1,100 friends for women and children appointed in Gujarat

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Crime against women

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As many as 1,100 Friends For Women and Children (FFWC) have been appointed in the state for assisting in crimes related to women and children, finding missing children, human trafficking, and others, the state police said on Thursday.

The appointments have been made under the government’s Suraksha Setu scheme, the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of Women Cell, Gandhinagar, said. In a presentation at the recent National Conference on Child Protection Services and issues related to child offences under POCSO Act, ADGP Anil Pratham said that organizations, NGOs and individuals, who are working in areas related to safety and security of women and children, have been asked to associate as Friends for Women and Children.

“They are familiar with working in the field, and can get better results if they are assigned the same area of operations,” Pratham said in the presentation, explaining the rationale behind appointing the FFCWs. He said that the 1,100 FFWC members were appointed in 2017-18, and have been given different tasks for searching the missing children.

The official release said that the process for filling 182 posts in women police stations under the central government’s Investigative Unit for Crime Against Women Scheme is in progress.

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‘Maneka seeks details of govt homes in state’

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National Commission for Women (NCW) member Sushma Sahu on Wednesday requested Union minster for women and child development Maneka Gandhi to order a probe into the functioning of all government short stay and children homes being run by the NGOs and mentioned in the social audit report of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.

Sahu, who met Maneka in Delhi on Wednesday, told TOI over the phone that she also sought the minister’s intervention for justice to the minor girls, who had allegedly been raped and physically abused during their stay at Muzaffarpur children home and other government shelter homes in Bihar and mentioned in the TISS report.

The TISS report about alleged rape of minor girls at Muzaffarpur children home led to the arrest of nine accused, including seven women. The arrested persons also include Brajesh Thakur, the proprietor of NGO Seva Sankalp Ewam Vikas Samiti, which was running the children home.

Sahu said when she apprised Maneka of the pitiable conditions in government homes mentioned in the TISS report, the minister immediately called a top ministry official and asked him to provide her all the details and developments on the issue from Bihar.

Sahu said she also wrote a letter to the ministry to order the state level officers for fresh medical examinations of the minor victims. Sahu had visited the children home at Muzaffarpur on June 9. She said the girls were virtually kept in captivity inside crammed rooms. She had raised her suspicion over a door connecting the girls’ room with a printing press located just beside the children home. The press is also owned by Thakur.

 

Delhi businessman held for raping teenaged maid at home

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17-year-old girlwas raped by a businessman in his house in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh on Tuesday afternoon. The girl worked there as a maid and nobody was at home during the incident, said the police. The businessman, who had allegedly molested her earlier as well, has been arrested.

The police were informed about the incident by the girl’s father who got to know about it from his wife. They also informed an NGO, whose members came to the police station along with the survivor’s family. The girl was soon taken to a hospital for treatment, cops said. The accused, identified as Kapil Bhatia (40), owns a store in Kashmere Gate, cops said.

The girl told the police that she had been working at the house for over six months and there were people at the house every time she had gone for work. On Tuesday, however, there was nobody apart from Bhatia. When the girl was about to leave, Bhatia called her to his room and raped her. She said the man had molested her several times earlier but threatened her into silence.

Police said the girl was produced before the child welfare committee (CWC) following which a case under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 376 (punishment for rape) and 377 (unnatural offences) of IPC, and also under POCSO Act and Juvenile Justice Act was registered. The survivor has been sent to a children’s home on the order of CWC.

The police raided Bhatia’s house on Tuesday night itself and caught him while he was trying to flee. Cops are also trying to find out if he had sexually assaulted any other girl.

Disturbing trend: Criminal gangs now recruiting kids

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Disturbing trend: Criminal gangs now recruiting kids

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Children living on the streets are the most vulnerable group of the society, regularly exploited by criminals for committing crimes near railway platforms. The revelation was made during a recent investigation of a case, where a criminal was arrested for recruiting teenagers to commit petty crimes. According to a senior police official, on June, one Sunil Bihari from Pandav Nagar was arrested for running a gang comprising children for committing petty crimes, such as pick-pocketing, theft and snatching.

During investigation, the children were found to be living on the streets, picking rags from different railway stations. The accused used to lure them on the pretext of easy money. Police said that the arrest was made by team of Crime Branch, and the accused told investigators that the gang is operating across the Delhi-Mumbai railway network. Cops added that the gang members are also involved in drug trafficking.

“Usually, the accused would recruit teenagers in his gang to commit crimes in moving trains and in the area around platforms,” police said. Recently, Shahdara district police had busted another gang that trained kids for committing crime in the Capital. Police arrested six persons in the case. An investigator claimed that they found that seven members of this large gang were recruited by the kingpin when they were minors. “The gang used to target children from areas where parental supervision was far less. During further investigation, we came to know that the accused also hired street children, as we found that a 17-year-old member of the gang was a street child,” said the police official. The Standing Operating Procedure, formulated by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, states that most of street connected children are vulnerable to emotional, physical and sexual abuse, due to lack of secure shelter and adult supervision. Children on the streets are often called ‘hidden children’, as they have no concrete identity. Being hidden, they are at a higher risk of being abused, exploited and neglected.

Girls remain most vulnerable targets

The bride-buying business that amounts to trafficking is burgeoning in the state where numerous girls from West Bengal were sold for sexual abuse. Even though an NCRB report claims that there is zero incident on trafficking in the Valley, the reality on the ground portrays a quite different picture, writes SAFINA NABI

Tamanna (17) and Hafiza (16) are residents of 24 South Parganas, Kolkata from the state of West Bengal. The girls were sold to two Kashmiri men, much older than them for an amount of 25,000 each. Both the men are from Tujan area of district Pulwama, around 40-km away from the main city of Srinagar, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The girls’ parents are daily wage labourers who live in a slum under extremely poor condition. On top of that, supporting a family of seven members isn’t easy at all.

One day, the parents decided to marry off Tamanna and her sister in Kashmir after an agent Shubnam persuaded them that their daughters could lead a comfortable life and they too can earn some money in return.

Soon, these men from Kashmir got in touch with this family from Bengal through Shubnam, a native of Bengal. The sisters were informed by the family that their marriages have been fixed and both of them will be travelling to Kashmir with their husbands. The marriage happened in an informal set-up. The Nikhnama (marriage contract) was signed and both the sisters were given a small amount of money as ‘Mahr’ (alimony) for namesake.

The assurance of wealthy family, healthy lifestyle-two meals a day, and decent clothes to wear was more than everything for the girls and the family to fall into the trap. Soon, they arrived in Kashmir via Bengal-Delhi-Jammu route. Once they reached Tujan, Pulwama, their world turned upside down. The girls were kept in horrific conditions where husbands would rape them through the hours of darkness and family members would make them do all the household chores throughout the day. They were deprived of proper food and kept indoors to avoid contact with outside world. Nevertheless, the girls were in different families but experiencing a similar life of horror. The sisters were restrained to get in touch with each other.

The Escape

One day in early morning, the younger sister, Hafiza, escaped the house barefoot. Luckily, she saved the money that she received as ‘Mahr’ to use when the right time comes.

Hafiza narrated, “I was praying hard that my attempt to escape should not fail… Had I been caught, I would have been beaten to death.”

After escaping from Kashmir she managed to reach Bengal. There she met a journalist, who happened to work in Kashmir. Hafiza then narrated her ordeal and revealed the details about her sister too. The journalist contacted a Kashmir-based local NGO and informed them about the case. The NGO with the help of police started a robust investigation and finally, they were successful in tracing out Tamanna.

Today, Tamanna is living with a local family in Kashmir who came to support her. They wish to become her legal guardians now.

On May 22, 2018, Tamanna appeared before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

Explaining Tamanna’s situation, CWC Chairperson, Munazah said, “Tamanna wishes not to go back to her hometown neither she wants to stay in a child home. The report has been sent to the CWC, Pulwama for further investigation. Once the report comes, we will be able to decide how to take forward the case.

On the other hand, the man who bought Tamanna is now pressurising her parents to ask her to return. Her parents are now trying to persuade Tamanna to go back as she has been married to him. Although she has been rescued, no FIR has been registered against the husband’s family.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Farooq Ahmad said: “Although we are investigating the case and rescued her on the NGO’s request, but,we cannot register an FIR as she has signed the Nikahnama. Also, the trafficker has provided it as a proof of marriage.”

“During the course of the investigation, we came to a conclusion that Tamanna needs to be handed over to the NGO as the girl is a minor. She was not only married out of her wish but was also kept in an appalling circumstances,” Ahmad further explained.

Here, Hafiza is back to her home but torment has not increased. In a muffled voice, Hafiza shared, “My parents beat me continuously. They ask me, ‘why did you run away? Why did you come back? They have paid us money?’”

“What can a girl like me do apart from weeping in silence?” Hafiza added.

In the case of her agent Shubnam, she too has a similar past- trafficked to Kashmir where she was married-off to a Kashmiri family. However, she soon got separated from her husband, went back to her hometown in Bengal and married a local. Shubnam then stepped in to the business of human trade- buying and sending girls to Kashmir under the garb of employment-giver, match-maker. Being a local of Bengal, it was a cake-walk for Shubnam to target girls from poor and under-privileged families, luring them with a promise of good job, high-end lifestyle or by deceptively buying them from their families.

Bride-buying common in the Valley

The horrific brutality inflicted on these teenagers is not an isolated case. Going by some information, there are more 20 to 25 women from Bengal and other parts of mainland India who have been married-off to Kashmiri men. The kinds of grooms are those men who did not find any match in Kashmir, belong to below poverty line families or are disabled. In such situation, Kashmiri men buy brides from pimps who usually smuggle girls from West Bengal or other parts of India.

In a similar incident, twelve years ago, Naseema, 29, (now a mother of three) was forcefully married off to a Kashmiri truck driver by her parents for some amount. Today, she lives in a dilapidated house at Pampore, Pulwama, where, altogether, a total of eight members live in a tiny two-room house that serves as both kitchen and bedroom. Naseema, too, is a native of Bengal and was trafficked to Jammu and Kashmir as a bride. Her husband is a habitual drinker and largely spent all his earnings on liquor and drugs.

“I do not wish to see my parents or go back to them. They married me off to a person who was double the age of mine and sent me to a place about which I knew nothing, not even the language,” Naseema said.

Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide and agents like Shabnum are making a flourishing business by buying and selling girls to Kashmiri men who cannot find a match in the Valley.

India’s West Bengal state – which shares a porous border with Bangladesh and Nepal, is one of the hubs of human trafficking. There is a stout human trafficking connection between West Bengal and Kashmir, where families need brides for their sons who are either disabled or do not find local match to marry off their sons.

There is no check on the illegal buying and selling of young girls brought into the Valley as domestic workers and later sold as brides, neither there is any policy in place. Hence, this business is thriving with every passing day.

According to the latest (2016-2017) data by National Crime Record Bureau, there are zero cases of trafficking reported in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

“We are not able to do anything until and unless a case will not be reported to us. There are agencies registered with us who supply domestic helpers to families in Srinagar and other parts of the state but, till now, no complaint of trafficking has been reported to us,” said Deputy Superintendent Farooq Ahmad.

Policy dive: All you need to know about Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2017

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Policy Dive picks a policy issue, traces the debate around it, the different schools of thought and the choices involved.
More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017.

More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017.(Shutterstock/Representative image )

The government had listed the bill aimed at protecting trafficked persons, especially young girls and women, for introduction in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded budget session. But continued disruptions, which virtually wiped out the second part of the session, prevented the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017 from being introduced.

Here is all you need to know about the proposed law

Issue

More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017, government data shows. Around 100,000 are yet to be traced and it is feared that many of them could have been trafficked.

In 2016, for instance, 111,569 children were reported missing. Of these, 55,944 children were traced but only 8,132 trafficking cases were reported.

Many of these children are victims of modern slavery — forced into prostitution, labour or domestic work.

They are also used as drug mules and even given up for adoption illegally. Poverty and lack of opportunity also pushes a lot of young women, especially from the interior parts of West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, into prostitution.

Despite the enormity of the problem, India lacks a single comprehensive law for human trafficking. At present, trafficking is covered under half-a-dozen laws resulting in confusion and poor enforcement.

Significance

For the first time, a standalone law to address the problem has been proposed that will treat a trafficked person as a victim and not an offender. It not only prescribes stringent punishment but also addresses the crucial issue of rehabilitation of victims, many of whom are lured by traffickers on the promise of a better life and jobs.

The rehabilitation is not contingent on criminal proceedings. A special rehabilitation fund has been proposed for immediate protection of rescued persons. The punishment for traffickers varies from 10 years rigorous imprisonment to life sentence and Rs 1 lakh fine in cases of aggravated crimes.

Also in a first, a national anti-trafficking bureau run by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) has been proposed to coordinate with other countries, as many times the victims, mostly women, are smuggled out of the country.

The proposed law also makes registration of placement agencies that recruit or supply domestic helps mandatory.

Debate

The bill has been debated intensely, within the government and also among activists and organisations. When the bill was being drawn up, the ministry of external affairs said the law should address trafficking of persons within India as well as overseas.

The women and child development ministry (WCD), which is piloting the bill, had countered, saying the bill already covered the movement of trafficked person from one place to another within the country and also overseas.

Activists and non-government organisations such as Lawyers Collective have criticised the proposed law, saying it has nothing new to offer and all its provisions are already covered under existing laws. The new law will only end up “complicating the legal framework and its enforcement”.

The government says because the laws dealing with trafficking were not consolidated, the issue could not be tackled effectively. Hence, the need for a comprehensive standalone law.

Activists have also said no substantial research has gone into the bill, an argument rejected by the WCD ministry.

Lawyers’ Collective has pointed out that the provision to charge a person who encourages another person to “migrate illegally into India or Indians to some other country” with aggravated form of trafficking punishable with 10-year imprisonment could have serious implications for cross-border movement of people, including refugees.

The WCD ministry has said the argument does not hold.

SLEUTHS OF SHASHSTRA SEEMA BAL MANNING INDO-NEPAL BORDER IN UTTAR PRADESH

Sleuths of Shashstra Seema Bal (SSB) manning Indo-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, intercepted four members of a gang engaged in human trafficking and rescued 18 Nepalese children from their custody late on Sunday night. The victims were later handed over to local Non-Government Organisation in Bahraich, who would ensure their return to their families in Nepal.

The accused were handed over to Rupaideeha police for quizzing to extract information about other children who might have been already trafficked to different parts of the country.

Giving details of the breakthrough to media persons in Bahraich on Monday, Deputy Commandant of SSB, Jai Prakash revealed that a team was patrolling the Indo-Nepal border on Sundaynight when they learnt about some children being trafficked to India from Nepal by a gang.

An alert was soon sounded along Indo-Nepal border in Rupaideeha, and the SSB team spotted four suspicious persons carrying 18 children between 12 and 14 years, entering into Indian territory. All four accused were immediately taken into custody.

The SSB official said that the accused were taken to a police station where they identified themsleves as Kamal Gautam, Surat Singh, Sant Bahadur and Ahmad Hussain. During sustained grilled, the accused confessed to trafficking the children from Nepal. They also revealed that they were taking a dozen of them to Shimla while the remaining six were to be taken to Mumbai.