“Rescued boys hail from North Cachar Hills”

Sushanta Talukdar IN THE HINDU

GUWAHATI: The Guwahati Childline discovered that all the 24 trafficked minor boys from Assam — who were rescued in Tamil Nadu on Monday — hail from the North Cachar Hills district. Dipen Kalita, Centre Coordinator of Childline, told The Hindu that they have received a list containing the names and addresses of the boys from the Director of the Tirunelveli Childline in Tamil Nadu. “Going by the addresses given in the list, all the 24 boys hail from the N.C. Hills district. One of them is 15 while the rest are in the age group of six to 14. We will approach the N.C. Hills police for assistance in tracing the parents, and if required, we will network with local NGOs in reaching out to the families,” Mr. Kalita said.

He said the organisation would also place the list before the Child Welfare Committee of the Social Welfare department on Saturday. Mr. Kalita said the immediate concern of the Guwahati Childline was to bring the children here at the earliest and initiate measures to repatriate them with their families. Two Delhi-based NGOs — Shakti Vahini and Vikalp Dhara — that are fighting the trafficking menace sent a memorandum to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi urging him to order the Social Welfare department to send a team to Tamil Nadu to ensure safe repatriation and trauma counselling.


NGO for CBI probe into trafficked kids

Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, January 28 2010: Even as chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Children Rights has rushed to Kanyakumari to monitor the situation, Shakti Vahini, an NGO, and various other organizations have demanded of the Centre to conduct a CBI inquiry into the incident of rescue of 76 Assam and Manipur children from an unregistered children’s home in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on January 25

National Commission for Protection of Children Rights chairperson Shanta Sinha rushed to Kanyakumari yesterday morning to monitor the situation. The 76 children were rescued from a home at Kulitorai in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district. All the children are boys in the 10-14-year age group. Prabhakaran, a member of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that rescued the children, said that the boys were forced to live in an appalling condition. This is the second time that the CWC has rescued trafficked children from the Northeast in Tamil Nadu, he said. According to sources, the 76 children were rescued from an unregistered orphanage called Bedesta Blessing Home located in Kanyakumari.

The sources further disclosed that Bedesta Blessing Home lacked both infrastructure and enough food to feed the children, and the crackdown on the home was conducted by members of the CWC of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. Fifty-four of the 76 children are from Manipur and the rest are from Assam, the sources said, adding that the children had been staying at the Home since July 2009 . Shakti Vahini, Bikalpa Dhara and other organizations have urged the Union Home Minister to ask the CBI to investigate the matter. In a letter to the Minister, Shakti Vahini president Ravi Kant said: “These are very disturbing trends.

Trafficking from the Northeast and eastern Himalayan region is on the rise and it needs a detailed investigation. We are enclosing all the reports… these reports may be the tip of the iceberg and there are all possibilities that organized gangs have started operating in the area to traffick women and children. We seek a detailed inquiry into these reports and cases of trafficking by the CBI” .


Assam police waiting for details of boys rescued in Tamil Nadu

Sushanta Talukdar

Guwahati: The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Assam Police is trying to get details about the 22 Assam boys, who were rescued, along with 54 others belonging to Manipur, by the Tamil Nadu police in Chennai and Kanyakumari. Inspector General of Police (IGP), CID and the State nodal officer for anti-trafficking Mukesh Sahay told The Hindu that he was trying to get in touch with Tamil Nadu CID officials. “The first level investigation will be done by the Tamil Nadu CID and we hope to get the preliminary information from them within the next two to three days,” he said.

Two Delhi-based NGOs — Shakti Vahini and Vikalp Dhara — that is fighting the trafficking menace have demanded a thorough inquiry into cases of trafficking from the northeastern States. Following the rescue of the boys, they wrote to N.S. Kalsi, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, on Wednesday drawing his attention to the increase in trafficking from the north-east.

They pointed out that the Tamil Nadu rescue was not an isolated case. “Trafficking from north-east India and the eastern Himalaya region is continuously on the rise and needs a detailed investigation,” wrote Ravi Kant, president, Shakti Vahini.

The letter also said media reports might indicate the tip of the iceberg and in all probability organised gangs had begun operating to traffick in women and children. Shakti Vahini alleged that the Assam government had not realised the gravity of the situation as could be gauged from the fact there was no official response from the State. Ideally, the Assam government should have immediately rushed a team to Tamil Nadu for the safe repatriation of the rescued children in cooperation with the Tamil Nadu government, it said.


NGO demands CBI probe into trafficked NE children


Jan 27:Shakti Vahini, an NGO, and various other organizations have demanded of the Centre to conduct a CBI inquiry into the incident of rescue of 76 Assam and Manipur children from an unregistered children’s home in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu on January 25. National Commission for Protection of Children Rights chairperson Shanta Sinha rushed to Kanyakumari this morning to monitor the situation.

The 76 children were rescued from a home at Kulitorai in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district. All the children are boys in the 10-14-year age group. Prabhakaran, a member of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that rescued the children, said that the boys were forced to live in an appalling condition. This is the second time that the CWC has rescued trafficked children from the Northeast in Tamil Nadu, he said.

According to sources, the 76 children were rescued from an unregistered orphanage called Bedesta Blessing Home located in Kanyakumari. The sources further disclosed that Bedesta Blessing Home lacked both infrastructure and enough food to feed the children, and the crackdown on the home was conducted by members of the CWC of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu.

Fifty-four of the 76 children are from Manipur and the rest are from Assam, the sources said, adding that the children had been staying at the Home since July 2009. Shakti Vahini, Bikalpa Dhara and other organizations have urged the Union Home Minister to ask the CBI to investigate the matter. In a letter to the minister, Shakti Vahini president Ravi Kant said: “These are very disturbing trends. Trafficking from the Northeast and eastern Himalayan region is on the rise and it needs a detailed investigation. We are enclosing all the reports… these reports may be the tip of the iceberg and there are all possibilities that organized gangs have started operating in the area to traffick women and children. We seek a detailed inquiry into these reports and cases of trafficking by the CBI.”


National panel to take up child trafficking issue

Spl Correspondent in Assam Tribune Dated 28.01.2010

NEW DELHI, Jan 27 – The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is rushing a team to Chennai to take up the issue of trafficked children from Assam and Manipur. The decision to despatch a team to Tamil Nadu came following pressure from NGOs to institute a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry on the large-scale trafficking from Assam and North-Eastern States.

Chairperson of the NCPCR, Shanta Sinha told newsmen that a team has been assigned to visit Tamil Nadu to take up the issue with the State Government.The Commission is also going to convene a meeting of the North-Eastern States and the destination States to work out a coordination plan for State to State mechanism. “We are concerned about the North-Eastern States,” said the chairperson.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Shakti Vahini and Bikalpa Dhara also met the chairperson with a demand to institute an inquiry and take necessary action.In a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the two NGOs called for a CBI probe into the whole issue of trafficking. Trafficking from the North-East India and Eastern Himalaya region is continuously on the rise and needs a detailed investigation. There are all the possibilities that organised gangs have started operating in the area to traffic women and children.

Since these crimes are spread over different States it would be beneficial that this investigation is done by federal agency like the CBI, the NGOs said.

It was also pointed out that the Chennai incident is not an isolated case, in July last the Kolkata police had rescued 25 North-East children who were going towards Andhra Pradesh.Similarly, there was a media report about the plight of 1600 children who had been shifted to schools in Karnataka.

On August 5, 2008, Nagaland girls were rescued from traffickers in Malaysia. One trafficker was caught in Nagaland but nothing happened. “These are very disturbing trends,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.

At least 76 children hailing from Manipur and Assam were rescued by Child Welfare Committee, Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu from a children’s home in Magappair, Tamil Nadu. This is the second time that CWC had rescued trafficked children from Manipur in Tamil Nadu.All the rescued children were rescued from an unregistered orphanage called Bedesta Blessing Home located at Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu.Earlier, the CWC claimed to have rescued 17 from a Children Home in Magappair, Tamil Nadu few days back. Reports have it that Bedesta Blessing Home lacked both infrastructure and enough food to feed the children and the crackdown was done by the members of CWC of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu.Out of the 76 children, 54 of them (all boys) belong to Manipur while the remaining hail from Assam, the source said adding the children were staying at BB Home since July, 2009.


Love and Longing at GB Road

Chinki Sinha , Indian Express
New Delhi , January 23, 2010

She stood in the window, her bleached streaked hair arresting the rays of the setting sun in its messed coiffure, and looked down at the street. There were pimps pacing up and down the corridors, smoking, and haggling for a higher rate for her body, there were women with bulging stomachs, wrinkled noses, at an age where a man’s face sort of empties as they met their gaze, and then there were pretty young things who stood in similar windows anticipating, and preying.

At Garstin Bastion Road, or Swami Shradhanand Marg, the name given to the famous red light district in city’s capital in 1965, the around 1,000 prostitutes were getting ready for business, a few hours before the auto parts shops lining the street downed their shutters. Then, it would be their domain, and only customers looking for their favorites would saunter in, gaze in the windows, up the narrow, dingy staircases and counted their money, deciding the limits of their bargain.

The girl, her cheap silver earrings dangling from her ears, and her lips painted loud pink, was searching, scanning the streets till her eyes rested on a young man, who wore a triped shirt, and jeans that had too many zip pockets, and sported longish hair, streaked like hers.

And he looked back at her from where he was standing, squeezed between cars, a little nala behind him, and started to sing, pausing to address her, and blow millions kisses her way.He called her Preeti.Preeti only smiled, and turned away, then looked at him again.

That’s love and longing at GB Road where according to those who live and work there in closet size rooms, where smell of sweat and flesh linger in the doorways, love is what they can’t let in. Because that corrupts, they said.As we waited for Charsi Bai, one of the kotha malkeens, we looked up, dissecting the smell and all, at the landing of the staircase. A woman looked down at us. We were intruders, and we didn’t come looking for what they were offering.She disappeared in the maze of rooms inside, and another one stuck her head outside. Her eyes, pumped with cheap mascara, and her eyelids smeared with bright bronze shadow, looked past us, tumbled upon the streets. At that hour, there weren’t many buyers around.

Because it is illegal to solicit, the women never came out. Their pimps, and there were plenty of them – young boys from Bihar , old paunchy men who chewed betel leaves and spat everywhere, moved around, eyeing the passersby.
One woman stood at the landing. She was annoyed. The business in GB Road is not booming anymore. The rates range from Rs. 100 to Rs. 500, but then the usual customers, the rickshaw pullers, the students, couldn’t pay them a ton.

Recession and its after effects – the beautiful up market prostitutes from Russia , Dubai and other countries – are on sale, too. Why spend on us – smelly, irritable, with no sophistication and always clamoring for a tip – when you can save and get the best, she said. There are girls from Andhra Pradesh, who were rounded up by the state police and dragged and put in a van and deported to their villages last year and have come back since, there are the fair women from Nepal who are modern, wear fashionable clothes, and there are the Rajasthanis.

According to Suraj Singh, who has worked in one of the hundreds of shops that function in the 20 buildings of GB Road for 27 years, the place has remained unchanged. The women maintain their distance and shop owners respect them. “They call us “bhaiya” and we don’t have any problems with them ever. But it is sad to see them being exploited sometimes,” he said. “The day the Andhra Police came and dragged 179 of those girls out, we felt bad. They had children with them, they were crying but they just put them in a van and drove away. Some people come and sell their wives and you hear the commotion, and the wailing. It’s sad.”

In one of the kothas, in what looked like a small reception area, more than a dozen women were waiting for their turn. The young ones, with their plunging necklines, and fluttering eyelashes, ran to the landing, whispering, adjusting their hair. This was their moment. They had to make the most of their youth before diseases claimed them. It will be a while before they paid off their debts to the naikas, the women who purchased them. The air was abuzz with anticipation, and competition.

A middle-aged woman, with thick glasses, wrapped in a shawl, was waiting, too. Once, when she was in her prime, she had her lovers, her loyal customers, too.“My life is spent now. All over the years I did the same thing. There’s no respite,” she said.There were other women, too, who huddled under the parapets of the old buildings, begging. Their days are over. They were members of the kothas, then became housemaids to the younger queens, and then when they couldn’t do that, they descended those staircases and were out on the streets.

They won’t tell you their sad stories. There’s no time for that sort of nonsense because at the end of it, what’s the use of repeating it all.There’s no time for love because love leads nowhere or here to the brothels, Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for the sex workers’ , said. “Every girl has a love story. Puja was a girl who fell in love with her customer, a young man of 25 years. It lasted for 6-7 months and then she realized he was abusing her, drinking off her earnings,” he said.

So, love in the air is an infection they guard against. Preeti went inside. The young lover stood alone, waiting for her to reappear. Like him, many young men, college students, others, come to the infamous road in the mornings, looking up at the windows, for their imagined lovers, and wait for the evening. If they have the money, they can go in and ask for her. She can’t turn back then. Or they will stand under the window, singing songs, and live under their lover’s glances.



Mihir Srivastava IN THE INDIA TODAY JANUARY 21 , 2010 ISSUE



Lola, 22, is a tall girl with high, thin eyebrows on a slender face. Her features are sharp but her eyes are uninterested, fixed at a painting on the wall of the coffee shop, as she tries hard to explain, in broken English, why she is in India. Clad in a too-tight pink sweatshirt, faded cream shorts and shiny red boots, her right hand bearing a cocktail ring which she keeps twisting nervously, her blue nail varnish chipped, she seems a far cry from her alluring nocturnal avatar as one of the Capital’s high-priced prostitutes. She speaks of how she came to work here two-and-a-half months ago. Her boyfriend TC, not Tom Cruise, she clarifies, momentarily showing signs of life, joined her last month. Both are clear about what they want from their lives–enough money to buy a house in Tashkent, their hometown in Uzbekistan.

One of five siblings who grew up in poverty, Lola’s mother is dead and her father was abusive. For her it’s just another job. There are no regrets. “It was TC who did all the running around for me, got my papers done and put me on a flight to Delhi,” she says.

Lola is not alone. She is part of a growing army of fair-skinned prostitutes, about 3,000 of them in the Capital and about the same number in the other parts of the country. They are from Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Kyrgyzstan, all of which are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Replacing the earlier favourites, imports from Nepal, and charging 40 per cent more than Indian prostitutes, they are changing the rules of the game, feeding on the Indian fascination for white skin and the greater openness with which they can promote their sexual favours, through classified advertisements in newspapers and professionally-designed websites.

That the fascination for white skin is transnational is evident from the string of recent arrests. Last year, on December 10, a Delhi-based hotel manager, Shanker Mishra, was arrested in Rajkot along with an Uzbek prostitute in her late 20s, Ragini, a native of Tashkent. Initial investigations revealed that Mishra would provide women to cash-rich traders and garment exporters in Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Indore.

A little earlier, on October 30, another sex racket was busted in Mahipalpur, Delhi, where three women of CIS origin, Aslefya, 23, Sonya, 25, and Roma, 27, were arrested following a scuffle between a few pimps and locals in front of a guesthouse, 365 Inn.

In July, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police arrested two CIS prostitutes when a decoy customer was sent to strike a deal with them. The pimp, Goldy, came with the two foreign women in a car. They were here on a six-month tourist visa and had been in the Gulf before coming to India; with their stay here governed by a Rs 1.5 lakh contract for each girl for one month. The women will be deported soon.

But it’s quite likely they will be back, admits Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, Mumbai, Rakesh Maria. “The prostitution racket involving CIS women is very well organised. The Indian pimps are in close touch with their counterparts in Dubai and CIS countries,” he says. It’s the culmination of events that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and gained momentum with the entry of young CIS women into Dubai, transforming it into a major centre of prostitution.

According to an article in The New Yorker in 2008, an “almost perfect recipe: mass immigration, mass transience, a tremendous concentration of money and anonymity, and a robust demand for labour”. But a crackdown in Dubai in December 2007 when 240 people were arrested and in May last year when 2,713 prostitutes were detained as well as the deportation of 228 Uzbek women from Thailand recently, ensured that many women moved south, a process hastened by the meltdown.

“The odds were against staying in Dubai,” says Nagina, a 27-year-old Muslim from Samarkand who was in Dubai till a month ago. She escaped the police but many of her friends are in jail for illegally entering the country on false passports. She doesn’t like to go to a bar to meet a client as “it is against my religion”. But prostitution? “They need our services and we provide it,” she says. Or take Roma, a 25-year-old from Karshi, Uzbekistan, who ran away from a violent father when she was 17. She was sucked into prostitution and sent to Dubai where her travel documents were confiscated. She is now a veteran with seven years of experience and this is her third stay in India. She lives in a three-storey flat in Delhi, atop a spiral staircase. It’s a big living room with bare orange walls, a dressing table with lights and a smorgasbord of cosmetics. As she settles down in a couch to talk, the only sign of her profession is a roommate who lies huddled in the bedroom next door, sleeping in mid-afternoon, working off the effects of a late night. As she flicks the ash from her cigarette, Roma says, “Only the best survive. The pressure to do well is so high. I learned English and have been to the US and Europe. I am okay with this life.”

As the hunting ground shifts from Dubai, the CIS women, often referred to as “night butterflies”, find India easier to work in. The classified advertisements in newspapers are easy to spot, printed by the dozens every day, five lines each costing Rs 1,800, giving mobile numbers, the option of paying by credit card and dropping cryptic hints of “body massage” assuring “full satisfaction”. Translate what that means: accompanying clients on long drives, having sex with them during the lunch hour in pimp hideouts around commercial hubs or in designated safehouses, and playing host at ‘stag’ parties where they serve alcohol and food skimpily dressed. All this for prices ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 30,000 depending on the duration.

It’s difficult to miss them, whether it is five-star hotel lobbies, elite clubs or farmhouses. They come here on tourist visas for three to six months and stay with ‘aunties’, women from CIS countries, who act as mediators between agents in home countries and pimps in India. The women are paid on a daily basis.

In Delhi, for example, over 150 Indian pimps host them and some of them have four to five CIS women on their payroll. The pimps pocket the money from clients, as payment for their upkeep as well as promotion. Call at any of the numbers advertised in the newspapers and they are quite blunt. “She will do all you want,” says the male voice at the other end. “Trained handling” means the client will relive his “wildest fantasies”. And when they say “full satisfaction guaranteed”, they mean “the girl will do whatever the clients wants, in the way they want, with great ability”. Some even promise to refresh clients with world class ‘blwoiob’ (blowjob) ‘ser'(vice), the misspelling deliberate to avoid trouble.

Some get poetic, luring clients with phrases such as “indulge yourself in the most electrifying experience of your lifetime with our bewitching masseuses” or proclaiming that carnal pleasures can be sublime, “where mind and soul entwine together in heights of pleasure”. So says a classified ad aimed at older customers. The idea is all are welcome, from the cash-rich entrepreneur to the high performing salesman, who gets sex as a bonus.

There is an even easier option, the Internet. Google ‘escort service’ and the name of the city where you intend to access the services, and voila, the choices pop up faster than Roger Federer’s serves. Professionally designed websites offer a host of services and a detailed rate list. Again, all it requires is a call to the given number, the time of requirement, and the specific service.

“Whether for pleasure trips, business occasions, corporate events, functions or dinner dates”, “especially handpicked to provide the highest level of service possible with professionalism, integrity and discretion assured at all times for the discerning gentlemen,” declares one website. Clients can book their services from anywhere in the world, can even outsource the planning of a fun-filled holiday to them. Payment is to be made in advance and clients are given the convenient option of paying by credit card.

Declares one website, “For gentlemen who would want to move beyond the confines of the hourly session, I offer these exclusive getaway packages,” to the scenic towns of Nainital and Shimla in summers and to regal Jaipur and Agra in winters. Yet another tells its prospective customers, “My favourite pastime in the field of the adult industry, always has been related to couples, including lesbian or bisexual female couples and groups of people.”

Their skin colour is their biggest selling point. “Sex with light-skinned women is aspirational,” says Pramada Menon, a Delhi-based gender activist. The CIS women agree. “Indians are so conscious of their colour and ours,” says Sarah, 27, from Tashkent, who has been here now for five months on a tourist visa. So much so that Indian women find it difficult to counter the ‘white cult’ that is taking over the premium flesh trade. Indian women have to be hard-sold. So if it’s an Indian woman, the advertisement reads: she is a ‘Punjabi’ (read intense and fair), ‘model’ (slim and beautiful), ‘airhostess’ (suave and smart), ‘hygienic’ (clean), ‘broadminded’ and ‘sober’. Broadminded assures clients that the women will play out their fantasies, while ‘sober’ indicates that they will be professional about it.

“East European girls have a different look and they are exotic for Indians as much as Delhi girls are unusual for Americans,” that’s a recorded voice playing on Vivek’s phone–he operates in an upmartket neighbourhood of the Capital and has four CIS women on his roster. “Most of our clients have gained money recently and want new girls every time,” he adds.

CIS women also offer anonymity. “For our older, wealthier and regular customers, it is not about sex but courtship,” says Feruza, 32, an Uzbek woman. “They want somebody to give them an honest hearing and like the way we pamper them. Language is an issue but we can talk them into relaxation. They like that they are in command and that actually helps them surrender to us,” she says. Ask Nitin, who runs a computer hardware business at a commercial complex in Delhi. He is in his mid-30s and is married with children. For him, the once-a-week sexcapade is an addiction he cannot do without.

“These women have an element of professional detachment. They are here for a few months and you don’t know whether you will ever see them again. They are not interested in you beyond the task well done,” he says, comparing them with their Indian counterparts. “But the Indians want your number. They give theirs, want to know what I do and how much I earn. Then they go on about how they belong to a good family too but have been forced into prostitution by some compelling circumstances. That is so irritating.”

Shrugs Shruti, a 19-year-old college girl who doubles as a call girl and is on the roster of two pimps in Delhi, “If Indian men are looking for white women for their novelty, white men are interested in us. They give us generous tips.” But why do white women attract so many repeat customers? “We cannot do things that white women do with Indian men,” says Shruti huffily.

CIS women dress well, wear immaculate make-up and carry the best accessories. They also play nice enough to have some men in their thrall. Roma gives the example of a 35-year-old married businessman, who offered to marry her. When she refused, he would insist only on her, paying extra for her services. “Aunty wanted me to meet him more often as money was coming thick and fast, but I stopped because he was getting emotional about the whole affair,” she says, adding on second thoughts, “but it is not a bad idea to get married after all.”

The ‘aunties’ are the key to the business. Usually heavily-built, manicured, made-up, chain-smokers, they pronounce their verdict with the authority borne of years of handling pimps, visa agents and police officials. “I tell my girls to come back if the clients get rough. They can call me any time even when they are with the clients. If they don’t like something, they can stop right there,” says one aunty. Four of them have formidable reputations. They have their areas of domination but their areas of operation overlap.

With names like Svetlana, Diana, Nafisa and Sweta, these aunties have never been prostitutes themselves but are cashing in on their strong Indian connections. The fathers of two aunties were diplomats stationed in India 20 years ago; another has a KGB background. For them, it’s not a racket but a business. Says an aunty, dressed in a long black skirt, a thick bead necklace nestling in the V of a cleavage-popping white T-shirt, “More then 20,000 girls have come and gone from India in several lots over the past two years. Most were from CIS countries and have done well for themselves.” The numbers are lower than in the UAE and Dubai, she adds.

These aunties are careful and so are the women. Unlike their Indian counterparts, they always carry a pack of flavoured condoms. Cleanliness is an issue and they insist that clients take a shower before going to bed with them. They have a dress code for bed too: red and black lingerie from the best brands. Sometimes the aunties insist on sending Indian prostitutes first. Only when she gives an all-clear signal is the client allowed to sleep with a white woman.

In order not to attract undue attention, only two girls are lodged in one flat each in areas close to busy neighbourhoods. They wear Fabindia clothes by day, have a fetish for leather garments at night and sport dark eyeliner at all times. “That’s our fashion statement,” says Bessica, 27. The mother of two has been in India for four months after her jobless husband persuaded her to come here. “I was in the UAE and Dubai before I came to India. The girls of my generation do feel the pangs. We are spiritually dead,” she says.

Most of the women come directly to aunties to pay off loans their family took back home. “It is according to an informal contract between the family and the agent back home where the girls are required to stay overseas for three to six months to pay off their debt by making themselves available for prostitution,” says Mashhura, 28, who belongs to Buxoro in Uzbekistan. Some come back to make money for themselves and get in touch with Indian pimps like Vivek who maintains four such ‘freelancers’ and pays each Rs 10,000 per day for their period of stay. They sometimes end up working 12 hours a day, meeting six different clients, as pimps make Rs 35,000 a day, which includes the police cut, their stay and other expenses.

Rajiv, 30, a pimp in Delhi, has six such women in his list. He calls prospective clients to his home and gives them one of his rooms. His wife, a tall woman in a salwar-kameez, who listens to him negotiating from behind the curtain of the living room and often walks out to tell the client sternly, “the price is fixed.”

The number of CIS-origin prostitutes in India is growing. Four hundred prostitutes are expected to arrive in the Capital during the Commonwealth Games to be held later in the year. “We know there will be great demand for women then and special arrangements are being made, like renting safehouses. Some Indian pimps are even buying flats,” says Avita, 30, who came here with her cousin from Tashkent.

Insiders also say that some girls are brought to India as part of dance troupes. These women perform group dances in revealing clothes, mostly at private parties. According to Rishikant, a 32-year-old activist who works for the NGO, Shakti Vahini, and has rescued more than 1,000 girls in the last decade from prostitution, “Their number has increased significantly in the last one-and-a-half years.” He explains that the police are aware of the problem but can do little as senior officers are involved.

India’s anti-trafficking law, the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls (Amendment) Act (SITA), 1978, aims at combating the commercialisation of the flesh trade (brothels, prostitution rings and pimping). Prostitution is not illegal. But in practice, SITA is not commonly used; instead the Indian Penal Code is deployed to charge sex workers with crimes such as public indecency or public nuisance, punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine or both. If the sex worker is a minor, the client may get a sentence of seven to 10 years. But, given the overt manner in which the flesh trade operates, it cannot happen without the support of the police. Former police officer Kiran Bedi calls it the “collective failure of the whole criminal judicial system.”

Failure or not, the women don’t mind. “We get to travel, stay in new places and make friends. Yes, the money is good. But I like it here as well,” says Kate, 27, who was presented as a model to an exporter in Delhi with whom she would be travelling to Goa. She arrived in India about a month-and-a-half ago and has already been with 50 men. As she leaves, dressed in tight jeans and a brown psychedelic top under a black leather jacket, a white taxi waiting outside to take her to her 51st client, she shrugs her shoulders.

“I was deported from Israel last year. The next few days will be tricky. It’s Republic Day and security is tight.” It’s one of the perils of her profession. But one she carries off as easily as the Christian Louboutin high heels she bought online last year. It’s price she extracts for the pleasure she provides.

The cost of fantasy

CIS girls now dominate the high-end sex market offering sexual pleasure as leisure SERVICES TIME IN HOURS RATE IN RUPEES/per head One trip (sexual intercourse)  Two  8,000  Two trips  Two  10,000  Two trips  Four  15,000  Unlimited trips  Eight or overnight  25,000  Orgy (at least one girl per person)  Eight or overnight  25,000  Escort service (travel outstation with the client, all expenses are met)  Per day  25,000  Play hostess at a stag party  Four hours  15,000  Posing as nude model for photography and sketching  One hour  5,000  Payment is in advance/all credit cards accepted, cash is preferred. The websites guarantee confidentiality.

Inside the new trade

  1. Getting a light-skinned prostitute is rather easy. All one has to do is call one of the numbers flashed in the two dozen-odd difficult-to-ignore massage advertisements in the classified pages of leading dailies. The sales pitch starts as soon as the ad is mentioned. Then there’s the Net, where a search for ‘escort service’ with the city name yields pages of results.
  2. Most of the women come as tourists from the impoverished republics of the former Soviet Union, particularly Uzbekistan. Some are coerced while others get into this business voluntarily.
  3. The so-called ‘aunties’, CIS women who have been illegally living in India for several years, act as the interface between the women and local pimps. The aunties are local agents of a mafia back home and share up to 50 per cent of the profits.
  4. Most prostitutes are not paid; they serve ‘aunties’ under informal contracts that pay off loans taken back home by their families in return for services provided here. The contracts run for three to six months, during which up to a third of a prostitute’s earnings go repay family loans.
  5. Lured by big money, some women come back as ‘freelancers’. They then stay with an Indian pimp, who sometimes helps them get a visa. They also pay these women a daily fee which is usually between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000. Most women reinvest their earnings to make a profit; exporting leather garments is a favoured avenue.
  6. The pimps also make money by organising rooms for clients. Five-star hotels, farmhouses and guesthouses are hotspots, with smaller establishments bending rules to ensure anonymity. Official addresses are avoided.
  7. Some women aren’t prostitutes and others aren’t just that. As part of dancing troupes, they are called ‘belly dancers’ or ‘item girls’ and serve as hostesses and showgirls at parties.
  8. Lax visa rules make for a thriving sex trade. Joint Commissioner of Police,Crime,Mumbai, Rakesh Maria says, “The pimps in India, Dubai and CIS countries work in close coordination.” A secret report of the NSA had expressed concern over foreigners buying land illegally. Others have established guesthouses and restaurants.
  9. Only half a dozen arrests were made last year; there were no convictions. According to the law, soliciting or encouraging the exchange of sexual services for money is a sex crime and not prostitution. Sometimes these women are deported, but most of them come back.
  10. The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls (Amendment) Act, 1978, is toothless. Most arrested women get bail as soliciting is difficult to prove. This prompted the Supreme Court last month to ask the government to legalise prostitution, on a PIL filed by an NGO called the Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

The new white flesh trade

Mihir Srivastava IN THE INDIA TODAY JANUARY 21 , 2010 ISSUE

As Dubai goes into a meltdown, women from the former Soviet Union pour into India, providing sexual pleasure for a price.

Aravallis undermined

By Sushmita Sengupta in Down to Earth 15.06.2009

THE Supreme Court on May 8 banned mining activities in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Mewat districts of Haryana. The ban will be in force till the state comes out with a report on how it will restore the ecology of the 450 sq km area, including the lakes around the Aravalli hills, laid waste by mining. The court passed the order on a 1995 petition that was later merged with the omnibus forest case the court has been hearing since 1996.

The apex court till now had been stressing on balancing mining with ecological concerns but satellite images showing dried lakes convinced the judges an immediate ban is needed.

The state government and the mining lobby had been using the leeway given by previous court orders to carry on mining. The restoration plan is to be evaluated by the Central Empowered Committee which advises the Supreme Court on forest related matters and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. “The court first decided to deal with the mining issue due to public outcry against the lakes drying up. Other issues like encroachment will be taken up later,” said Ravi Kant, legal adviser to the Faridabad-based non-profit, Shakti Vahini, that has been lobbying against mining in the area. The mining debris has blocked the natural channels that feed the lakes and deforestation has led to soil erosion and increased run-off that no longer recharges groundwater.

Actions and words vary

Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on February 27 said Badkhal and Surajkund lakes in Faridabad and Dumdama lake in Gurgaon would be revived before the Commonwealth Games, 2010. But his government’s department of geology and mines went ahead with auctioning of mines in Sirohi and Khori Jamalpur villages in Faridabad on March 3, 2009, without bothering about environmental consequences. It was another matter that no one came forward with a bid because of the ongoing court case. The apex court stayed the auction on March 18.

The Badkhal and Surajkund lakes, 20 to 30 km from New Delhi, were picnic hotspots till the 1980s. Now the dry lake-beds are used for sports events to highlight their condition. The Dhauj Jheel in Faridabad too is drying.

The Supreme Court in 1996 had directed mining leases could not be renewed within two to five kilometre radius of Badkhal without permission from the central and state pollution control boards. Mining in other areas continued unabated. Hooda justified mining by saying that the lakes had not dried up because of mining alone. The mining lobby said pretty much the same in court: the groundwater depleted because Delhi Government sunk tubewells near the border.

State tourism minister Kiran Chaudhary disowned any responsibility for the lakes. She said she was responsible only for the commercial complexes in the lake resort. “The irrigation department is responsible for filling the lake,” she said.

Toxic revival plan

The only plan so far to revive the Badkhal lake, prepared by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (huda), proposed filling the dry bed with slurry from the thermal power plant near National Institute of Technology, Faridabad. Officials said the flyash would settle at the bottom of the lake and then the clear water above could be used for water sports. But water contaminated with flyash will have heavy amounts of toxic nitrates and heavy metals, pointed out S P Datta, director of Nuclear Research Laboratory, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi. “A system for removing the flyash will have to be incorporated in such a plan and that will be very costly,” he said.

As for the Surajkund lake, Chaudhary said she had given the relevant file to the culture ministry, overseeing the lake’s rejuvenation plan. The Archaeological Survey of India (asi) that has to implement the plan said it could revive the lake only if the state does something about restoring the catchment area. “The state should take care that water channels feeding the lake are not disturbed,” said B R Mani, joint director general, asi. No department is willing to take responsibility to restore the lakes; no one knows who will.


The face that launched a thousand shares

MALVIKA KAUL Posted: May 20, 2005 at 0000 hrs IST IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS

Thousands of Indians, especially women and children, are trafficked everyday to some destination or the other and are forced to lead lives of slavery. They survive in brothels, factories, guesthouses, dance bars, farms and even in the homes of well-off Indians, with no control over their bodies and lives. Women and children are also being trafficked for illegal adoptions, organ transplants, the circus and the entertainment industry.

Although cross-border trafficking of women and children has been a problem in India for the last two decades, NGOs and academic researchers say that there has been a phenomenal growth in inter-state trafficking in the last five years. While India is both a source and conduit for international traffickers, 89 per cent of trafficking in India is inter-state. Shakti Vahini, an NGO working on anti-trafficking issues, claims that traffickers are not just getting women and children to brothels or to tourist spots: young women from conflict-ridden states like Assam or drought-prone states like Andhra Pradesh are being sold as ‘brides’ in Haryana and western UP. It is well-known that due to rampant practice of foeticide in the last two decades, Haryana has a severe shortage of women. The traffickers, who even include women, lure young girls with the promise of a job or simply abduct them and bring them to Haryana. Here, they are not married, but kept as ‘wives’ by men. The NGO says these women are caged in homes and undergo rape almost everyday.

Several tribal women and minors from states like Jharkhand and Bihar reach Delhi and NOIDA to work as domestic labour. A few months ago, the Human Rights Law Network, the National Domestic Workers Movement and the National Commission for Women organised a public hearing of domestic workers (some as young as eight years) in Delhi. They all had horror tales to tell: some children said they are beaten with brooms, rods and belts. The women are often raped and if they try to leave, they are not paid their wages. Most of them come from ‘placement agencies’.

While earlier women and children were largely trafficked from poor states, today the northeastern states — Nagaland, Assam and Manipur – have also joined the list. In 2004, a report, ‘Action Research on Trafficking in Women and Children in India’, commissioned by the NHRC — in collaboration with UNIFEM and the Institute of Social Sciences — revealed that every year over 22,000 women and 44,00 children are reported missing in India. Of these, more than 5,000 women and 11,000 children are not traced. Many of the persons missing are actually trafficked. In states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu, the rate of missing children had increased from 100 to 211 per cent!

Like slavery, trafficking offers huge profits. According to the NHRC report, transactions in prostitution itself are worth Rs 185 million a day; Rs 370 billion per year. Human trafficking is globally the largest source of profit after arms and drug trafficking. And, comparatively, the least risky. Experts feel that the government, law enforcement agencies, politicians and the general public should be more pro-active in tackling the issue. In 2004, the US government put India on the Tier 2 Watch list (along with six other Asian countries), for its inadequate response to the trafficking issue.

The Government has made many efforts to prevent trafficking in the last few years. But a lot more can be done. In 2002, Shakti Vahini filed a public interest litigation seeking to know how far the states had been able to implement the recommendations (made in 1998) of the Report Committee on Prostitution, Children of Prostitutes and Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Exploitation of Women and Children. Two years later, the states submitted their replies: none, except Andhra, appeared to have taken any concrete steps. Some states have not even formed the basic panels to coordinate work on anti-trafficking. None of the governments have conducted any mapping activity to determine the extent of trafficking, an essential requirement under the plan.

Training police officers to handle cases with greater sensitivity; setting up minimum standards of care for survivors of trafficking; coordinating law enforcement in the case of missing persons — the states have not set these processes in motion. Small, though significant, initiatives have been taken in recent years by NGOs by creating awareness on the issue, rescuing trafficked persons and getting the traffickers arrested.

However, this is a mammoth task. War against slavery needs a multi-disciplinary approach. Women and Child Development, Labour, Home and External Affairs — all these agencies must move beyond rescue operations to rehabilitation.

The writer is an editor with the WFS