MISSING CHILDREN
THE BUSINESS OF ADOPTION, TEHELKA JULY 7
Sanjay Dubey finds that instead of restoring lost children to their parents, the capital’s adoption homes are selling them Four-year-old Mohit is lucky. A distant relative, who wanted to settle a score with his parents Prem Sagar and Arti, kidnapped Mohit on May 10 and abandoned him at the Old Delhi railway station. Fortunately, he was rescued and sent to the Delhi Council for Child Welfare, a private adoption agency better known by its other name, Palna.
A frantic Sagar traced his boy to Palna and reached there on the morning of May 11. The officials there were extremely uncooperative. The parents were not allowed to meet their son. “After hours of waiting and pleading, Mohit was finally shown only to my wife and that too from a distance of some 10-15 yards,” says Sagar.
As the weekend fell over the next two days, Palna officials flatly told the parents that they could take Mohit home only on Monday, three days later. “They again refused to entertain us on Monday. We then had to go to the juvenile court, which directed us to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Kingsway Camp,” Sagar told Tehelka.
The government has established CWCs all over the country for the welfare of children who need care and protection. CWC’s are vested with judicial powers and on CWC’s orders and the intervention of some good Samaritans, Mohit was finally restored to his family on May14.
In Mohit’s case Palna disregarded two cardinal rules spelled out in the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA).
»It is mandatory for the police or Childline (a centralised number for missing kids 1098) or any voluntary organisation to produce a missing child before a CWC.
»Every effort should be made to restore the child to his or her biological parents.
Over 34,000 children have gone missing in Delhi in the last 20 years (as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data). Most of them aren’t as fortunate as Mohit. In last three years alone, 6,687 children in Delhi have been declared untraceable by the Crime Branch’s Missing Persons Squad. A senior Department of Social Welfare (DSW) official lays the blame for this on voluntary adoption agencies. “They are fated to live either an orphan’s or an adopted child’s life, all thanks to various voluntary organisations,” he says.
Mohit’s is just one instance of how rules under the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) and Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) guidelines to help missing, abandoned and runaway children are routinely ignored. Instead of providing them a ray of hope, adoption agencies only add to their misery.

CHILD PLAY

34,000 children have been reported missing in Delhi in the last 20 years
6,687 children have been declared untraceable between 2004 and 2006
200 Indian couples are waitlisted on an average with each agency. Non-Indians are still preferred
Rs 10,000 is the maximum amount non-Indian couples can be charged for adopting a child
Rs 2,00,000 is the minimum amount non-Indians pay to adopt an Indian child
Rs 20,000 is the average amount paid by Indian couples to adopt a child. By law they should just pay for the expenses

Confidential reports on the functioning of adoption agencies issued by DSW and accessed by Tehelka reveal how Palna routinely flouts norms and rules. A 2005 DSW report states, “Childline and the police are unduly helping the agency [Palna] in procuring children for it in violation of statutory provisions.” It calls Palna’s style of functioning “whimsical, arbitrary and manipulated.”
The report also charges Palna with not presenting children before the CWC or the police. “Why did Palna receive them [the children] and keep them without producing them before the committee. The matter requires to be taken up with the Commissioner of Police,” it says.
The report also says that Palna charges an arbitrary amount of money from people who adopt children — both Indians and foreigners. “All this also reveals how the police and Childline are flouting the statutory and mandatory provisions of JJA, and putting the welfare and fate of innocent children at stake at the hands of such agency [Palna].”
Adoption agencies ignore the poor in the list of prospective parents since they can’t cough up enough moneyAt the time there were 10 placement agencies for orphans and abandoned or lost children in Delhi (eight of those continue to operate) and, according to the DSW’s confidential reports, their style of functioning is not very different from Palna’s. “Further investigation of these organisations revealed that they are not providing any social service to anyone,” says another report. “They are getting children through legal or illegal means and are selling them in the market. The foreigners give higher prices therefore they prefer to sell them to the foreigners.”
Clause 4.35 of CARA guidelines unambiguously states that an adoption agency must be run on a non-profit basis and it shouldn’t look to make money from adoption. Documents with Tehelka show that recognised adoption agencies such as the Church of North India, Welfare Home for Children and Palna, among others, charge about Rs 20,000 on an average from Indians, instead of just the amount to take care of expenses. The guidelines specify that foreigners can be charged a maximum of Rs 10,000 but they routinely have to pay lakhs of rupees.
Clearly, adoption is a lucrative business. This could explain why organisations don’t make any special efforts to restore children to their biological parents, and why children are not produced before the CWC.
The reports also point out that adoption agencies ignore prospective parents in the waiting list who are poor and unable to cough up a high sum of money. SC and CARA guidelines also specify that Indians have to be given preference over foreigners for adoption, but despite there being a long queue of hopeful Indian adoptive parents, adoption agencies do the opposite and prefer foreign nationals seeking to adopt children.
The JJA states that before putting up a child for adoption, the adoption agency must publish his particulars in at least four leading newspapers, of which two must be in regional languages. But “private adoption agencies … have resorted to just a farcical eyewash, by publishing their self proclaimed names and self estimated dates of birth without any photograph, that too only of a few children, in some less popular newspapers, off and on only.” The report says that the agencies do this, “to avoid finding their natural parents.” Commenting on this a CWC member asks, “How can parents recognise their offspring by such an absurd publication which does not even have the child’s correct name ?”
“Most private agencies seldom prepare child histories, in total disregard of the directives of the Supreme Court. Such history sheets could help in tracing the natural parents of a lot of children… These agencies have thus separated innumerous (sic) children from their natural homes… in their urge to mint money through adoptions.”
Had Mohit’s parents not reached Palna, says a senior DSW official, “he would have been in Palna for months without the required effort to trace his family. The agency then would have secured a release order — mandatory to give a child in adoption — from the CWC, finally to give him to a total stranger in return for a huge amount of money.”
This, sources say, is the fate of most children found alone in Delhi. But, what has happened to the reports prepared by some honest DSW officers? “There were all sorts of pulls and pressure on the then director of DSW, Jitendra Narayan, as these agencies are run by very powerful people. Narayan, was ultimately transferred and the new dispensation, after sitting on the matter for a whole year, did nothing more than giving a mild warning to all the organisations,” says a DSW official.
» Writer’s e-mail: sanjay@tehelka.com

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Human trafficking- Poverty the bane

Central Chronicle, Bhopal

Human trafficking has been a big problem in many parts of the world and specially in India and many other Asian countries. The UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons, in effect since December 2003 makes human trafficking a crime. The Protocol has been signed and ratified by more than 110 countries, yet the participating governments and their criminal justice systems have not effectively curbed the practice. Few criminals are convicted and most victims are not properly rehabilitated.
Trafficking in persons has mainly been for sexual exploitation or forced labour and, according to reports of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), 127 countries get exploited among 137 nations. Some 2.5 million people throughout the world are at any given time recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited–a process called human trafficking. The UN and other experts estimate the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion; about $10 billion is derived from the sale of individuals and the remainder representing the estimate profits from the activities or goods produced by the victims of this barbaric crime.
Apart from slavery is booming international trade and involves both the sexes. The most important aspect of human trafficking is of women and girls, 80 per cent of whom, as per UNDOC data, are forced into prostitution. The other reasons for women and children being trafficked are: labour in garment, carpet and other industries/ factories/work sites; work in the entertainment industry, including bars, massage parlours etc; forced labour in construction sites; sex tourism; drug trafficking; organ trade; and domestic work.
Poverty, lack of opportunities and the desire for better existence have been the principal reasons for the increase in human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Third World countries. It is distressing to note that the trafficked victim is subject to the worst form of human rights abuses–physical violence, sexual abuse, confinement, denial of basic needs of health and nutrition, deprivation of earnings etc.
In India, the problem of trafficking has suddenly received much attention with even politicians being engaged in this work. However, trafficking has been a long-standing problem in this region, specially in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh Thailand and India. The spread of consumerism and western life styles in society along widening inequality among the urban and the rural sectors have accentuated the problem at least in the Asian countries.
The problems in populous countries like India are well known which have a stagnant rural sector with all-round poverty and squalor very much manifest. Moreover the discrimination of the girl child has been another aspect of the problem. Apart from the desire to make the girl child work by the parents, the passion of girls (generally aged between 15 and 25 years) to live a better existence induces them to be trafficked. They generally enter the flesh trade or are used in hotels for entertaining clients, whether in India or abroad.
It is not that girls only from the poorer sections of society that become prone to abuse and sexual exploitation. It has been found that girls and women from the middle or even upper class in their quest to earn more become prone to human trafficking. In today’s world, prostitution has attained a new dimension whereby sharing a bed is not taboo. Thus well-off girls starting with such practise eventually become prone to trafficking.
Meanwhile the Centre has come out with startling revelations on child abuse, mainly of girls, according to a national survey. More than 53 per cent of children have been found to be subjected to sexual abuse in ways that ranged from rape to kissing. Apart from this, 69 per cent of children faced physical abuse, in most cases (89 per cent) from parents or members of the family. These and many other things were revealed by the 13-state survey report Study on Child Abuse: India 2007 conducted by the Ministry of Women & Child Development in association with UNICEF, Save the Children and Prayas and released recently. This was incidentally the first-ever nation-wide survey on child abuse with a sample size of 12,447 children, including 5981 girls.
Delhi, by Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Assam have been found to be the front-runners in child abuse cases. These states showed higher physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children. In 50 per cent of cases, the abusers were known to the child or were in a position of trust and responsibility and most children did not report the matter. Thus it can very well be assumed from the survey that the children were not safe even in their homes and remain victims of different forms of abuse.
The study also found that children in the 5 to 12 age group reported higher levels of abuse and boys were as much at risk as girls. The high abuse has been attributed to fathers looking at children as their property, the patriarchal set-up of society and poor parenting skills although no empirical research was conducted to gauge the exact reasons. But whether it is physical or sexual abuse, most children don’t report the assaults to anyone.
Another aspect of the problem of women is abuse and sexual violence. According to the National Family Health Survey -III, 37 per cent married women reported abuse though one can be very sure that another significant section do not report. The top offenders include Bihar 50 per cent, followed by Rajasthan 46.3 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 45.6 per cent, Manipur 43.0 per cent and UP 42.4 per cent.
The question arises: how could girls be provided security? This can come about if there is thrust on education along with not just mid-day meal but a maintenance allowance every month, specially for those belonging to the economically weaker sections, to help them continue with their studies. The thrust on girls education has to be taken up with all sincerity and should reach all backward areas of the country.
The other aspect of tackling the problem is the spread of awareness among women and girls about their rights. Though this has been taken up by NGOs and CBOs, there is need for giving a boost to this campaign, including generating basic legal awareness among the opposite sex. It is indeed distressing to note that in spite of setting up national and state level women’s commissions the problem of trafficking and sexual exploitation has remained unchecked.
More resources need to be allotted for the development of the female child and ensuring a dignified existence for her. Recent reports indicate how a million girls would be eliminated every year in the coming four years because efforts have been grossly inadequate in restraining the promotion of foetal sexing. Preference for a son has caused hatred for a daughter in India in recent years due to the widespread ‘legitimization’ of this form of violence against women.
The 11th Plan, which talks about inclusion needs to give a fair deal to women, should take up various injustices committed against girls and women and deal with them through an iron hand and also simultaneously ensure their education and awareness in a target-oriented approach. The NGOs and CBOs should be provided with adequate funds so that they could make inroads into the rural and backward areas and tackle trafficking and sexual violence against the opposite sex while also pursuing that girls enter school in a big way.
The intervention strategies should focus on the following areas: prevention through raising public awareness, setting up neighbourhood watch committees for monitoring incidents of missing girls, ki dnapping/abduction and migration, networking for information sharing and quick response to crisis situations and providing opportunity for holistic development to children of women in prostitution so that they are not forced to follow their mothers; securing the rights of women and children; rescue and after-care; documentation and study; and promotion of a secure and protected environment for women and children.
Dhurjati Mukherjee, INFA

State to play active role in child education

1 Jul, 2007 l 0414 hrs ISTlTIMES NEWS NETWORK

PUNE: Serious discrepancy between government and civil society figures and lack of reliable statistics about children out of school in Maharashtra came out in a big way during a convention here on Saturday. The participants also discussed the state government’s inability or unwillingness to implement provisions of the right for education to all. They pointed out that the Maharashtra government’s human development report of 2002-03 cited 2,300 as the number of children below 14 years who were out of formal education in Nanded district. In sharp contrast, a joint survey carried out in January by the district administration and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Nanded villages showed that around 47,000 children in that category were out of school. Most of them were working as construction labourers and in agriculture fields. Representatives of around two dozen NGOs working in the field of child right gathered for a state-level convention on ‘Child rights: Right to Education’ organised at the behest of Socio Economic Development Trust (SEDT) — a Parbhani-based organisation working for the cause of children’s education for the last two and half decades. Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission on Child Rights, pointed to stark facts like prevalence of 47 per cent malnourishment among Indian children in the age group of 0-7 years and the 2001 census figure of 8.5 crore children out of school. “At a time when the government’s census itself talks of 1.2 crore children engaged in child labour and another 7.7 crore both out of school or work, we have no right to flaunt figures like 8 per cent annual increase in gross domestic product,” Sinha said. Highlighting the role of governments, Sinha said high absenteeism among teachers, poor condition of school infrastructure and lack of access to school due to household poverty make it more imperative for the state to play an active role. Child rights activist Nirmala Purandare said that even in a city like Pune, considered to be an educational hub, there are 32 children who cannot afford to study beyond seventh standard for each 100 that manage to find a place in a junior college. “The victory in the battle for child education and against child labour will change the destiny and economy of India,” Purandare said. Suryakant Kulkarni, chairman of SEDT and convenor of the programme, spoke about the role played by education activists in making around 300 villages in six districts of Marathwada free of illiteracy and putting all children there into school. “We were able to achieve this small step in two years. This shows that with government intervention it would be much easier to eliminate deprivation of education,” he said. The participants at the convention accused the government of not being serious about statistics regarding child education and child labour. While the state government claimed in 2002-03 that only 4.5 lakh children below 14 years of age are out of school, rough figures collected by civil society organisations show a figure as high as 14-15 lakh across the state. The convention called upon the government to adopt a pro-active approach to implement the provisions of the 1991 United Nations Convention on Child Rights and Child Education of which India is a signatory and official ratifier.

NHRC workshop on Bonded and Child labour

New Delhi, June 26, 2007

National Human Rights Commission is holding a National Level Workshop on Bonded Labour and Child Labour tomorrow (June 27, 2007). The workshop, which will be inaugurated by Justice Shri S. Rajendra Babu, Chairperson, NHRC will discuss a number of issues on bonded labour and child labour. Since the year 2003, the Commission has been organizing a number of workshops on the subject in association with the Ministry of Labour and concerned State Governments for District Magistrates and other State Governments officials. These workshops came out with some general recommendations which are-· Immediate financial relief of Rs.1000/- to each of the identified and released bonded labourers.· Prosecution to be launched in all cases of bondage.· Comprehensive survey to be carried out to determine the magnitude of the incidence of child labour including bonded child labour and those in hazardous categories.· Convergence of work done by Government Department and NGOs.· Deputy Commissioners to be the Centre of Convergence efforts related to bonded and child labour.· Constitution of District and sub-divisional level Vigilance Committees.· The Vigilance Committees should examine the status of already rehabilitated bonded labourers, plan for rehabilitation of identified bonded labourers, and monitor bonded labour prone areas/industries.· Periodic review of Vigilance Committees and their functions.· Comprehensive psychological rehabilitation of the families.· Severe punishment to brokers and middleman who traffic child labour and export children from one State to another.In spite of continuing efforts of the Commission child labour still persists in most of the States in India. This is continuing despite several pronouncement of the Supreme Court and sincere efforts of the social action groups and activists. The Commission has been urging the Government of India to re-write the Child Labour laws by viewing the issue from the perspective of the “Convention of the Rights of the Child”, 1989, which has been ratified by India and our own constitutional provisions of Article 21, 39 (e), 39 (f) and 45. The Commission feels the issue should be addressed on priority as now free and compulsory education has been made a fundamental right of every child up to the age of 14 years. In this field, the Commission feels that State Governments can take appropriate steps to ensure cent percent enrolment and retention of school going children, which will be a lasting solution to the problem of child labour.In the light of the above, the workshop to be organized tomorrow will deal with a number of issues. They include —-Constitutional provisions, Bonded Labour System (Abolition Act), disowning by states the existence of bonded/child labour, Centrally sponsored Schemes, convergence of schemes for meaningful, permanent and effective rehabilitation, Special problems on identification, release and rehabilitation of migrant bonded labourers (adults and children). Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, National Child Labour Project, State Level Monitoring Committee, District and sub divisional level Vigilance Committees, Orientation and Training of Members of Vigilance Committees and Magistrates, Role of NGOs and Monitoring and Evaluation of administrative structure in different states.The participants of the workshop will be Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment; Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Chief Secretaries and Labour Secretaries concerned, of all the States and Union Territories.*******