Head of Christian-run orphanage in India arrested in trafficking investigation

By Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Police in southern India have arrested a pastor accused of trafficking girls through a Christian-run orphanage that was taken over by authorities two years ago during an investigation into the unregistered children’s home.


Representational Image 

Police in southern Tamil Nadu state said they arrested Pastor Gideon Jacob on Saturday after he arrived from Germany and he has been charged under trafficking and juvenile justice laws.

Denying the allegations, Jacob’s lawyer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that his client had voluntarily appeared before the police and was cooperating with the investigation.

The Moses Ministries home in Tiruchy, run by Germany-based Christian Initiative for India that was founded by Jacob in 1989, housed 89 children, all said to have been rescued from female infanticide from Usilampatti in neighboring Madurai.

However, the home had no proper records of the children, all of whom are now aged 18 years and above.

In December 2015, the home was taken over by the social welfare department after a court directive.

A wave of claims by people saying they were the children’s parents prompted a local court to rule that all the children should undergo DNA testing to establish their real families.

In 2016, DNA results showed at least 32 matches. None of the girls, however, have yet been reunited with their families.

“We have been counseling the girls, who have known no other life since they were babies,” said Tiruchy district head Kuppanna Gounder Rajamani.

“We have also identified the parents willing to take back their daughters and, following Saturday’s arrest, things will move faster and we are hoping to reunite the girls soon.”

More than 40 percent of human trafficking cases in India in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern-day slaves, according to government crime data.

There has been a recent spate of reports of the trafficking of infants and children for adoption and raising funds through charity-run child homes and private hospitals.

In Tamil Nadu, state authorities closed 500 homes between 2011 and 2016, citing mismanagement, a lack of registration and misconduct.

Rights groups have long complained that children’s homes in India are poorly regulated, not inspected often enough, and that many privately-run institutions are able to operate without a license leaving thousands of children open to abuse.

“The arrest gives us hope that there will be justice,” said A. Narayanan, the director of advocacy group Change India, who outlined the scope of the problem in a petition filed in Chennai’s High Court.

“The real worry is when and how these girls will be rehabilitated. Right now, it seems like a life sentence, where they are resigned to live in an institutional home.”


India workers rescued from farm after toiling 15 hour days for seven years

By Thomson Reuters Foundation:


MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nearly 25 workers, including children, who worked 15 hour days for seven years, were rescued at the weekend at Baran in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, in a rare crackdown on farms where forced labour is rampant.

Campaigners said the workers were from a tribe in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and were given loans ranging from 500 to 20,000 rupees ($8 to $308) before being taken to Rajasthan to work in the fields.

 “These people were trafficked from their home state with the lure of good work but kept bonded on the fields. They believed they were repaying the loans,” said Nirmal Gorana, convener of the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour, that took part in the rescue.

Rescued workers said while they worked in the fields, their children worked at the employer’s house for no money.

“The employers did not give them wages, but only packets of wheat. This too was to ensure they stayed alive to continue working on their fields,” Gorana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

There are no national figures on the number of people in slavery in India, but the Ministry of Labour and Employment recently announced plans to identify, rescue and help over 18 million bonded labourers by 2030.

In India, villagers are often lured by traffickers with the promise of a good job and an advance payment, only to find themselves forced to toil in fields or brick kilns, enslaved in brothels or confined as maids to pay off debt.

Others work at the bottom of complex supply chains making jewellery, cosmetics and garments.

Most of the workers rescued at Baran have been sent home, said Gopal Lal, the sub-divisional magistrate at Baran.

He said 18 of them were given release certificates that entitled bonded workers to 300,000 Indian rupees ($4,600)compensation in their home state.

“We have also launched a survey to look for more workers,” said Lal.

Campaigners said most bonded labour in India is on the country’s farmlands, but is often perceived as regular employment and government action is rare.

“Bonded labour on farmlands is not seen as a crime or a problem that can be reported. It is so rampant that it has got societal acceptance,” said Bharath Bhushan from the Centre for Action Research and People’s Development, a charity that works with the rural poor.

($1 = 64.9200 Indian rupees)

Abducted Girl Returns to Guwahati Reveals Vast Trafficking Network.

By Statesman, New Delhi: 


Trafficking along Indo-Nepal border scary: Sashastra Seema Bal

By Times News Network, New Delhi: 


NEW DELHI: The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) said on Saturday that the steady increase in cases of human trafficking through Indo-Nepal border is “scary” and the situation has prompted security agencies to undertake new measures to effectively check the menace.

An official statement said while a total of 33 victims, both Indian and Nepalese, were apprehended by the SSB from these areas in 2014, the figures went up to 336 in 2015, 501 in 2016 and till March this year, 180 boys and girls have been rescued by it.

Similarly, the number of traffickers apprehended along the 1,751-km long open and porous border on the country’s eastern flank have risen from eight in 2014 to 102 in 2015, 148 nabbed last year and 51 traffickers caught till March this year.

Prompted by the steady increase in numbers, the SSB has called for a day-long workshop between multiple stakeholders mandated to curb this crime which includes state police forces of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and others, railway police, NGOs and top police officials of cities like Mumbai, Bengaulru and from Punjab which are the destinations for these trafficked children.

“We want to involve each and every stakeholder who is instrumental in curbing the menace of human trafficking. It is not enough to just intercept such instances and let the police be handed over the investigation.

It is essential to find out the source and supply destination of trafficking and hit at the illegal act in a comprehensive manner,” SSB director general Archana Ramasundaram said.

She added the conference, to be held on Monday, will chalk out plans to better coordinate between multiple agencies involved so that the suppliers and end users of this criminal act are identified and brought to book.

An SSB statement said, “The complexity of the phenomenon (human trafficking), its multidimensional nature, its rapid spread worldwide and confusion surrounding the concept has made urgent and essential the need to understand the various aspects of the phenomenon.”

A senior SSB officer said the border guarding force, by virtue of its large presence along Indo-Nepal border areas, can help in assisting the local police forces and non-governmental organisations in getting intelligence inputs and manpower up to a certain level that will help in joining together the dots of this crime.

The data states that the instances of human trafficking along the Indo-Nepal border have also grown from eight in 2014 to 73 in 2015, 76 in 2016 and 34 till March this year.

Need to adopt multi-pronged strategy to fight human trafficking, says India at UN

By:  | United Nations, Financial Express:

India has called for adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to fight the global battle against the scourge of human trafficking.

Representational Image (Reuters)

India has called for adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to fight the global battle against the scourge of human trafficking. According to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tens of millions of people around the world were victims of forced labour, sexual servitude, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation, with such abuse gripping the weakest and most vulnerable.

Additional Secretary Jaideep Govind in his address to the General Assembly yesterday on the appraisal of the ‘Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons’ insisted that the focus needs to be on development issues in the countries of origin and demand for trafficked persons for exploitative purposes in the destination countries. Asserting that the Indian Government has accorded “highest priority” to combating trafficking, the top official from the Ministry of Home Affairs said that despite collective efforts at national, regional and international levels, the battle against the scourge of human trafficking is far from over. “We need to redouble our efforts and adopt a multi- pronged strategy. India stands firmly committed to work with the international community in this battle against trafficking in persons,” Govind said. Stressing that the will to fight human trafficking must be manifested in action, the UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak said the UN has a duty to be a voice for victims.

For people to live freely and peacefully, they must be free from the threat of trafficking, he added. At the outset, the General Assembly endorsed the “political declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons” by consensus. Many speakers described human trafficking as “modern-day slavery.” In addition to representatives from several dozen countries addressing the General Assembly, several survivors of human trafficking recounted painful stories of kidnapping, violence and rape. Govind in his remarks said that India’s anti-trafficking legislative framework is based on the bedrock of the Article 23 of the Constitution which prohibits trafficking and forced labour.

A comprehensive scheme titled ‘Ujjwala’ meaning ‘Bright Future’ has been introduced to facilitate rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of the trafficked victims. It also facilitates repatriation of cross-border victims to their country of origin, he said. In order to strengthen international cooperation, India has signed the SAARC Convention on Prevention and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children. It has also signed MoUs with Bangladesh in 2015 and with the UAE in January 2017.

We were promised jobs, lavish life, says Nepal women rescued from traffickers

The US Nagar police on Thursday handed over the custody of six women to a Nepalese NGO working to check cross-border human trafficking that is active along the areas near the Indo-Nepal border

Published in the Hindustan Times

The US Nagar police on Thursday handed over the custody of six women to a Nepalese NGO working to check cross-border hum


an trafficking that is active along the areas near the Indo-Nepal border.

A police team accompanied the rescued women till the Gaddhchowki, a check post on Nepal border, before representatives of the NGO ‘ Maiti’ welcomed them to their homeland. Prior to this, the women recorded their statements before a magistrate under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure.

“We were promised hefty salaries and lavish life by Nani Maya and others in our villages. We are very poor and are hardly able to earn livelihood in our villages. Our families were lured by the false promises of traffickers,” said one the women.

The police had rescued the group on October 20 from human traffickers in Rudrapur when they arrived from Nepal. Three people, including a woman, were arrested. All the six women are from Nepal’s Sindhupalchok district. “We come from poor families and live in misery. As there is no employment, we have to face miserable condition. Our families work as labourers to earn livelihood,” said another woman.

One of the rescued women was sceptical on whether she would return to her village. “What is there? We are promised that we will be housed in Mahendranagar and we will stay there…,” she said.

Maheshwari Bhatt, a Maiti volunteer, said the group would be kept at a rehabilitation centre in Mahendranagar in western Nepal. “They will be imparted vocational training so that they can become self-dependent before leaving for their villages so that they are not trapped again by human traffickers,” she said, adding that the NGO was trying to contact the families of these rescued women.

Maoist child soldiers reclaim their lives lost in the jungles of Jharkhand

B Vijay Murty ,Hindustan Times, Lohardaga (Jharkhand):

In Lohardaga district of Jharkhand, police have rescued 22 child soldiers of red outfit over the past three years. Trained to use sophisticated weapons at a young age, nine of them now study in a residential school

Former Child soldiers of CPI Maoist rescued and rehabilitated by police, they shared their past experience with HT at Bagru Police Station in Lohardaga District of Jharkhand, India, on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. (Hindustan Times Photo)

When children of her age ought to have been solving simple arithmetical problems, Sara (name changed) was learning guerrilla warfare in the dense jungles of western Jharkhand with men and women more than twice her age.

Taken away forcibly from her parents in Lohardaga by then dreaded Maoist zonal head, Nakul Yadav’s guerrilla squad when she was only 11, Sara, youngest of three siblings, didn’t realize when and how she transformed into a Left insurgent ready to spill blood for the elusive proletariat’s rule in society.

Indoctrination turned her into a hardcore rebel within a year. She was ready to take on the mighty state ‘because it stifled voices of the down trodden and the oppressed’. By the time she was 13, she became a People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) commando trained in handling sophisticated weapons.

By 14, she became a sub-zonal commander, often moving with the strike party and engaging forces in gunfight whenever they came face-to-face. The disfigured index finger of her right hand that was more often used in pulling the trigger of the guns than handling pens is testimony to the hazards of using firearms with nimble fingers.

Law to the rescue

A research held in Jharkhand recorded 40 cases of children being recruited by Left insurgent groups—CPI (Maoists) and PLFI—from July 2014 till December 2015

 In 2015, Jharkhand high court took cognisance of media reports highlighting how Maoists demanded five children from every village in Gumla district. It was also reported that 35 children were kidnapped by them.
 The court had directed director general of police (DGP) to take stern measures and rescue the kidnapped children. It had also observed that if required, the state machinery should take military assistance.
 The DGP in an affidavit filed with the court same year, had admitted that there are certain locations in Jharkhand which were still inaccessible by the police. He, however, said that additional forces including central forces have been deployed at a strategic locations and rescue operations were on to recover the children from Maoists clutches.
 In subsequent affidavits, he clarified that the kidnapped children have been rescued from different locations.

Government of India identifies 106 districts in 10 states as Left Wing Extremist affected in the country.\

In 2016, when forces raided the Maoists hideouts, killed several cadres and forced many to surrender, she fled to Uttar Pradesh but was caught and brought back to Lohardaga. After spending few days in a remand home, she is back to school, post a gap of nearly four years, fiercely independent, laden with lot of inner strength.

But life isn’t easy for this former child soldier in the civil society as she carries the taboo of being a rebel ‘who cannot be trusted’. Having lost four crucial years of schooling, it’s extremely difficult for her to catch up with studies. At home, the parents are so poor that they cannot assure her two square meals a day.

Stolen Childhood

Sara is not the lone child soldier struggling to reclaim her life after coming out of the jungle life. The nearly three decades of left extremist in the country has robbed the childhood of scores of innocent children who were forcibly recruited.

In Jharkhand, their official number was 32 as submitted in a petition by the government in the high court three years back, but unofficial numbers were in hundreds if not thousands.

While some of these child soldiers managed to escape and were rehabilitated, many of them after escaping from their hideouts migrated to other states fearing reprisal from the red outfit. Few who chose to continue with the jungle life are now in their twenties and early thirties serving in different ranks in the outfit.

In Lohardaga district, once a Maoist stronghold but now a peaceful town, the police have done exemplary work rescuing and rehabilitating some 22 child soldiers over the last three years. Nine of them have been admitted to schools, ten have been reunited with their parents as they preferred to go home, one is in remand home as he had cases against him, while two are in the process of getting admission in a residential school.

HT spoke to some of these rescued children, who narrated horrendous stories of their forcible recruitment and experiences in the jungle.

Yadav, the recruiter

Maoists’ regional commander, Nakul Yadav, now in jail after he surrendered along with another associate in May this year, is the biggest culprit when it came to forcibly recruiting children and grooming them into fighters. He had a direct or indirect hand in the abduction and recruitment of children in the districts of Gumla, Latehar and Lohardaga.

Popular as Budha, Nakul would often swoop down on villages with his armed squad comprising no less than 10 guerrillas, assemble the parents and advise them to part with a couple of children failing which he would threaten them with dire consequences, prevent their entry into the jungle for firewood and seize their farm land. Petrified parents dared not defy his diktats.

“It was a hot summer forenoon when Budha came to our village and held a meeting with elders. I was aimlessly watching the meeting from a corner of our house when suddenly the men with guns came towards me, held my hand and dragged me towards the jungle. As I cried bitterly unwilling to go with them, I saw three more children, two boys and a girl, who was my immediate neighbour, being dragged in a similar manner,” said Neeta (name changed), 15, who spent four years in the jungle before she escaped and landed in the safe hands of police.

Currently enrolled with the Kastruba Gandhi Residential School, Senha, Neeta says the initial days were full of struggle but she soon resigned to her fate and adapted to their ways of survival. “Whenever I cried to go home, they would threaten to kill my parents,” she said.

Damyanti (name changed), who was abducted and recruited along with Neeta said, since Nakul was the boss, everyone feared him and his word was the law. She said, at times, when directives came from his superior, Arvindji, a central committee member, few of them would go and join his team.

Nakul, the female child soldiers said, often slept with new girls who never objected for fear of death. “One day when I was summoned to visit his tent, I denied forthright,” said Sara, adding, “He felt ashamed and thereafter never forced me. But I would often hear their taunts. He would say bahut doodh ki dhuli hai (she is as pure as driven snow/ flawless).”

On the day of his surrender, Nakul had refuted allegations of recruiting child soldiers. “These are mere allegations and hence I would not like to comment,” he had said at the office of the deputy inspector general of police in May.

Sex slaves and bodyguards

Almost all minors either rescued or escaped from the rebels over the past three to four years had a similar story. All of them are tribals and hailed from remote villages where policemen never went till 2012-13. They were forcibly recruited around 2009-10 to 2014. The girls were mostly used for cooking and carrying loads while travelling. The bright ones were picked up for combat training, while many ended up as sex slaves. Few of them were married to the men in the squad.

A majority of the minor boys were educated and trained in guerrilla warfare. They also served as sentries and couriers as the suspicion levels on them were minimal. The commanders would keep the brightest ones with them as their bodyguards and personal assistants.

Dharampal (name changed), 16, forcibly recruited by Nakul’s squad in 2013, turned out to be most lucky among the lot. His smartness impressed Nakul that he adopted him. “I stayed with him 24×7 and handled everything, including the levy money and firearms,” said Dharampal, who walked out with Nakul when the latter surrendered in May this year. Police rehabilitated him in a residential school.

“These minors were so highly indoctrinated that they did not fear engaging with a company of CRPF. Sara and Dharampal have fired on me a couple of times,” said a senior officer, who led many operations against Nakul.

When the tide turned

Over the last couple of years, Nakul and his men had been under intense pressure from the security forces.

“Forces storming his bastion, choking the flow of finance, seizure of his known assets and three close encounters where he escaped by a whisker compelled Nakul to fall on his knees and surrender in May this year. That proved to be a turning point as all his followers and foot soldiers followed suit. This gave the much needed opportunity for all the child soldiers in his camp to flee,” said Lohardaga superintendent of police Karthik S. He hopes the former child soldiers will be able to pick up the threads of life once again.

“I am happy that these former child soldiers are back to school and aspiring to become successful citizens,” he said.

Satyarthi’s apppeal

Last month, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi who was in Ranchi during his Bharat Yatra campaign against child sexual abuse appealed to the red rebels to spare children. “Please do not use children in your fight as it violates their child rights,” he had said. With most of the Maoist leaders either killed or in jail and the police pickets coming up in former Maoist strongholds, these former child soldiers do not fear being taken back into the jungle