Girl sold, raped and rescued

Girl Sold and Raped

DEVESH PANDEY IN THE HINDU

The long journey of Debyani (name changed) from her village in the Burdwan district of West Bengal to Delhi and then to Bharatpur in Rajasthan is a saga of a minor girl who was kidnapped by traffickers and sold off for forced marriage and then subjected to continuous physical and sexual abuse for the past four years. The girl, who has now been rescued, is the mother of two children.

On the pretext of getting her employed as a domestic help, a fellow villager had one day taken Debyani along to a place where she was handed over to a trafficker four years ago. It was two years after she went missing that the local police registered a specific case on the basis of a complaint lodged by her father who raised suspicion about the complicity of a girl named Sulekha.Police investigations revealed that she was handed over to a person named Kalu Sheikh, who sold her off for a paltry sum. She was then forcibly married to a resident of Deeg village of Bharatpur in Rajasthan. “About a year ago, the investigating officer tracked her down and rescued her. He also arrested Kalu Sheikh. The girl had by then become the mother of two children. Surprisingly, she was escorted back to West Bengal by some villagers. In her judicial statement, she claimed that she had fled on her own as her parents wanted to push her into prostitution. As a result, the accused was released on bail and the girl was taken back to Rajasthan,” said a West Bengal police officer.

It was after the victim’s family moved habeas-corpus petition in the High Court that an Anti-Human Trafficking Unit team led by Inspector Sarbari Bhattacharya was directed to probe the matter. The officer discovered that the case had been closed. She got it reopened and in coordination with non-government organisation Shakti Vahini reached Bharatpur.

“The moment the girl saw the Bengali-speaking woman officer, she clung onto her pleading to take her back home. She even forgot to take her elder son along and wanted to leave immediately. She kept crying, alleging that she was sold off and subjected to torture,” said Rishi Kant, who was part of the rescue team.The police officer made enquiries and found that a woman named Rakhi from West Bengal, who had settled down there 20 years ago, lived in the neighbourhood. “During questioning, she disclosed that she had bought the victim from her relative Kalu Sheikh. Her brother had tortured the victim so much that she still dreads him.”

Realising that it was purely a case of human trafficking, the officer decided to rescue the girl along with her two children and arrested Rakhi. “However, it will be difficult for us to now track down Kalu Sheikh and Sulekha…there are umpteen number of cases were girls and women from West Bengal are being trafficked to places like Delhi and being pushed into prostitution, forced labour and marriage. But we come across officers who do not realise the gravity of the problem and treat the victims as just ‘poor Bengalis’,” said a West Bengal Police officer.

Trafficking of tribal girls: Sick gardens trigger exodus

SUMATI YENGKHOM IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

Several Delhi-based placement agencies, that claim to provide work to these trafficked girls, are being run illegally and without any registration. These agencies work in nexus with the ‘agents’ who are local tea garden workers and known to the victims.

The ignorant poor parents, who cannot feed their children, are ready to lap up the opportunity of sending the children to Delhi for work. in order to get rid of the their responsibility and also in the hope of getting a regular monthly income.

Once the victims reach Delhi, they stay in touch with the families for a few days. some of them is in contact with the family. But soon they are barred from communicating with their parents and also, money stops reaching their families. Only a handful of them get work as domestic help, while the rest are either sold in brothels or for marriage.

About four months ago, a placement firm by the name Sai Placement Agency lured four girls from the Mateli police station area. Shakti Vahini members rescued the girls with the help of West Bengal Police. The agency was found to be fake and the trafficker Neelima Sharma was arrested after an FIR (number 223/12 under section 363/366/374 dated 21/11.2012) was lodged with the Mateli police.

Though the trend of migration by tribal girls started way back in 2000, the exodus has taken a massive proportion in last five to six years after several tea gardens were declared sick. Many of these tea estates do not even have primary schools and heathcare facilities. There is hardly any penetration by organizations that work for the welfare of the tribals.

Jalpaiguri police are aware of the magnitude of the problem and admitted that there is need to do much more to prevent trafficking. Police’s anti-trafficking activities like awareness programmes are restricted to educational institutions, a place that is out of bounds to the girls here.

“Poverty is the main issue. Unless it is addressed, the girls here will remain vulnerable. Though we cannot do much on that front, we are working on other preventive measures. Few days back we arrested two agents in Banarhat for trying to lure some girls. We need to penetrate deeper into the tea gardens. Officers-in-charge of all police stations have been asked to maintain records of girls who are going away for work, the persons taking them away, contacts of employers in collaboration with the local panchayats,” said Jalpaiguri SP Amit P Javalgi.

The schemes for the poor, like the BPL card and old age pension, are distant dreams. Most are not even aware of the existence of such schemes. There is no effort worth mentioning on part of local politicians for uplift the economic status of this tribal population. A major portion of the funds under schemes like NREGA are being pocketed by local panchayats.

“Recently we found misappropriation of NREGA funds by the local panchayat. Many garden workers were made to sign that they were paid for 100 days work, whereas these illiterate workers were paid only for seven days. We were even threatened by some panchayat members for unearthing this information and educating workers on their rights and dues,” said Omega Minj, a field worker.

Unfortunately NGOs active in anti-trafficking in many pockets of North Bengal seem to have left out these tea gardens of Jalpaiguri.

“We have been working in various parts of North Bengal but we need better penetration in the tea gardens. We will work out with the district administration, police and other stake holders to start off,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an orgnisation that has successfully worked with administration and police in Malda.

Going all guns out on the traffickers by the police could only serve a temporary purpose. Till the concerned departments salvage the tea garden community out of poverty and hunger, young women and children will continue to be smuggled unabated from the cursed tea gardens.

Two minor girls rescued from brothel in Capital

MINOR RESCUED FROM GB ROAD

DEVESH PANDEY IN THE HINDU

They were subjected to continuous sexual abuse, physical torture

They were kept confined under claustrophobic conditions in an unventilated chamber inside a G. B. Road brothel here to evade detection. Until they were rescued by a joint team this week, the two minor girls were subjected to continuous sexual abuse and physical torture by the woman brothel owner and her men. One of the girls is seven weeks pregnant.

Members of the rescue team now suspect that bogus voter identity cards are being used by flesh traders to portray minor victims as consenting adults.

It was on the basis of a tip-off about some minor girls forced into the flesh trade that a team comprising officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Delhi Police besides representatives of non-government organisation Shakti Vahini was constituted to conduct the rescue operation.

“There were numerous cubicles on the first floor. While looking for the girls in the cubicles we noticed that a wooden plank had been affixed to the wall in one of them. As we removed the plank, it led us into a narrow tunnel wide enough only for a single person. We found two girls inside it. The tunnel had no ventilation,” said a team member.

The team member said both the girls looked traumatised. Once out of the brothel, the victims were offered some eatables and then counselled by experts. They were then produced before the Child Welfare Committee.

One of them disclosed that she belonged to 24 Parganas in West Bengal and was trafficked into the Capital by an unknown person and sold to the brothel keeper for Rs.1.5 lakh.

The victim said she was in love with a village boy, but her family members was against the relationship and even beat her up. About eight months ago, the girl fled from her home and reached a railway station where she met a boy who took her to a place, kept her in confinement and raped her.

She was then raped by the boy’s friend.

She was then brought to the Capital and sold off to the brothel keeper. The girl once tried to flee, at which she was beaten up badly. She told the CWC that she was forced to entertain nearly two dozen persons every day.

“Her medical examination revealed that she is seven weeks’ pregnant. When she was brought before the CWC, a woman approached the Committee and produced a voter identity card claiming that she was an adult. However, it appeared to be a fake document. The CWC has ordered investigations into its authenticity.

In case the identity card turns out to be bogus, we suspect that a similar modus operandi is being used by the flesh traders in G.B. Road to evade law,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.

The other victim, a Nepalese national, was brought to the city by her brother-in-law about five months ago and kept at a hotel for a few days before being sold off to the brothel keeper for Rs.3 lakh. “She disclosed that her elder sister died a few years ago. Her brother-in-law who lives in the same village had brought her to Delhi on the pretext of getting her a job in Saudi Arabia. She was beaten up by the brothel keeper whenever she refused to entertain clients,” said Mr. Kant, adding that both the girls were medically examined at JPN Hospital.

Congress walks-out on human trafficking

BHOPAL: The Opposition Congress on Wednesday staged a walk-out in the state assembly on the issue of 4,990 minor girls who have gone missing over the past five years from the state. The Congress suspected that these girls could have become victims of human traffickingand alleged that neither the government nor the police were taking any serious heed of the increasing number of such cases.

During the Question Hour, the matter was brought-up by Congress MLA Ram Niwas Rawatwho asked in the House: Will the home minister tell us whether the police headquarters has information about girls being abducted for human trafficking? If so, from 2008 to January 2013 how many such cases have been reported and from which districts?” Rawat wanted to know the number of persons arrested in connection to human trafficking cases.

The Congress also asked if special cells were constituted in the districts of Gwalior and Shivpuri to stop human trafficking and the facilities these cells were provided so they could work efficiently.

In reply, home minister Uma Shankar Gupta admitted that the police had such information that girls were going missing. From 2008 onwards, 4990 minor girls were reported as missing. Human trafficking and the sale of minor girls is a matter of great concern for us,” the home minister said. He explained that 426 accused were arrested and special anti-human trafficking cells have been constituted in Gwalior and Shivpuri under the supervision of a joint superintendent of police for each cell to control the menace. Gupta added that the special cells have been provided with vehicles, motorcycles, computers, furniture and all other infrastructure.

But the Congress was not convinced. Rawat argued that all reports of missing girls are only registered as missing reports while cases should be registered for buying and selling of minor girls under sections 372 and 373 of the IPC.

Uma Shankar Gupta defended that every case cannot be put one a set of IPC sections. There are circumstances when girls come back to their homes and the parents don’t come back to tell the police that their ward is back. So not every case is that of human trafficking,” he added.

Congress leader of Opposition Ajay Singh told the House that the state government did not seem to be serious on the issue. He said while the state runs a ‘Beti Bachao Abhiyan’ against female foeticide, it was not concerned about girl children being abducted and sold. The state is not serious about such a sensitive issue and hence, we are walking out,” he said. All Congress MLAs followed him out of the House.