No medical test of minor tortured by doctor couple

ADITYA DEV IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

GURGAON: In a case where a doctor couple was booked for employing a minor girl as a domestic help on Monday, the police are yet to get the medical test done of the victim to determine her age. Also, no arrest has been made so far. Childline (1098), which was part of the rescue team, said the medical test should have been conducted within 24 hours of the complaint. Gurgaon child welfare committee (CWC) is looking into the matter. The victim has been given shelter at a local children’s home. Rishi Kant, spokesperson of NGO Shakti vahini, which runs Childline in Gurgaon, said according to rules police should have arranged a medical check-up immediately. “Somehow police here are very lax in cases related to child rights. Had it been Delhi, the medical test would have been done within hours, said Kant.

When asked, investigating officer Abhay Raj said, “The victim was taken for a medical test on Thursday, but the chief medical officer was not available. Now, the test will be done on September 4. We will make arrests only after the girl’s age is verified”.

The Haryana chief minister and Union human resources development (HRD) minister are visiting city on September 3 and apparently the administration is busy preparing for the event. Kant claimed the Gurgaon CWC ensures that issues related to child rights are handled with due care. When informed about the delay in medical test, CWC member Sunaina said she would look into the matter. However, later on, she could not be reached despite repeated attempts.

Earlier, a teenager, a native of Gumla distrcit in Jharkhand was rescued jointly by Childline, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, Gurgaon from the house of a doctor couple in the city. The Sector 4 residents, have been accused of employing a minor girl and torturing her. An FIR has been registered under Section 23 (punishment for cruelty to juvenile or child) and 26 (exploitation of juvenile or child employee) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

“The victim was not allowed to speak to her parents. She didn’t get any money in return of her work. And whenever she requested to go back to her home, the couple would beat her,” said Kant.

Finally, the will for the right ban

ENAKSHI GANGULY THUKRAL IN THE HINDU

The Cabinet decision to seek total prohibition of child labour is a step long overdue

The Cabinet Committee has passed the proposal seeking a total ban on employing children under 14 years and of 14-18 year olds in hazardous occupations. When passed in Parliament as law, it will be a huge milestone in the journey that many of us had started in the mid-1980s. This also marks a milestone in my own personal journey as a child rights activist.The first time I engaged with this issue was in 1986 when the government was drafting the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLPRA). Activists were protesting against the proposed law that would allow children to work in “non hazardous” occupations below the age of 14 years and in all occupations, hazardous and non-hazardous, beyond that age. We saw this as a violation of the basic right to childhood, as children as young as six and seven years were employed and leading horrifying lives.The law was passed and since then, India has had a law that for all practical purposes, that allows children to work. Over the years, activists have been advocating, fighting and campaigning on child labour throughout the country so that the government recognised the gravity of the problem and showed the political will to address it.

Leads to poverty

Child labour is a harsh reality, we were told by the government, children of the poor must work or how will they will survive?

This was the very argument that led to India’s declaration to Article 32 to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child when the government ratified the Convention in 1992, stating that “… being aware that it is not practical immediately to prescribe minimum ages for admission to each and every area of employment in India — the Government of India undertakes to take measures to progressively implement the provisions of article 32 ….”

And hence even while India marched into economic growth and its place as a world superpower, child labour continued with legal support.Child rights activists were clear that child labour leads to poverty and not vice versa; child labour was a reality because without doubt, employers preferred children as they could be paid less, made to work longer hours and beaten into submission: the only way to address child labour and poverty was to ensure that child labour was banned, every child was in school and that they were replaced by adults who were paid at least minimum wages.

Educating children

But, the child labour law was in direct disharmony with the Fundamental Right to Education after (86th Amendment to the Constitution, 2002) and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) passed in 2009. All children had the right to education but how could children be at school and at work at the same time?A public Interest litigation (PIL) filed by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, M.V. Foundation and Social Jurist in 2005, for the first time raised this contradiction between the two laws in the Supreme Court, which issued a notice on December 12, 2005, to the Centre seeking enforcement of the right to education of every child in the age group of six to 14 by abolishing child labour in all its forms. But the government did not pay heed.

Moreover, even as raids and rescues of child labour revealed exploitation and abuse, CLPRA did not make child labour a cognisable offence. It was the Campaign against Child Labour (CACL) and the Campaign against Child Trafficking (CACT) that drew the government’s attention to this as did HAQ, a member of the Central Advisory Board on Child Labour. This issue was addressed somewhat in 2007, when the rules for the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJA), in Section 26 of JJA made child labour a cognisable offence, bringing some relief. However, now there was a contradiction between JJA and CLPRA. JJA covered all children under 18 years in hazardous sectors, while CLPRA remained restricted to under 14 year olds.

Meanwhile, India was under tremendous international pressure to recognise child labour as a problem. Big companies under flak from activists, began to opt for “child labour free” declarations for the products they bought from, or produced in India. U.N. agencies such as the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child to which India has reported three times (the last report is due for discussion) raised questions about India’s continued stand on child labour being a harsh reality and therefore not possible to eliminate.The present move of the government to finally ban all child labour below the age of 14 years and in hazardous labour between 14-18 years is a coming together of all these efforts. It will finally resolve contradictions between the different laws.Better late than never! Of course, this is only the first stage to its becoming law, and we hope that Parliament will pass the proposal making it a law.

Will the law alone lead to the elimination of child labour? Perhaps not. After all, any change on the ground is dependent on the successful implementation of the law and this is an area in which India lags behind severely. And hence the battle for implementation of the law, once it is passed, will have to continue.But let us not be sceptical for now. Let us recognise and rejoice that this will be a giant leap in the history of child rights in India. For the first time, after over two and a half decades of struggle, the government has recognised that despite child labour being a “harsh reality,” the law must be forward looking. Instead of law reflecting reality, it must be designed to change it.

(Enakshi Ganguly Thukral is co-director of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.)

International trafficking racket worth crores busted by Special Cell

DWIPAYAN GHOSH IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Four persons, including three Nepali nationals, were arrested here for allegedly running a human trafficking racket whose kingpin is operating from Saudi Arabia. Nepal has banned immigration of women to Saudi Arabia and the alleged racketeers decided to take the India route in order to hoodwink the Nepalese authorities. The accused, claimed sources, allegedly sold of these girls for several lakhs.

Nabin Kumar Subedi (35), Ashiq Ali Miya (24) and Uttam Silwal (32), all from Nepal, and Bipin Dahal (32), a graduate hailing from Assam, were apprehended from various places on a tip from central intelligence agencies, Sanjeev Yadav, Deputy Commissioner of Police ( Special Cell), said.

They allegedly used to prepare fake passports, visa stickers and fake employment stickers of Nepal and used to send people abroad. Fourty-one fake Nepalese passports and 104 fake foreign employment permit stickers of Nepal were recovered from them. Subedi, Miya and Dahal were the first to be arrested on August 21 following a tip off that a consignment of fake passports will exchange hands in Munirka.

Though initially they did not admit the seized passports was fake, Yadav said, Nepalse embassy confirmed that they were not original. “Nepalese women are lured and brought to Delhi by Miya. Fake visa stickers are managed by one Shakir, a Nepali national based in Mumbai. They charged minimum Rs 20,000 per customer. Bisht also charges hefty sums from the employers in Saudi Arabia,” Yadav said.

The accused disclosed that came to deliver the fake Nepalese passports to one Uttam Silwal, a permanent resident of Mahakali residing at Nebsarai. Accordingly a raid was conducted at the residence of Uttam at Nebsarai and he was apprehended.

The accused persons disclosed that the kingpin of the racket is one Ram Bahadur Bist based in Saudi Arabia. On his directions, one Nabin Kumar procured passports and employment stickers from one Shabbir and then he brings them to Delhi. The prospective client Nepalese ladies are lured and brought to Delhi by one Ashiq Ali Miya. Cops believe he is a Pakistani citizen settled in Kathmandu in Nepal and have safe shelters in the capital.

“The fake visa stickers are managed by one Shakir, a Nepali resident who is presently based in Mumbai. After completing the formalities fake employment visa stickers are affixed on the passports of the clients. This employment visa sticker is mandatory for the Nepalese citizens travelling to Gulf countries for job. They also use fake stamps of the Department of Foreign Employment in Nepal.

Meanwhile, accused Nabin disclosed that he has passed class 10 and came in contact with Ram Bahadur who told him that he is a manpower agent and is sending Nepalese women to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries for jobs. Ram Bahadur lured him and asked him to operate from Delhi. Ashiq Ali Miya disclosed that he responsible for luring Nepalese ladies , the prospective clients on the pretext of jobs with good salaries in Gulf countries. Cops suspect his links with some terror organizations with sleeper cells in Nepal. Dahal disclosed he is a graduate. He takes care of arranging air tickets for the prospective clients going to Gulf countries for job. He was earlier arrested in a case of cheating by Chankyapuri police.

“Nepalese Embassy has been informed about their arrest. Further investigation is in progress,” said Yadav.

A Move That Could Help Reduce Child Labor

By Joanna Sugden in the WALL STREET JOURNAL

Campaigners for the abolition of child labor in India welcomed a Cabinet decision Tuesday which would ban the employment of children under the age of 14.

The government’s ministers called on Parliament to pass an amendment to the Child Labour Act 1986, a law which, until now, has allowed children below 14 to be involved in “non-hazardous” work. The amendment, if passed, would impose a maximum three-year jail term and 50,000-rupee fine for anyone employing a child under the age of 14 in any kind of work or engaging under-18s in hazardous work.The change would be the most significant development in India’s child labor laws since the introduction of a partial ban in 1986, according to activists working for an end to the practice.

However, activists also warned that without sufficient political backing, effective implementation, adequate budgets and robust enforcement, the amended law could remain on the statute book without any impact for the estimated 12.6 million under-14s working in the country.Kailash Satyarthi, chairman of the Global March Against Child Labor, said the change had the potential to strengthen a law that was “inappropriate and weak” at its inception and had become “redundant” as a result of contradictory legislation introduced subsequently.

“The current law is contradictory to the Right to Education Act which guarantees free schooling to every child under 14,” Mr. Satyarthi told India Real Time.He added: “We are concerned about the implementation of this [amended] law because most of the welfare laws in India are not enforced because of a lack of political will.”

As well as the need to remove contradictions from its statute book, the government is under pressure to meet the 2016 International Labour Organization’s deadline for the abolition of the worst forms of child labor.Mr. Satyarthi, who is also founder of the nongovernmental organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) said there had been an encouraging change in attitude among the political elite towards the practice of employing children.

“Image is very important now since India is promoting itself as the fastest-emerging economic power in the world,” he said. “They can’t afford legislation which goes against that image.”

The case of a 14-year-old domestic helper rescued by an NGO earlier this year after two doctors allegedly locked her in their apartment without adequate food while they went on vacation, also helped change the mind-set within India’s political class, according to Rishi Kant, the coordinator at Shakti Vahini, the organization which rescued the girl said. After “that incident the government became sensitive towards the child labor,” said Mr. Kant. “And within months, the Cabinet decision comes to ban all forms of child labor.”

Mr. Kant said that India needed a better mechanism for reporting and finding missing children to prevent child trafficking, which fuels the child labor industry. Figures released this week by the government said that 55,000 children go missing in India each year.

“Parents are lured by the money that their children are promised for petty jobs in big cities but the parents never get the money and the child gets all sorts of problems and all kinds of exploitation happens to the child,” Mr. Kant said.

Both Houses of Parliament must pass the amendment before it becomes law. Cassie Dummett, head of programming at Catholic Relief Services India, said that a change to the law would strengthen the hand of those working at the grass roots to eradicate child labor.

“We support projects in rural and poor India and are dealing with the police and Panchayats” or village councils, said Ms. Dummett. “If we are able to say to them, ‘This is the law, no child under 14 should be working’ it would be very useful.”

Sherin Khan, senior specialist on child labour for the International Labour Organization for South Asia, said the impact of the amendment, if enforced, would be “far reaching for the millions of children who are missing out on their development in a country that is now a global power.”

“For those needing assistance to do well in the formal school system there are a number of schemes, including the National Child Labour Project centres or bridge schools helpingRelated articles

Northeast and its ceaseless struggle with human trafficking

KISHALAYA BHATACHARJEE IN THE TEHELKA

In the last two months more than 25 lakh people have been displaced and affected by flood and political violence in Assam. With one of the largest internally displaced people in the country it makes for the favourite hunting ground for human traffickers. There is already information that they are on the prowl in various relief camps across the state from Lakhimpur in Upper Assam to Kokrajhar in Lower Assam. A special report on the modus operandi of human trafficking in India’s North East by Kishalay Bhattacharjee

The biggest urban crisis in cities like Delhi is about working couples stressing over domestic helps.

Over the last five years, placement agencies have been competing along with property dealers all over the national capital to supply help at home. There are over 2000 of them, providing help not just to Delhi but neighbouring Gurgaon and Noida as well. Majority of these agencies are unregulated and become an end point for exploitation of girls who are brought from other states to Delhi, with the promise of a good income and a better life.

‘Babita Enterpize’ was one such agency in Delhi. This is where a 16-year-old girl from Assam found herself staying in May 2011 after being lured by a promise of a marriage by Ismail Ahmed. He took her to Delhi by train and kept her at some Babita’s place in Delhi’s Shakarpur area. She was allegedly confined, raped and sold. For 15 days she was physically tortured and traumatised.

After two weeks of taking her around to meet various customers to as far as Kanpur he finally settled to sell her for Rs 1, 50, 000. But the customer was a police decoy and Ahmed was arrested. She was rescued and the racket was busted but the prime accused, Parveen, has been absconding since.

In a rare case, just days before her board examination this year the girl travelled back to Delhi to appear in a case. Her father is a coal miner in Meghalaya. Her family though in great financial difficulty has been supporting her fight for justice. The victim says, “I will fight this case because I don’t want other girls to be cheated like me.”

The case was heard in the court of Additional Session Judge in New Delhi Dr Kamini Lau. The next hearing will be on 5 November 2012. Eight more children were rescued along with her but the Judge has now observed that while the NGOs have rescued and handed the children to the Child Welfare Committee, the committee’s negligence has pushed them back into the hand of the placement agencies. The judgment reads, “The entire purpose of the rescue and rehabilitation as contemplated under the act appears to be defeated.”

According to data provided by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, 3500 adults and children disappeared from Assam in the last year alone—probable victims of the human trafficking trade. Data and documentation on trafficking is abysmally poor and the only statistics available are with the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).

Assam for that matter the entire Northeastern region is one of the established source points for trafficking of women and children. But why Assam? One of the known causes which make an area vulnerable to trafficking is conflict.

Assam has been witness to armed conflict since the early Eighties. At the last count there were 12 armed groups operating only in Assam and twice that number using Assam as transit and safe haven. Conflict leads to displacement and even as this report is being written close to 3 lakh people are huddled in Lower Assam’s relief camps.

The state records one of the highest internally displaced people in the country. There is no mechanism used to maintain any record of how many people actually go missing or return when rehabilitated. In 2009 I had recorded a regular flow of children from Bru refugee camps in Tripura to a mission in West Bengal. Several children have gone missing from Arunachal Pradesh, reportedly to monasteries in Nepal. The guardians were told that for 11 years they will not be able to get in touch with the kids.

The last relief camp I visited in this round of violence was in Purani Bijni in the district of Chirang. Around 2500 people were occupying five rundown rooms of a primary school. The men would sleep on the field and everyone would defecate in the backyard.

Dal and rice with rationed amount would be served as food. Most of these people have land but after they return there is no guarantee that the land would not be occupied (Read: grabbed).

A vague message arrives in my inbox. Some middlemen are snooping around this relief camp but I have no means of substantiating the information. In March this year eight girls from the same district were rescued in Delhi where the accused Home Singh Pandey had employed them through his placement agency N K Enterprise in Shakurpur. He would purchase them from source traffickers for Rs.5000 and employ them for a security deposit of Rs. 20000 and receive a monthly salary of Rs. 1500 to Rs.2000 on behalf of the girls.

I recall a visit in 2006 to a relief camp again in the same district. Then it was within Kokrajhar. A young girl in a bright pink salwar kameez was peeping from her makeshift home in the refugee colony. She had escaped a few days back from a home in Delhi where she was locked up for months, sexually exploited and made to work at home. The camp secretary had told me about a few other girls who have been sent to Delhi to work as domestic help. After a few weeks there was no more communication possible with them. I visited the camp the following year to record more such tales. By then hopes of any rehabilitation had receded and people were no longer worried about the fate of their daughters gone missing.

Bloodied for decades since 1995 the districts in Lower Assam, which saw Bodo-Adivasi and Bodo-Bengali-speaking Muslim clashes have become a catchment area for human trafficking. Guardians find it convenient to send the children off to cities against some payment. Generally it is the local unemployed young men who act as the first point of the deal. (It is exactly the same modus operandi in wild life trafficking where the guides for the sharp shooters are sourced from fringe villages around sanctuaries).

Politics of ethno exclusivism has dotted the region with militias gaining territorial control amongst other gains. In 2008 the Dimasas in Assam’s North Cachar Hills clashed with the Zeme Nagas in which armed outfits like NSCN(IM), NSCN(K) and DHD(J) were involved. The images of conflict are the same everywhere. Smoke from fire simmering in fodder or rice grains stored in homes. Entire villages razed down. Belongings scattered around. In some cases even livestock killed by a spray of bullets. Overnight the population moves to safer locations and for months they stay as refugees. Schools shut down because the refugees and the security forces must be accommodated in shelters and schools or colleges are the only ones available in villages. Food security is not even accounted for. These hills have gone through waves of armed and ethnic bloodshed.

In each wave it is the children and the women who are the worst hit. In January 2010 close to 200 children mostly boys were rescued from Kanyakumari in Chennai. They were from North Cachar Hills and neighbouring Karbianglong, another disturbed area. A few were from Manipur. The girls accompanying them had already been trafficked after they reached Bangalore. There is still no trace of them. The children were sent off by parents in promise of free education. The middleman in this case was a pastor.

Based on such reports provided by National Commission of Protection of Child Rights, the Supreme Court on 1 September 2010 directed that the Central government must immediately vacate all schools occupied by the army or the paramilitary forces. It also directed that children below 12 years in the Northeastern states should not be allowed to pursue education outside.

But children don’t have to go outside the state to get trafficked. Over the last few years hundreds and the number could even go to thousands have moved out of Chintong Block in Karbianglong district of Assam. Neighbouring Amri and Umswai have also contributed to this exodus but Chintong is highlighted due to it backwardness. It doesn’t even have a road or a functional school. Five students have passed out in 12 years from the only school virtually without teachers. So where do they go to? Down the hill to the plains of Nagaon, Morigaon, Nellie and Jagi Road. The deal is universal. They will work as a domestic help in exchange of school education. There is documented evidence of children mistreated and beaten here. The parents are not allowed to meet their children and often they are forced to drop out of school. Some children have gone missing. On 24 July 2012, 12-year-old Kendro Senar a student of class V, who came from Lumarchi village of Chintong, committed suicide by hanging himself in the house he worked and stayed at Amlapati, Nagaon. This is the second reported case of a child committing suicide in two years from the same place.

While mainstream media (even international media) probably under social media pressure has been sustaining the coverage of Assam ‘riots’, the reportage misses the ‘big picture’ (a favourite television jargon). The ‘riots’ (riots don’t go on for five weeks) was preceded by the decade’s worst wave of flood in Assam. Twenty four lakh people were affected and 126 persons died in flooding and landslides. Government data posted on 24 August showed 57,000 people are still affected. When I travelled through these flood affected districts, the apathy of authorities and the misery of the people was beyond a journalist’s ability to document. Highways were transformed into unending camps made by flimsy plastic sheets supplied by the government. For weeks it would rain every night with people and children under those sheets. Most people prefer living on roads than moving to designated relief camps where hygiene is of unacceptable standards. Moreover they can’t carry all their belongings, besides they can keep an eye on the submerged homes from the roads.

While the government was making an attempt at distributing relief, and journalists were narrating the stories of flood misery a group of people descended on Lakhimpur in Upper Assam in search of victims, a dozen girls have been taken away and are probably being sold as I write about them.

Conflict and natural disasters are the biggest causes of areas becoming supply points. The supply line is very well organised and the route is well marked. Several people are involved in this racket. Though there is an increasing awareness about trafficking, weak prosecution and almost no convictions are the biggest challenges before anti-human trafficking agencies. Situations like the one in Assam make it imperative for the government to monitor the camps and railway stations and anticipate that every wave of flood and conflict would lure traffickers to the state.

Two years ago, the Ministry of Home Affairs directed state governments to set up special anti-human trafficking units (AHTU) in every district. Each unit is supposed to have a minimum of five persons equipped with cameras, cell phones and a vehicle. After NHRC report of 2005- 2006, which reported that 45,000 children go missing every year from India, the MHA directed all state governments to implement the order. Assam has only one unit in Guwahati. West Bengal another huge source area has one functional unit in Kolkata.

Meanwhile trafficking continues unabated.

Possible Reasons for trafficking in Northeastern India

• Closure of several tea gardens and loss of livelihood
• Acute poverty and natural disaster
• Existence of fake placement agencies both in the source and destination
• Lack of awareness/ illiteracy
• Demand of girls for marriage in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan
• Demand of domestic helps in metros
• Poor implementation of policies—Right To Education Bill, Integrated Child Protection Schemes
• Poor policing by the Law Enforcement at the source states
• Inaction of police against the traffickers
• Social evils like dowry, down-grading of daughters and child marriages
• Lack of sustainable job opportunities
• Large family size

Global figures
Human Trafficking: The Facts

• 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) due to trafficking
• Of these 56% are in Asia and the Pacific
• 10% are in Latin America and the Caribbean
• 9.2% are in the Middle East and Northern Africa
• 5.2% are in sub-Saharan countries
• 10.8% are in industrialized countries
• 8% are in countries in transition

161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking by being a source, transit or destination country. Trafficked victims from 127 countries are reported to be exploited in 137 countries, which clearly convey that human trafficking affects most countries and every type of economy.

The writer is Resident Editor, NDTV (NE). His book Che in Paona Bazar: Tales of Exile and Belonging from India’s North East published by Pan Macmillan (Picador) will be out in December 2012.

The Nowhere Children

PUBLISHED IN THE TEHELKA

Human trafficking is the third largest illicit industry after arms and drugs. Neha Dixit went undercover to meet the traffickers and the young victims sold by their own families to pimps and placement agents

Every Sunday, 17-year-old Rita was forced into sex with at least 50 men.
Vijay was still in the womb when his mother fixed the price he was sold at.
Seven-year-old Parul’s meals were thrown into a toilet bowl. She had no choice but to eat.
Priyanka was nine when she was shot in the thigh for eating too much.
Preeti has not been allowed outdoors since she was eight. It’s been 15 years.
Two months into their marriage, 14- year-old Puja’s husband began pimping her to his friends.

EVEN THOUGH India’s poverty rate has dropped from 60 to 42 percent according to the World Bank, the number of Indians scraping by on less than Rs 60 a day is at an astronomical 467 million. That hunger has almost half the Indian population in its grip is not all that this figure implies. Among huge swathes of India’s poor, life is little more than a bare, often brutalised attempt at staying alive, a struggle in many cases hijacked by human trafficking, deemed by the United Nations the world’s third-largest illicit industry, after arms and drugs. Extreme poverty and the low premium traditionally placed on female lives sees thousands of girls, most of them more children than women, sold into unmitigated hell by family members and acquaintances. As TEHELKA witnessed at close range during a three-month investigation, the grievous trade in human lives is plied not only in the country’s brothels, but in urban domestic placement agencies and rural bride markets as well.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: TORTURE AND DOMESTIC SERVITUDE

PM Nair’s Trafficking in Women and Children in India indicates that nearly 75 percent of the victims of trafficking are tricked into it by the promise of a lucrative job.

With the nuclear family fast becoming the norm among the urban middle-toupper classes, the demand for the live-in maid servant (euphemism: ‘domestic help’) has exponentially risen. In response, domestic placement agencies have mushroomed across the country’s metros. Posing as the mother of a three-year-old, we visited several such agencies in Delhi and saw at first hand how easily minor girls are brought from villages in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to live under extreme exploitation, first at the placement agency’s ‘transit area’, and then at the employer’s house.

Husband and wife Kiranjeet and Julie, known only by their first names, are traffickers from Alipore Dwar, West Bengal. In trade jargon, they are known as ‘johns’: they supply placement agencies with girls from the villages at commissions ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000 per girl. TEHELKA got Kiranjeet talking about his profession.

Tehelka: How do you bring the girls to Delhi?
Kiranjeet: By the Mahananda train…not the Northeast Express because it comes via Guwahati and there is a lot of checking there. The Mahananda train comes to the station directly, which is why we use it.

Tehelka: What do you tell the girls?

Kiranjeet: I tell them there are a lot of employment opportunities in Delhi and good money also…I don’t give them too many details…The placement agent here in Delhi gives me Rs 2,500 for each girl I get… In the train, the police come on their rounds at night. If they find a number of girls being taken, they ask for money.

Tehelka: They take money for bringing girls?

Kiranjeet: Yes. They take Rs 200 per girl.

ONCE IN the city, the girls are kept in so-called hostels until the placement agent finds them an employer. The ‘hostel’, as we found on visits to many such establishments, is no more than a single room where several girls, all in the 8 to16 age group, are claustrophobically packed together in conditions unhygienic in the extreme. When we asked these girls who they were and where they were from, their unvarying answer was that they were the placement agents’ relatives — the reply they are told to give on arrival, to avoid attracting the attention of the police. The transit period involves doing the placement agent’s household work and, frequently, submitting to sexual molestation and assault.

Smita, now 16, was one of four girls brought in June 2005 from their village in Jharkhand by an acquaintance of her father to a placement agency in Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi. There, while no employment came her way, she found the placement agent continually harassing her for massages. She refused. Three months later, the agent punished her with rape. “I ran away that very day, and stayed on the streets for the next two days. I had no money and I didn’t know any Hindi.” An NGO, Domestic Workers’ Forum, Chetnalaya, finally came to her aid, but her parents refused to take her back because she had been raped, leaving her nowhere to turn but the rescue home where she still lives. A case was registered last year against the placement agent; he, however, is absconding.

WHEN WE went looking for a babysitter to Phoolchand Placement Agency in South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, six or seven girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were displayed before us like mannequins in a shop window. The placement agent told us he would charge a commission both from us and the girl, depending on whether she was untrained (a firsttimer), semi-trained (had worked before) or fully trained. The fee, accordingly, ranges from Rs 6,500 to Rs 10,000.

Tehelka:I had a talk on the phone about a small girl for babysitting.

Agent:Will be done. Call the girls. (A few girls enter.)

Tehelka: I want this one. What is your name?

Girl: Shilpi.

Tehelka: How old are you?

Shilpi: Twelve.

Tehelka: Have you worked before?

Shilpi: Yes. In Noida. For two years.

Tehelka: Okay. I’ll take this one.

Agent: Her mother will come in sometime. Talk to her.

The girl’s monthly wage is fixed at Rs 3,000. The agent tells us there will be an 11-month contract and the girl will get two off-days a month. But, when we protest that we cannot allow leave, we are told she’ll work with no offs for an extra month’s salary. After a while, Shilpi’s mother, Jharna arrives.

Tehelka: Is this your daughter?

Jharna: Yes.

Tehelka: What do you do?


Jharna: I get girls from the village and supply them to placement agents in Delhi.

Tehelka: Where is your village?

Jharna: Between Siliguri and Kishangarh. It’s called Darkula.

Tehelka:My sister also needs a small girl like her. Can you get me one?

Jharna: See, there’s a problem in bringing minor girls because of the police check here. There’s no problem sending one’s own daughter. Then nobody can ask me anything.

While one remains unsure whether Jharna is Shilpi’s actual mother, the interaction reveals one of the key techniques johns use when trafficking minor girls.

The placement agent also insisted that Shilpi’s wages be paid by cheque into the agent’s bank account. A façade that promises security but means exactly the opposite.

Latika Das from Alipore Dwaar arrived in Delhi in January 2005. Illiterate, a complete stranger to city life and without a soul she knew, it was no surprise that the 14-year-old could not manage to open a bank account. She turned to Praveen, her placement agency owner, who said she could deposit her money into his account. A year of hard labour in domestic service netted her Rs 12,000, collected in Praveen’s name. Says Latika, “When I asked him to give me my money and send me home, he refused. When I insisted, he raped me and told me that if I complained, he would get me arrested.” Fearing the legal repercussions Praveen could cause her to incur, Latika agreed to work at two different places for the next two years, during which she had no contact with her parents. Befriended by NGO Prayaas, Latika registered a case this May against Praveen, who now owes her Rs 36,000. He, however, is absconding. Speaking from a rescue home, she tells us, “I can’t go back to my parents till I get my money. How will I tell them about what I went through here?”

FORCED LABOUR, exploitation, fraud and sexual assault — Latika and Smita faced all these at the hands of the men who were supposed to get them work. Once work is found, however, life can descend into nightmare. Geeta, Priyanka and Parul were 12, 9 and 7 respectively when they were sent to work at the house of Manish and Ritu Gupta in Faridabad, Haryana, in January 2006. Priyanka and Parul would wash the clothes and manage the household cleaning (which included scrubbing the washrooms barehanded with acid), and Geeta would do the kitchen work. By the girls’ account, punishment in the Gupta household for slip-ups at work was nothing if not sadistic. Being locked into a wet bathroom on winter nights was perhaps the mildest. Beatings with dumbbells and cricket bats were common; the children would be gagged so their screams would not be heard. “When we did not finish our work on time,” says Parul, “Madam (Ritu Gupta) would throw our food into the commode from where we picked it up to eat.” During the two years the children worked for the Guptas, they neither got any money nor were they allowed to visit their homes. Says Geeta, “I was desperate to call my parents, and I once became adamant about it. She (Ritu Gupta) snatched the paper on which I had the number, put chillies in my eyes and tied me naked to the kitchen door. She did not give me food for the next five or six days.” Geeta says Manish Gupta attempted to rape her several times. He also shot Priyanka in the thigh with an airgun, apparently because he thought she ate too much. “They did not even call a doctor after that,” Priyanka says. Manish Gupta is an architect; his wife is what is commonly referred to as an ‘educated’ woman.

The three girls were rescued in December 2007, when a neighbour informed a local NGO, Shakti Vahini. Manish Gupta and his wife managed bail the same day; they evaded TEHELKA’S attempts to contact them. The three children they brutalised wait in a rescue home in Sonipat in Haryana for their case to close so they can return home. Says Priyanka, “More than these people, I am angry at my brother who brought me from Chhattisgarh and dumped me here.” Gita’s response is impassioned. The Bengali girl speaks in the Haryanavi accent she has acquired during her stay in the rescue home. “I want to kill them both, I want them to suffer exactly what they did to us.” Parul, the youngest and the most traumatised, has only one reply to all questions: “I want to go home to my parents and my brother, then I will tell you everything.”

Gita, Priyanka and Parul did at least find a way out of the hell they had been left in. Not Preeti, 23, who has worked at the house of KC Dutt — a resident of the Railway Colony off the capital’s Lodhi Road — since she was eight. Brought from West Bengal by her uncle and sold to a placement agency, Preeti has not left the Dutts’ house once in the 15 years she has been here. Her years in the house have not only silenced her, but have left her with a pervasive inability to trust anyone she meets. This includes her sister, who found her here after years of searching. When we visited the Dutts, they refused to let her out. The only contact she was allowed with us was through a small window. All the while, as we tried to coax her to talk, not once did she lift her head to look us in the eye. All she said was “I don’t want to go back,” the same response her sister says she gave two years ago when told her father had died of the trauma of not being able to locate her for 13 years. She has always been spotted in the same clothes with injury marks all over her face and body. How she got them, she never tells.

TERROR OF the employer and the placement agent and of the social and financial consequences of returning home keep hundreds of thousands of girls and women silent about the torture and humiliation they daily suffer. The National Commission for Women (NCW) receives at least eight cases every day from across the country of the murder of housemaids, says NCW member Manju Snehlata Hembrom. “When the girls become pregnant after they are raped, the employers kill them and claim they committed suicide,” she says.

Sister Leona, co-ordinator, Domestic Workers Forum, Chetnalaya, points out the chief hurdle in tracking the abuse of domestic servants. “There is absolutely no record of the number of girls that are brought from the villages to these agencies, nor is there any record of the number of agencies in the country.” Even the registration certificates that the placement agents show employers, under the Indian Partnership Act, are false because the practice is altogether illegal.

The Domestic Labour Bill has been sent to Parliament and, according to Hembrom, will take at least eight months to pass. Till it becomes law, it will remain next to impossible to assess the magnitude of this kind of trafficking or to formulate a domestic workers’ database, not just for policy makers and social workers but for parents trying to track children they once sent out to earn and who are now lost forever.

THE SEX TRADE: NO EXITS ON GB ROAD

A report by the United Nations Centre for Development and Population Activities indicates that approximately 200 girls and women in India enter sex work every day. More than 160 are coerced into it.

For ages, the commercial sex trade has been the chief destination for trafficked girls. According to a report by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, India has nearly 2.5 million prostitutes in nearly 300,000 brothels in 1,100 red-light areas across the country.

RITA KAMBDE was kidnapped from her home in Latur, Maharashtra, in 1997 and sold for Rs 3,000 to a brothel on GB Road, Delhi’s red-light locality. She was then 17. When she refused to sleep with customers, she was thrown into a tiny room where, she says, there were at least a 100 other girls. Locked up for 20 days, they were neither given food nor even allowed to leave to defecate. Periodically, the brothel bahadurs — the term used for the husbands of the madams, the women heading the brothel — would pick off a girl to rape before the rest to terrorise them. At other times, Rita says, chilli powder would be applied to the girls’ vaginas to torture them into consent.

When Rita finally agreed, she was made to sleep with 20 to 30 customers a day and with 50 customers on Sundays. When she mustered the courage to say she wanted out, the brothel madam told her to repay the sum she was bought for. Says Rita, “How could I have paid her anything? I was never given any money, just food and clothes.” Nine years later, Rita contracted tuberculosis and managed to escape when she was taken to hospital for treatment. She now works as a children’s helpline co-ordinator. Her case has been in court for two years. She has AIDS and just two or three years to live.

Posing as a research scholar, the TEHELKA reporter visited GB Road and met Abdul, a pimp.

Tehelka: Since when have you been here?

Abdul: 1956.

Tehelka: You must know a lot about the area. How much were girls sold for then?

Abdul: At that time, for anywhere between Rs 20,000 to 50,000.

Tehelka: What about now?

Abdul: Now it’s much higher.

Tehelka: Who brings these girls here?

Abdul: Parents, brothers…

Tehelka: And the police must also ask for a commission?

Abdul: Is it possible without their commission?

Tehelka: They must know that parents bring the girls?

Abdul: Yes. In fact, the police themselves facilitate a sale every 10 to 15 days.

Situated across from New Delhi Railway Station, the brothels of GB Road occupy the upper floors of Asia’s largest spare parts

market. A maze of narrow, dark passageways and staircases, filled with paan stains and cigarette smoke and guarded by bahadurs at every exit, lead to the brothels. It is a labyrinth impossible to navigate for anyone attempting to escape.

We first go to brothel no. 64, which we are told is the best in the area. When we step into the display room, we find faircomplexioned minor girls from Nepal and the Northeast, dressed in Western outfits and accompanied by middleaged, well-to-do men drooling over them as they await a ‘room’. These socalled rooms are little more than wall cupboards, not even three feet deep, their shelves replaced by a single plank. Makeshift arrangements to accommodate the maximum customers at any given time, each ‘room’ has a mattress but no fan, ventilation or light. Rarely cleaned, these cramped quarters are, naturally, the automatic breeding ground for infection.

The popularity of brothel 64 indicates that a large number of minor girls are available here, especially virgins. Since sections of our culture still subscribe to the myth that intercourse with a virgin cures sexual dysfunction, the demand for virgins is high, the younger the better. The looks and complexion of the girls also play a great part in deciding the rates they are sold at.

AS WE leave, we meet Rani, nearing 40, a prisoner of the trade for over three decades. Rani was eight when she was kidnapped from a village in Siliguri, West Bengal, and sold to a brothel in Delhi. Twenty-five years later, her abused body was no longer attractive to customers; her dark complexion also impeded her graduating to the status of madam, a trajectory sex workers commonly follow. One day, she says, she came down with an unspecified illness; it took the brothel owners no time to throw her out. In the 25 years she had lived in the brothel, Rani had never once been paid. “I was completely stranded,” she says. “I didn’t have a single penny.” She saw hope only in her village; she managed somehow to put the money together for the return. “My mother wept the moment she saw me. She was so happy I had come home. But when my father saw me, he kicked me out on the spot. He said I would bring him a bad name if people found out where I’d been all these years. I was forced to return. Sometimes, I wonder if he’d have done the same if I’d come back with money. Was it my fault I was kidnapped?”

When she returned, Rani was fortunate in being able to find a job with Shakti Vahini, an NGO that helps rescue trafficked victims. The money she earns provides her enough to raise her two daughters. That is not the usual fate of most of the flesh industry’s castoffs, many of whom end their days begging in the dark staircases that lead to the brothels.

IN 2007, 15-year-old Puja Singh’s father married her to Pratap, 20, in Begu Sarai, Bihar. After the wedding, her husband brought her to a village near Bahadurgarh in Haryana and, two months later, began inviting his friends in to sleep with her. When Puja resisted, he told her she was his property, for her father had sold her to him for Rs 3,000. Shocked, Puja plotted her escape and was able to run away. She lives now in Nari Sadan, a rescue home in Rohtak, Haryana. Determined not to go home, she has no idea what she is to do now. Tears and anger burst from her as she speaks. “My father sold me, my husband turned me into a prostitute, I am not even educated, you tell me what to do.”

Back at GB Road, at brothel no. 70, we meet Sonia, the ‘deputy madam’, who confirms the view that the most common sources of girls for the brothels are their own relatives.

Tehelka: Where do the girls come from?

Sonia: See, earlier the pimps would get them but now the mothers themselves bring them here. Girls from Calcutta, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh…After selling them, they come back every two or three months to collect their share of their daughter’s earnings.

Tehelka: The pimps used to get the girls?

Sonia: Yes. Pimps made a lot of money earlier. But now their method has changed. They pretend to fall in love with the girls, promise them marriage and convince them to elope. Then they sell them here. When traffickers come here, they come disguised as customers and ask to take them out. Once they do so, they sell them at some other brothel.

Tehelka: How many times is a girl sold?

Sonia: Don’t ask. There this girl in brothel no. 71 who married her pimp. He promised to take her out, but he now forces her to sleep with customers and lives on that money.

Tehelka: Do the police know?

Sonia:What will the police do? They get their commission every month.

When we speak to Bala Sharma, SHO of the Kamla Market police station under which GB Road falls, all she tells us is, “To the best of my knowledge, there are no minor girls in the area and no girls have been sold here since I took charge.”

Rescue does not always guarantee release, for traffickers and brothel owners keep close tabs on the girls. Says Bharti Sharma, chairperson, Nirmal Chhaya, a rescue home for girls in Tihar Jail, “Traffickers often disguise themselves as relatives of the rescued girls. That is why we don’t allow the girls to go with anyone but their parents. We ask for pictures and other details before we hand the girls over.”

But even these precautionary measures are not always adequate to the purpose. Jaswanti, who runs the Rohtak rescue home, Nari Sadan, tells of how a couple once came with photographs, birth certificate and other such documents and claimed that one of the girls at the home was their daughter. They said the girl, then 16, had been trafficked when she was five; now that she had been rescued, they wanted to take her home, they said. All formalities completed, the girl was allowed to leave. Two days later, Jaswanti got to know that the parents were in a nearby locality, forcibly marrying their new-found daughter to a 50- year-old man. “I rushed to the place with the police and rescued her,” says Jaswanti.

SAAT PHERE: SEVEN CIRCLES OF HELL

Despite the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Test Act, which has banned foetal sex determination since 1994, nine lakh unborn girl children are aborted in India each year, as per official statistics.

The desperation for a son has left states like Haryana and Punjab with some of the worst sex ratios in the country: 861 women per 1,000 men for Haryana and 876 women per 1,000 men in Punjab. Depleted of their women, states like these resort to procuring girls sold as sexual brides from villages in Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal.

Life was never easy for Sita, a 16-year-old from Punjab’s Murinda village. The combined incomes of her father, a truck driver, and her mother, a domestic help, were insufficient to support their family of five. Sita followed her mother into domestic service for a few months when she was 14, but it was still not enough and she was soon handed over to a ‘dera’ in Fatiabad. A police raid shortly thereafter got her out, but left her in the custody of the Nari Niketan, Karnal, a dismally corrupt institution that did not always take the trouble to provide its inmates food and water. Sita fled in less than a year. At a bus stop in Panipat, another Haryana small town, she fell into the clutches of Jasbir, a motorcycle mechanic, who raped her, then promised her marriage and finally left her last year at the town’s Bal Bhawan Ashram. In April, Amarjeet, the Ashram co-ordinator, not only raped her but also got a false birth certificate made in her name, changing her year of birth from 1993 to 1990, to show her as being of the age of consent. He later sold her into marriage with 25-year-old Sanjay Verma, a glass factory worker in Gurgaon, Haryana, for Rs 36,000.

Kept as a household drudge, Sita was driven out by Sanjay’s extended family and sent packing in a month. Now in the care of the BBD Balashram, an NGO-run rescue home in Karnal, Sita is a shattered human being, wrecked even before she left her teens. Says Balashram founder PR Nath, “In one week alone, she tried to hang herself twice, attacked other girls with a kitchen knife and tried to set the ashram on fire. There is no counsellor locally we can take her to.” A case has been filed against Sanjay, Amarjeet and Jasbir, but that will take its own lengthy course. Sita is currently in hospital, recuperating with no psychological help at hand. When we asked her if she wanted to go back to her parents, she could only reply, “If I go back now, my father will kill me.”

This is the inflexible code that binds the lives of innumerable girls in shelter homes across the country — once a social taboo is broken, there is no going back, no matter that it is no fault of the girl at all. A trafficker told us that when girls from the brothels go back to their villages, they are called ‘Delhi-returned’ and are considered impure. As with Rani, parents succumb to societal pressure and reject them.

THE STORY of 14-year-old Jyoti, from Durgapur in West Bengal, is a little different. One of a family of five daughters, Jyoti did not find getting sold into marriage to 40-year-old BD Singh a surprise — her father was no more, her mother could find no work and the

marriage brought the family Rs 15,000. What followed, however, was a shock. Married in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh last October — “just before Durga Puja,” Jyoti says — the girl soon discovered her newly-wed husband was not only already married, but also had four daughters from his first wife. “She used to beat me and make me do all the housework. She would say she’d see to it I’d never give birth to a boy.” That, she finally understood, was why Singh, a brick kiln worker, had married her: the quest for a male heir. In March, Jyoti ran away; the police caught up with her and lodged her in the Karnal Nari Niketan, which was then plagued with a contagious skin disease. The ordeal ended when she was transferred to another rescue home. “I don’t want to see my mother’s face,” Jyoti now says. “Don’t send me home. I want to become a teacher and take care of myself.”

Twelve-year-old Savita from Koochbihar in Assam has perhaps not got off so relatively lightly. With both her father and brother mentally retarded, her mother sent her away three months ago with Rana Suraj Mal, a man from her village who worked as a tailor in Bahadurgarh, Haryana. Says Mal’s neighbour Asha, “Savita would come running to us, crying. He would rape her, make her do all the work at home.” Suraj Mal has been arrested and has confessed to selling Savita into marriage for a sum he did not disclose. Savita, however, is missing; the search for her is still on.

Says Sunil Singh, co-ordinator, Rahi Foundation, a Lucknow-based NGO that works for women’s empowerment, “These girls get no social acceptability all their lives. Treated as commodities, they are reduced to sexual brides, exploited in the most heinous manner.” Most times, the girls do not even understand the language their husbands speak. Despised by the community they are forced to live in, they have nowhere to turn, for the magnitude of their tragedy is well-hidden behind the sacrosanct matrimonial guise.

ADVANCE BOOKING: SELLING THE UNBORN

It is not girls alone who are trafficked; the Indian hunger for a male child will do deals in boys as well. This is the story of 35-year-old Kamlesh, from Asandh, Haryana. On July 28 this year, Kamlesh sold her fifth child, Vijay, the day he was born. Three months before that, her husband had raped their daughter and thrown her onto the railway tracks near their home, after her slitting her throat numerous times. He is in jail now; Kamlesh says she has told the police to hang him. “I am thinking of giving away my other children too,” she says.

Kamlesh: The only money I get is on the days when I get work as a daily wage labourer. The rest of the time, I have to beg my neighbours for food. My children are dying of hunger. That is why I sold my son.

Tehelka: How much did they pay you?

Kamlesh: Rs 3,000. Posing as adoption agency officials, we met Savitri and Ramdev, the couple from Madhubani, Bihar, who bought Vikas. What they told us was astounding.

Tehelka: How did you come to know about Vijay?

Ramdev: Inderdev, my elder brother, negotiated it all. He fixed it up a year ago.

Tehelka: As in, when Kamlesh was still pregnant?

Ramdev: Yes. Inderdev told us she wanted to sell the child.

Tehelka: Did you give her anything when she was pregnant?

Ramdev: No money, just some groceries.

Tehelka: She told us she spent the money you paid her on treatment for her daughter.

Ramdev: Yes. We paid her Rs 5,000- 6,000. We talked with her when she was pregnant and it was decided that if she had a boy, I would take him. When this boy was born, a lot of people came to take him. From places like Ambala and Panipat. They were offering sums as high as Rs 30,000 for him. Then we told her she should give him to us, since she had promised us beforehand.

Tehelka: So she gave him to you because you had booked him when she was pregnant?

Ramdev: Yes. Otherwise that man from Ambala would surely have taken this boy away.

OUTLASTING TRAUMA: WHITHER REHABILITATION?

According to a recent report by the National Human Rights Commission, an average of 22,480 women and 44,476 children are reported missing in India each year. Of these, a yearly average of 5,452 women and 11,008 children are never traced. Another report, Action Research on Trafficking in Women and Children in India, 2002-2003, indicates that many of the missing are not really missing but are instead trafficked.

IF THEIR parents do not farm them out, extreme poverty and large families often compel girls to leave home on their own and come to the cities, looking for work. To take the case of West Bengal, the maximum number of trafficking victims from the state are girls from the tea gardens. A hundred tea gardens have closed down over the last five years, leaving at least 17,000 tea garden workers jobless; Bengal employs three-fourths of those in the tea industry. Says Vasudev Banerjee, chairman, Tea Board of India, “Most of the plantation workers had migrated from Chota Nagpur to Bengal, over a hundred years ago. They have no land in Bengal and no skills apart from plucking leaves. With the closure, they are left with no options and nowhere to go.” Moreover, according to official figures, at least 54 percent of the tea plantation workers are women. With the West Bengal government’s monthly Rs 750 stipend to the laid-off being nowhere near adequate, these women migrate looking for jobs and many end up as victims of human trafficking.

Digambar, a co-ordinator with Nedan, an NGO that works on human trafficking in the Northeast, adds a different spin to the predicament. Describing the state of affairs in Assam, he says, “Due to the ethnic violence between the Bodos and the tribals, hundreds of people took shelter in refugee camps. Many still live there and, with no access to their traditional livelihoods, are more than willing to send their children to work. These children fall prey to trafficking.”

Girls from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh’s deeply impoverished tribal areas are also easy targets. Says Manju Hembrom, “For years, the tribals have been caught in the web of the money lenders, and when they can’t repay their debts, parents send daughters to the cities to earn money, not realising they may never come back.” Similar stories from among farmers in Maharashtra’s suicide country, Vidharbha, have also been reported over the last few years.

DELHI-BASED SOCIAL activist Rishikant, 32, has rescued more than a thousand girls over the last ten years. A sex worker once told him his phone number was scribbled on an AIDS awareness poster on GB Road, from where he gets the most calls for rescue. “I never switch off my phone,” he says. “I can’t morally afford to.” In the course of the week, Rishikant receives dozens of text messages, faxes and post cards, each a stark vignette of desperation, violence and sorrow. When rescued, the girls often do not even know the name of the place they belong to. “I once brought in an eight-year-old who had no idea of where her home was,” Rishi says. “I tracked down her village by the dialect of a song she would often sing. But I have now slowed down the process of rescuing because over the years I have realised I only end up saving them from one hell and putting them into other.”

Rishikant is referring to the rescue homes that are the only places girls from the brothels can go to. Nirmal Chhaya’s Bharti Sharma admits that the girls brought to the homes — almost all of them illiterate and many of them teenagers or younger — do not receive any counselling or medical attention, despite the relentless trauma they have been through. With their psyches shattered, no skills to fall back on and their parents refusing to let them back home, many girls end up locked into the rescue homes’ section for the mentally disturbed, whether they qualify for being there or not.

Even though the Ministry of Women and Child Development launched the Ujjawala Scheme in December 2007 for the rehabilitation of trafficking victims, it has found takers in only a few states and even fewer NGOs have got permission to pitch in. It is this indifference, bland and merciless, that, Rishikant says, has made him vow to never shake hands with any bureaucrat or minister.

Shakti Vahini welcomes the Ban on Child Labour till age of 14

PRESS RELEASE DATED 28 AUGUST 2012

Shakti Vahini welcomes the move by the Government of India to ban all forms of Child Labour till the age of 14. With these amendment the classification of Hazardous and non hazardous jobs by children will not apply . With these move the Child Labour legislation is being brought in conformity with the Constitutional Provision of Right to Education Act .

Employing a child below 14 years in any kind of occupation is set to become a cognizable offence, punishable with a maximum three years imprisonment or fine upto a maximum of Rs. 50,000.The Union cabinet is likely to approve the Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act, 1986 today which will allow employing children only between 14-18 years in non- hazardous industries like forest gathering, child care etc. Children between 14-18 years have been defined as “adolescents” in the amended Act. The existing Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, while prohibiting employment of children in hazardous industries allows children below 14 years of age to work in industries not considered to be hazardous. The amended Act, being moved by the labour ministry, also puts a blanket ban on employing anybody below 18 years in hazardous occupation.Such hazardous occupations have also been re-classified in line with the increase in the minimum age of child labour from 14 to 18 years.

As an organization which has been struggling for rescuing and rehabilitating thousands of children across the country who are engaged in child labour this move by the Government comes after years of advocacy and campaigns for Policy change and will have a lasting effect in the war against child labour in India. At Shakti Vahini we feel that banning any employment of children below 14 years will go a long way in enforcing the Right to Education Act, 2009 which mandates free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6-14 years.