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.
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.