India defends trafficking record

The Indian government has defended its efforts in tackling the problem of human trafficking a day after a US report criticised its record.
India was designated as a “Tier 2 watch list” country: it did not fully comply with minimum standards but was making significant efforts to do so.
The government says a lot is being done to tackle the problem, although more needs to be done.
It says efforts are underway to rescue and rehabilitate trafficking victims.
Sanctions possibility
“The world’s largest democracy has the world’s largest problem of human trafficking,” said the US state department’s specialist on trafficking issue, Mark Lagon.
The department has warned India would be downgraded to a “Tier 3” category unless it improved its track record.
That would mean that the US would withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign aidCorrespondents say that “Tier 3” countries are also denied access to educational and cultural exchange programmes.
The state department estimates that around 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and that 80% of them are females used in the sex trade.
The annual report places India as a “Tier two” country for the fourth year in a row.
An official in India’s Women and Child Development ministry, however, defended her department’s efforts in tackling the problem.
“We are doing our bit, but more needs to be done,” said Deepa Jain Singh, secretary for the Women and Children’s Development Ministry.
Non governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the area have supported the government’s efforts.
“We don’t agree that nothing has changed. Legislation has come in place to deal with the issue. It is a clear indication that the pressure on the government is working,” Rishi Kant, from the anti-trafficking group, Shakti Vahini, told the BBC News website.
Other women’s groups argued that it was unfair that India was being put on the US watch list over the issue, and not Bangladesh or Nepal.
Aid agencies estimate that around 5,000 to 7,000 women and girls are trafficked to India from Nepal and around 10,000 to 20,000 women and children from Bangladesh.
“Nepal, Bangladesh and India need to work together to stop such trafficking,” United Nations Development Programme spokeswoman Archana Tamang told the BBC.
“Women and children are not being brought into India only, there is a lot of reverse trafficking taking place as well.
“It is really important for all the three nations to work together as a sub-regional group to remedy the situation,” she said.

Cell set up to check child labour

Express News Service

Chandigarh, June 22: The state government has set up a child labour cell in the Labour Department with a Deputy Labour Commissioner as nodal officer of the cell for monitoring law enforcement and coordination on the subject with the Central government, said Birender Singh, Finance Minister, Haryana.
The Minister said the Central government also sanctioned three National Child Labour Projects for Panipat, Faridabad and Gurgaon districts. He said consent had also been given for National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) in Jhajjar, Hisar and Yamunanagar. Birender Singh said the Advisory Board on Women and Child Labour, along with Department of Women and Child Development, had brought out a state action plan for children that consisted of a detailed chapter on child labour.
He said the Haryana government had prepared a plan to totally eliminate the pernicious practice in hazardous as well as in non-hazardous employment. Various authorities and specialised structure was created in the state to fight the problem of child labour, he added.
Three prolonged approaches were being adopted to eliminate the problem which included identification release and rehabilitation of child labour and their families with the help of NCLP projects and employment for the family through Jawahar Rozgar Yojna for their socio-economic rehabilitation, stress on education by providing non-formal education for all children of society, including child labour, under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and to create deterrent pressure against child labour by increasing strictness and action by the enforcement machinery for implementing laws relating to child labour, the minister added.
A new concept of ‘Bhatta Pathshalas’ has been initiated in Jhajjar in which 1,200 children of brick kiln labourers were being imparted basic educational course affiliated to the CBSE through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, he said.

Sex slavery a crisis within India too

Anti-trafficking efforts focus on those taken abroad. But the problem also persists at home.

From the Associated Press3:03 PM PDT, June 23, 2007

NEW DELHI — Meena discovered she had been sold while riding in an auto-rickshaw headed to New Delhi’s red-light district.The 12-year-old was working as a servant in Calcutta when the homeowner told her of a good-paying job at his sister’s house in India’s capital. But instead, she was sold to a brothel owner and forced into prostitution for little more than a place to sleep and the occasional meal.Her ordeal lasted four years and Meena, now 21, says it left her “a very angry person.””The anger comes suddenly,” says Meena, who asked that her full name not be used because of the social stigma.Beneath the surface of India’s rapid economic development lies a problem rooted in the persistent poverty of hundreds of millions of Indians. Rights activists say thousands of poor women and girls are forced into prostitution every year after being lured from villages on false promises.Much of the attention on human trafficking focuses on the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people — about 80% of them women or girls — who are trafficked across national borders every year, and, in many cases, forced to work as prostitutes or virtual slaves.But those numbers don’t include victims trafficked within countries — a problem that has long plagued India, a country so large and diverse that victims taken hundreds of miles away where a different language is spoken have little chance of finding their way home.”This is a challenge to India’s contention that it is both democratic and modern,” said Ruchira Gupta, founder of the anti-trafficking group Apne Aap Women Worldwide. “In this day and age, when democracy is supposed to exist in India … we have so many slaves.”It is difficult to track the illicit trade, and the estimates for the number of victims each year vary.But this much is known: By official estimates, there are 3 million sex workers in India, at least 40% of them children. And thousands are believed to have been unwittingly lured into the work by traffickers, activists say.Most of the girls come from India’s poorer states. A relative or friend approaches the girl’s parents about a well-paying job in the city or a chance for marriage requiring little or no dowry.In some cases, it’s the parents who sell the girls. Prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.Traffickers are rarely caught. The U.S. State Department said in an annual report on human trafficking last year that India’s response to the problem was weak and prosecutions rare.In Mumbai, which has the highest concentration of sex workers, only 13 traffickers were arrested in 2005, and none was convicted, according to the State Department. The situation was similar in other cities.”One of the best ways to prevent trafficking is to increase convictions of trafficking — and this is not happening,” said Gupta. “Women are being rounded up…. but there are very few arrests of men who are running the whole trade.”Deepa Jain Singh, of Ministry of Women and Child Development, said the government was “trying to do more” about the problem of sex trafficking, but she declined to give details.What becomes of the victims? There are many pitfalls. HIV infections among sex workers are widespread in a country with an estimated 5.7 million people infected with the disease.Those who escape are often rejected by their families.Meena was rescued by STOP, an anti-trafficking group, and lives in their New Delhi shelter.The shelter’s goal is to make the girls and women in the house function “like a normal family.””We want them to go from victim to survivor to activist. It’s a long journey,” said Roma Debabrata, STOP’s founder.

Trafficking Of Tribal Girls Unabated In Chhattisgarh

Sunday 24th of June 2007 Come to one of India’s most impoverished tribal areas in the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh and take away minor tribal girls for just Rs 500-Rs 2,000.This has been the tale of hundreds of tribal girls from the Sitapur assembly segment in northern Chhattisgarh for years. Locals say that for more than a decade ‘agents’ and ‘suppliers’ here have been taking advantage of the region’s backwardness, offering a mere Rs 500-Rs 2,000 as advance to the poor tribal girls’ parents in return for employment as maid servants in the country’s metros and other major cities.’They (agents) tell poor parents that their girls will contribute towards the family income by making career in places like Delhi and Mumbai, but it’s a lie. They supply our girls purely for sexual exploitation and it’s been happening for more than a decade,’ Mangroo Mandawi, a resident of the Manjhi tribe dominated Kamleshwar village, told IANS.A local police officer told this correspondent during a recent visit to the Sitapur assembly segment, ‘Everyone except the poor parents here know that the girls are going to metros for sexual exploitation in name of domestic help. This year alone we have registered dozens of cases of human trafficking in Kamleshwar, Narmadapur and adjoining areas.’ ‘Parents who believe their girls are earning money and making a career in metros are often in for a rude shock when the girls return after months, and sometimes even years, to narrate the tales of sexual exploitation,’ the policeman said on condition of anonymity, adding: ‘Several local agents who were engaged in this racket were arrested in raids during the past one year but the supply is still unabated.’ ‘Police here rarely take action as the agents give them a share of their earnings. The supply racket has become a thriving business here for the many agents in contact with the Manjhi, Manjwar and Urao tribes of some 30-odd village panchayats, including 18 situated on the top of the Mainpat hills,’ 45-year-old Gaya Ram of Narmadapur village told IANS.When contacted, Sitapur legislator Amarjeet Bhagat of the state opposition Congress party, said on phone: ‘Yes, I admit human trafficking and supply of girls as maid servants to metros is going on in certain areas. I raised the issue in the state assembly too and police detected several cases.’ Surguja district superintendent of police S.K.Rathor said: ‘Girls migrate to bigger cities in search of employment voluntarily. It’s not the job of the police to keep track of every families’ girls.’

MOHAMMAD MOHSIN/REUTERS A FAMILY ADRIFT on a makeshift raft in Bangladesh’s southwestern Satkhira district. A file photograph.

SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH A BSF outpost at Muchia in Malda district. West Bengal shares a 2,216-km border with Bangladesh.

COVER STORYConstant traffic
Large-scale immigration from Bangladesh to West Bengal raises fears of terrorist movement.
E.M. FORSTER, in Howards End, makes an interesting observation that there is no point in praising civilisation if it does not allow a person to die peacefully in the house where he was born. This brings in sharp focus the oft-forgotten fact that a person does not migrate from his village, let alone his country, unless compelled to do so: and, for the poor, this compelling reason is poverty, unemployment and the question of sheer survival.
In 1979, the economist J.K. Galbraith wrote: “Migration is the oldest action against poverty. It selects those who most want help. It is good for the country to which they go; it helps break the equilibrium of poverty in the country from which they come. What is the perversity in the human soul that causes people to resist so obvious a good?”
In a later work, he suggested that the mass poverty and unemployment in Third World countries could be solved easily if globalisation meant not only free movement of capital worldwide but also free international movement of labour. But this was not to be, because the “push” and “pull” factors that work for any significant migration have not been allowed free play by the advanced industrialised countries.
West Bengal, which already has the highest population density in India, has been a sufferer in this respect. The “push” factors prompting Bangladeshi migrants, both Hindus and Muslims, include poverty, unemployment, poor medical facilities, poor infrastructure, political instability, frequent natural disasters and religious fundamentalism.
The “pull” factors that make West Bengal an attractive destination, apart from being a convenient one because of the common border, include a demand for cheap labour in a thriving agricultural sector, the excellent growth rate of the Indian economy, similarity of language and physical features, availability of good medical facilities and a secular and liberal government committed to the rule of law.
It’s not all negative
Not all is negative about such migration. In line with Galbraith’s observation, it has been seen that in most of the places where immigrants have settled in West Bengal, agricultural yield has generally been greater. According to a report brought out by the Population Studies Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, titled “Undocumented Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal”, “household industry including bidi, pottery, mat, candle, kanthastitch, ganjee factory, and Shantipuri tant [woven saree] have improved since illegal migrants provide cheap labour.”
The report also talks about the flip side of such mass migration: deforestation, land grab, trade grab, squatting on pavements and railway platforms, added pressure on natural resources, and expansion of existing slums.
Some studies of slums in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Ludhiana show the rural poor from neighbouring countries, including large numbers of Bangladeshis, travel long distances in search of jobs and settle temporarily wherever their unskilled labour may be in demand. Interestingly, they are seldom found in the slums of South Indian cities such as Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi, presumably because of the difficulty of learning the local language.

Frequent natural disasters, including floods, are among the factors that trigger regular migrations to India.
A recent survey conducted by Sanlap, a Kolkata-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) that does extensive work in the repatriation of Bangladeshi women rescued from exploitative situations, revealed that in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad and Gurgaon areas, there is a sizable population of Bengali-speaking women working as domestics. “From their accents and names, we could ascertain that 75 per cent of them were from Bangladesh,” said Indrani Sinha, director and founder-member of Sanlap.
In West Bengal, the problem is compounded by the fact that of the 4,095-km border that India shares with Bangladesh, the State alone covers 2,216 km. But it is along the 1,145-km border in the southern part of the State that most of the immigration from Bangladesh – both documented and illegal – takes place. The fencing that was started a few years ago barely covers 530 km of this crucial border. Though this may have stemmed the infiltration substantially, the porous nature of the border continues to defy permanent solution.
fencing helps
According to Somesh Goyal, Additional Director-General, Border Security Force (BSF), the reduced number of illegal immigrants caught at the border shows that the fencing has been effective. “Whereas earlier we would nab some 10,000 people trying to cross the border illegally, we now catch around 5,000,” he told Frontline. “If 50 per cent of the border is fenced, then I can safely say that infiltration has also been reduced by 50 per cent. My focus is on the unfenced areas,” he said.
However, he concedes that fencing is not a foolproof solution. The fence is expensive to maintain, and the funds and the technology are not always available. Just 18 battalions cover over 1,000 km of the border, and there is not even adequate lighting to maintain proper vigil. “I have been extremely vocal in demanding floodlighting along the border, but that is still in the experimental stage,” he said. So far, only a length of 90 km has been illuminated.
The close, neighbourly relations shared by those living in areas close to the border on either side make it tough for the police and the BSF to tackle illegal immigration. Many people have relatives on the other side and own property in both countries. When it comes to smuggling, people on both sides have fingers in the pie. Besides, many householders on the West Bengal side of the border earn a reasonable income by providing food and shelter to immigrants. Though much illegal immigration takes place with the help of agents who are smart enough to maintain good relations with the BSF, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the police, many immigrants come across with the help of friendly neighbours on this side of the border, or of friends and relatives who have already migrated.
People on both sides share the same physiological features and the same language (though the accent may be different). Once across the border, the immigrants simply melt away among the locals, sometimes taking on new names.
Until recently, a ration card was considered proof of residence, but this was not difficult to fake. Now, however, with the voter identity card considered a proof of identity, a ration card is no longer good enough to prove residence, which makes things a little more difficult for illegal immigrants.
Talking about the political and demographic impact of such migration from Bangladesh, the State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Tathagata Roy, referred to a report brought out by the Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai, which states that the Muslim population in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district has increased from 55 per cent in 1951 to 61 per cent in 1991; in Malda district, it increased from 36 per cent to 47 per cent. This increase in the bordering districts seems to point to significant migration from across the border.
Roy, in keeping with his party’s line, seeks to distinguish between Hindu and Muslim immigrants: the former, for him, are asylum-seeking refugees whereas the latter are illegal immigrants. “India does not have riches coming out of its ears that it can take the burden of supporting surplus Bangladeshi population, especially when Bangladesh receives a huge amount of aid from oil-rich Arab countries of West Asia,” he said.
There was a time when most political parties in the State turned a Nelson’s eye to illegal immigrants, keeping in view not only the need for maintaining good relations with Bangladesh but also the electoral calculus. That changed after terror attacks were found to have links with some illegal immigrants. The idea mooted by some politicians to issue temporary work permits for temporary job-seekers in border areas was never given a trial.
Cross-border activities include smuggling, and among the major items that change hands are cattle, pharmaceuticals, machinery parts, clothing, sugar, cereals and narcotics. According to BSF sources, around 100 brand new motorcycles made in India are recovered every year while being smuggled into Bangladesh.
For cattle smuggling, the 367-km riverine border area, starting from the Sunderban region, provides an effective, albeit dangerous, passage. Until 2005, approximately 60,000 heads of cattle were intercepted every year, against the million livestock animals that were smuggled out.
“In 2006, we managed to intercept 1,22,000 heads of cattle and, with strict vigilance, reduced the supply of cattle to Bangladesh to less than half a million,” said Goyal. After that, beef prices in the border areas of Bangladesh shot up alarmingly, from Taka 65 a kg to Taka 200 a kg: such is the dependence of smuggled livestock in Bangladesh.
There are apparently “cattle corridors” along the border where the cost of turning a smuggled animal to a legal one is Taka 500. The BSF claims that it successfully broke the supply chain from West Bengal to Bangladesh last year. Until 2005, 225-250 smugglers were caught every year. In a drive launched last year, 2,680 smugglers, both Bangladeshi and Indian, were caught; a sum of Rs.1.5 crore in fake currency and three caches of live snakes were recovered from them. Reptiles apparently command a worldwide market of $5 billion and bring in higher profits than even smuggled drugs.
“We find that the BDR has been supporting smuggling activities, and though the present caretaker government has decided to address this issue, there is no reflection yet on the border,” said Goyal. But according to the BSF, smuggling of cattle and other goods is a minor issue compared with the far bigger danger: the network that organises the cattle-smuggling can also be used for movement of terrorists and spies.
On August 14 last year, on the eve of Indian Independence Day, the BSF caught two militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad using the cattle route.
Inspector-General, Law and Order Raj Kanojia of the State police echoed this apprehension. “The frequency of arrests of people trying to cross the border is very high, but that is mostly for illegal migration. However, one cannot overlook the strong likelihood of militants using these very routes to enter India,” he told Frontline. Between August 2006 and April 2007, as many as 10 militants belonging to the Lashkar, the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Jama’atul Mujahideen of Bangladesh were caught trying to cross over into West Bengal.
Where to look?
According to intelligence sources, of the Bangladeshis who have entered India on valid documents, more than 200,000 have not returned home officially.
“We know who they are, and it might be theoretically possible to get them repatriated. But where do we even begin to search? In the last one year’s records, Bangladesh has featured very prominently either as a transit point, or as a training centre or as an asylum for terrorists. This, coupled with the massive immigration from the country, has sent alarm bells ringing in States that share borders with Bangladesh,” one of them told Frontline.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has stepped up efforts to prevent illegal immigration and the movement of terrorists into the State. The Central government believes that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) uses Bangladesh as a training ground and West Bengal as a transit route. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh comes hand-in-hand with cross-border trafficking.
A study brought out by Groupe Development, based on the research of three NGOs – Sanlap in India and the Dhaka Ahsania Mission and the Association for Community Development in Bangladesh – says: “The magnitude of trafficking in Bangladesh has increased over the years, but neither the extent nor the real expansion can be verified… . Kolkata is the junction and transit point for cross-border trafficking where women and girls from Bangladesh and Nepal are forced into prostitution.”
In 80 per cent of the cases, the study reveals, poor women and children came to India on the false assurance of employment, but were instead sold in urban red-light areas.
For the poor job-seekers of Bangladesh, it is often too expensive and time-consuming to follow travel protocols. It is far more convenient to simply slip across the border. The money that has to be spent in bribes is far less than the expenses involved in travelling to Dhaka for the necessary papers, and there is no guarantee that a visa will be granted, anyway.
A lot of people are not even aware of the restrictions on travel across international boundaries. And when the choice is between starvation and illegal immigration, people choose to slip across

Young woman found murdered

The Hindu , 18 June 2007

A young woman allegedly trafficked from West Bengal and pushed into the flesh trade in the Capital was found murdered at Govindpuri here earlier this month. The police have arrested one of the accused and have launched a hunt for the other.
The victim was a resident of Nadia in West Bengal. Her body was found stuffed in a wooden box on June 7. The police zeroed in on one Shankar Ghosh, who was earlier arrested along with three young women. The accused was traced to Chittaranjan Park and arrested on Saturday.
During interrogation, he purportedly confessed to having murdered the victim as she had been insisting on going back home. The victim had been brought here by a tout named Raju on the pretext of providing her a job. She was “sold” to Shankar who allegedly pushed her into the flesh trade.
The victim recently fell ill and started pestering Shankar to let her go back to her native place, at which he allegedly decided to kill her. He along with his accomplice Virender allegedly murdered her and fled from the scene. A team sent to Virender’s native place in Jharkhand has returned empty handed. A hunt is on for him.
According to Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a non-government organisation spreading awareness against human trafficking, over 2,000 small and big “domestic help” agencies operate from just Kalkaji, most of which indulge in human trafficking. A large number of girls and women are trafficked from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and other States through these unscrupulous agencies and are abused.

Report: India has almost 3M prostitutes

NEW DELHI – India’s minister for women and child development said Tuesday the country has an estimated 2.8 million prostitutes and the number is rising.
Renuka Chowdhury presented a study on “Girls-Women in prostitution in India” to the lower house of Parliament. She said more than one-third of Indian prostitutes entered the profession before age 18, the Press Trust of India reported.
She told lawmakers her ministry runs homes to provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling, rehabilitation and other facilities to victims of commercial sexual exploitation. She said another project is being implemented to combat trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation.