradesh last month in partnership with the US Government and the United Nations.
The US Government provided $2.5 million (Dh9.1 million) for this project, the largest single anti-trafficking project ever funded in the world.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime implements the project, and the Indian Government chairs the meetings to help guide the planning and implementation.
Apart from Andhra Pradesh, the project also targets four other states – Bihar, Goa, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The Andhra Pradesh police team that rescued the girls here is a part of the same project.

Parlours selling sex may be treated as brothels

Dhananjay Mahapatra & Himanshi Dhawan[ 2 Mar, 2007 0039hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK

NEW DELHI: Government proposes to broaden the definition of ‘‘brothel’’ to include those massage and beauty parlours as well as dance bars where prostitution takes place in various guises — a move which could lead to harassment of a wide range of establishments. Working on suggestions of an NGO, Shakti Vahini, government has modified the definition of brothel in the modified Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2006. This was stated by advocate Rajiv Datta after the hearing in Supreme Court on Shakti Vahini’s PIL on trafficking of women. A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices D K Jain and V S Sirpurkar expressed anguish at the slow pace in which the government was working on the suggestions of the petitioner and asked Datta to inform the court about the status of the Bill during the next hearing. Datta said the government has incorporated the changes suggested by the petitioner to make the punishment for offences more stringent and modify the definition of ‘brothel’ to include “parlours, bars and such places being used for prostitution to bring them under the ambit of the law”, he said. These are part of the amendments under consideration by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) and include a more stringent definition of “trafficking in persons” on the lines of International Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and “enhancing the punishment for a person who keeps or manages or acts or assists in keeping or management of a brothel”.

US finds ‘numerous serious’ human right problems in India

Indo-Asian News ServiceWashington, March 7, 2007

The United States says the Indian government generally respected the rights of its citizens but still faced “numerous serious problems” like extra-judicial killings of persons in custody, disappearances, torture and rape by police and security forces. It also acknowledged lapses in its own handling of terror suspects.
“While the civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were frequent instances in which some elements acted independently of government authority,” said the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released here on Tuesday.
Unusually, the Congressionally mandated annual report card of 196 countries acknowledged that the United States, too, had fallen short of international standards in its handling of terrorist suspects. “Our democratic system of government is not infallible, but it is accountable,” it said.
Barry Lowenkron, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour matters, admitted “that we are issuing this report at a time when our own record, and actions we have taken to respond to the terrorist attacks against us, have been questioned. We will continue to respond to the concerns of others.”
Amnesty International welcomed Washington’s new candour, but its executive director for US, Larry Cox, said that, “until the United States changes its own policies of holding detainees indefinitely, in secret prisons and without basic rights, it cannot credibly be viewed as a world human rights leader.”
Suggesting that US Foreign policy hinders human rights work around the world, he said that if the Bush administration persists in allowing other considerations to trump human rights concerns, the real-world impact of these reports will be greatly diminished.”
“There are many countries listed in these reports that have questionable human rights records, including Turkey, India, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia,” said Cox.
With the release of this year’s reports, Americans are “recommitting ourselves to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights,” Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said.
“And we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush’s words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity,” she said.
In the case of India, the State Department report noted that it is a longstanding and stable multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament and a population of approximately 1.1 billion. Manmohan Singh, it noted was named prime minister following his Congress Party-led coalition’s victory in the 2004 general elections, which were considered free and fair, despite scattered episodes of violence.
But, the report said serious internal conflicts affected the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as several states in the northeast. The Naxalite conflict affected Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and eastern Maharashtra.
The lack of accountability permeated the government and security forces, creating an atmosphere in which human rights violations often went unpunished. Although the country has numerous laws protecting human rights, enforcement was lax and convictions were rare, it said.
Poor prison conditions, lengthy pre-trial detention without charge, and prolonged detentions while undergoing trial remained significant problems.
Government officials used special antiterrorism legislation to justify the excessive use of force while combating terrorism and active, violent insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and several northeastern states, the report said.
Security force officials who committed human rights abuses generally enjoyed de facto impunity, although there were investigations into individual abuse cases as well as punishment of some perpetrators by the court system.
Corruption was endemic in the government and police forces, and the government made little attempt to combat the problem, except for a few instances highlighted by the media, it said.
The government continued to apply restrictions to the travel and activities of visiting experts and scholars, the report said.
Attacks against religious minorities and the promulgation of antireligious conversion laws were concerns. Social acceptance of caste-based discrimination remained a problem, and for many, validated human rights violations against persons belonging to lower castes.
Domestic violence and abuses against women such as dowry-related deaths, honour crimes, female infanticide and feticide, and trafficking in persons remained significant problems. Exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labour were ongoing problems.
Separatist guerrillas and terrorists in Kashmir, the northeast, and the Naxalite belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, judges, and civilians.
Insurgents also engaged in widespread torture, rape, and other forms of violence, including beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.
In June 2005 the government passed the Right to Information Act (RTI), mandating stringent penalties for failure to provide information or affecting its flow, and requiring agencies to self-reveal sensitive information. The implementation of the act marked a departure from the culture of secrecy that traditionally surrounded the government’s rule making, the report said.