India’s first anti-human trafficking law proposes life term for repeat offenders

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The bill, reviewed by HT, also proposes a jail term of at least a year and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for those who abet trafficking or fail to protect a victim.
A trafficking victim who was rescued, in Jharkhand.

A trafficking victim who was rescued, in Jharkhand.(Vipin Kumar/HT File Photo)

Life imprisonment for repeat offenders, special courts and dedicated police units are part of key provisions in India’s first law to tackle human trafficking that is likely to be taken to Parliament for approval in the current session.

The bill, reviewed by HT, also proposes a jail term of at least a year and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for those who abet trafficking or fail to protect a victim; and seven years and Rs 2 lakh fine for the owner or manager of a property that has been used for the crime.

Around 8,100 cases of trafficking were recorded in India in 2016 and around 23,000 victims of trafficking were rescued that year, according to National Crime Records Bureau figures that experts call a “mere tip of the iceberg”. Currently, trafficking is covered by a clutch of laws that often delay trials but the government has been working on an umbrella legislation for more than two years.

“The bill — Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017 — is ready and we will take it to Parliament in the Budget session, itself,” said an official involved in the process, asking not to be named.

“In India, life imprisonment does not mean jail for life but usually for a defined period which is generally more than 7 years. But this Bill clearly specifies that for repeat offenders and for those who have committed aggravated form of trafficking, jail term will be for the remainder of the offender’s life,” said the official.

“No person accused of committing an offence under this Act shall be released on bail or on his own bond…,” read the bill, reviewed by HT.

Since trafficking usually involves interstate gangs, the bill proposes district-level “anti-trafficking unit” with an “anti-trafficking police officer”, and a designated sessions court for speedy trials.

State governments need to create a Rehabilitation Fund that will allocate financial resources for protection homes, legal assistance to victims and skill development programmes. The fund will also be used for victim and witness protection and for generating awareness to prevent human-trafficking.

“Section 370 of the IPC is a very strong law to deal with human-trafficking, but this bill becomes important as victims require support such as rehabilitation, witness protection etc. Also a central bill would mean budgetary support to deal with the monitoring and prevention of human-trafficking,” said Ravi Kant, president, Shakti Vahini, an NGO working to prevent human-trafficking.

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Human trafficking racket busted, four minor girls rescued

The Tribune

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The police today busted a human trafficking racket with the arrest of two persons. Four minor girls were rescued and one of them has been hospitalised after her employer allegedly inflicted injuries on her.The accused have been identified as Surender Malto and Arun, both residents of Jharkhand. The duo were arrested from Sector 30 here this morning.A police official said Surender had bought one of the victim from his home district for Rs 4,000 two years ago and had sold her to a person in Delhi. The victim, who is recuperating in a local hospital, told the police that she was not only raped several times, but was also sold to two persons during the last two years.She said she was employed as a domestic help in Delhi earlier and was brought to Faridabad and sold to one Mani Mishra here.She accused both her employers of torture and sexual abuse. She alleged that a remuneration of Rs 30,000 earned by her in Delhi was also snatched from her.She said on January 27, she was beaten up with iron rods and a knife and was seriously injured. She managed to escape from the confinement the same night. She was then admitted to a hospital by some locals.The police after registering an FIR carried out raids jointly with Haryana State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (HSCPCR). The other two accused namely Mani Mishra and his wife Anima Mishra are yet to be arrested.Mishra admitted that he had trafficked around 30 girls in the recent past. He said girls were sold upto Rs 20,000 each as domestic maids in the NCR.BK Goel, member, HSCPCR, said he had taken up the matter with the police asking it to probe the functioning of illegal placement agencies in the region.Two Jharkhand girls were also rescued in Ambala district recently.

Jharkhand Govt mulls ordinance route for stringent anti-trafficking law

PUBLISHED IN HINDUSTAN TIMES RANCHI

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Jharkhand government is mulling to bring an ordinance to promulgate Jharkhand Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act, which could not be placed in the budget session of the state assembly, as it was curtailed by eight days.

The Act is aimed at effectively countering the menace of human trafficking from Jharkhand, which as per NGOs working in the field see 10,000 girls—mostly minors—trafficked to Delhi and NCR region every year through placement agencies. They eventually end up as domestic servants—tortured and sexually abused in captivity in many cases.

“The draft bill for Jharkhand Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act was ready with all the modifications sought by the governor. But it could not be placed and passed as the assembly session ended before. I will meet chief minister (CM) Raghubar Das in a day or two and request him to bring an ordinance to promulgate the Act to effectively counter the menace of girl and child trafficking and child labour,” Raj Paliwar, state labour minister told the HT over phone.

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Governor Droupadi Murmu had returned the draft bill earlier seeking more stringent provisions. “The earlier draft had penal provision of two-year jail and the governor wanted it to be more stringent. Now, penal provisions have been modified making it seven-year jail term on conviction,” a source said.

Paliwar though refused to get into details of the bill, but said all the modifications sought and suggestion given by the governor have now been accommodated in the draft of the said Act.

“The Act is the need of the hour and our government wants it enacted at the earliest. We have made stringent provisions and hope this will give police and antitrafficking agencies an effective tool to rein in traffickers and illegal placement agencies. We will also launch mass awareness drive,” the minister added.

West Singhbhum superintendent of police (SP) Anish Gupta said a strong law was needed to deal with the fake and illegal placement agencies along with awareness drive so that parents don’t get trapped and send their girls on promise of lucrative jobs.

“Parents need to lodge complaint and a strong law will help in speedy prosecution, effective trial and stringent punishment as a deterrent. There’s also sexual exploitation angle involved and we are imposing POCSO in such cases. We have identified certain placement agencies and traffickers and would launch crackdown against them soon,” Gupta said.

Gupta was the Khunti SP when the massive crackdown against child and girl traffickers was launched in Khunti, with antitrafficking unit in-charge Aradhana Singh alone nabbing 85 traffickers and rescuing about 230 trafficked girls between 2015 and 2017.

However, half of those 85 traffickers are already out on bail even though they were booked under non-bailable sections. “In most cases, the parents of the victims turned hostile with the traffickers and their associates threatening them or paying them money to shut up mouth. There’s no effective law to tackle the placement agencies either,” Aradhana Singh said.

Rishi Kant, founder coordinator of NGO Shakti Vahini, said Jharkhand Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act would be a very effective tool to fight the menace run by about 25,000-30,000 placement agencies in Delhi and NCR, as Delhi government has no

placement agencies Act to regulate and monitor them.

“We alone have rescued over 200 trafficked girls from Jharkhand in Delhi and NCR. About 30-40 girls and underage boys are trafficked from Jharkhand every day. And Delhi police are invariably reluctant to act against these

agencies, traffickers or the families hiring the girls. CM Raghubar Das in 2014 had announced to bring back 50,000 trafficked Jharkhand girls back to the state and rehabilitate them. It’s now for bureaucrats and police to take the initiative,” said Rishi Kant.

HTI

Indian radio hosts take to the airwaves to highlight human trafficking

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With human trafficking on the rise in India, some radio hosts are using their programs to raise awareness and help listeners spot traffickers.

In the Indian capital, New Delhi, radio host Ginnie Mahajan will talk trafficking on her award-winning show “Suno Na Dilli” (Listen Delhi) this weekend.

“We want Delhi to know that many of these girls working in their houses are reported missing by their parents,” she said.

“We need Delhi to know that girls are being forced into this trade.”

Human trafficking in India rose by almost 20 percent in 2016 against the previous year, Indian government data shows. More than 60 percent of the 23,117 victims rescued were children

Forty-five percent of victims were trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and 33 percent for sexual exploitation, according to the data.

“If we only checked details of the women around whom our lives and kitchens revolve we could actually stop the crime,” Mahajan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Delhi.

Radio has become an important tool in spreading awareness, campaigners say.

“It lets people know what is out there, the sheer horror of such a crime and how close to home it is,” said Adrian Phillips of anti-trafficking charity Justice and Care, which collaborates with radio stations.

While Mahajan’s show reaches urban Indians in the capital, a community radio station in the southern state of Karnataka recently went on air with a special program devoted to human trafficking.

Keerti S. Chougala, a host on Nammura Banuli (Our Village Radio), said she was aiming to educate her nearly 400,000 listeners on the impact of the crime, as well as how to spot traffickers and report cases.

“We wanted to tell women and girls in the region about this in a simple way and raise awareness,” Chougala said.

Run by charity Women’s Welfare Society, the show is broadcast across more than 400 villages in Belgavi district.

In November, a young trafficking survivor shared her story on Akaashwani radio in the eastern city of Kolkata.

An aspiring singer from Bangladesh, she told listeners how traffickers had promised her “starlit dreams” of becoming a singing sensation in India, and then trafficked her to a brothel.

Phillips said radio is ideal for sharing trafficking stories, because survivors can speak about their experiences anonymously, “without fearing repercussions from criminal networks.”

Radio also allows listeners to connect intimately with survivors, he added.

“It’s a real person speaking up and more importantly speaking out,” Phillips said.

Interstate human trafficking gang busted in Churu

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Police raided places in Churu and Jhunjhunu leading to the arrest of five- Rajkumar Meghwal (30), Jhabar Meghwal (40), Sintu Swami (26), Vijay Singh (25) and Sher Singh (26).
Churu police busted an interstate human trafficking gang and arrested five people allegedly involved in the activity.

Churu police busted an interstate human trafficking gang and arrested five people allegedly involved in the activity.(Getty Images/Stock photo (REPRESENTATIVE PIC))

Churu police busted an interstate human trafficking gang on Saturday and arrested five people allegedly involved in the activity. Police also freed three women who were victims of the racket.

The police on Thursday were tipped off that a woman who was brought by the gang to Chhajusar village, has escaped from the place and was roaming homeless in the city, a press note from the Churu superintendent of police (SP) Barhat Rahul Manhardan said.

With the help of Aapni Sakhi, the mobile team of women personnel, police reached the trafficked woman, who confirmed that she was brought to the district by the gang. A team of senior police officials was formed by the SP to look into the matter.

The woman, who hailed from Jharkhand, said that it was an interstate gang that targeted poor and helpless women. The gang would abduct them and then they would be trafficked to various parts of the country.

Police raided places in Churu and Jhunjhunu leading to the arrest of five- Rajkumar Meghwal (30), Jhabar Meghwal (40), Sintu Swami (26), Vijay Singh (25) and Sher Singh (26).

“While Rajkumar and Jhabar were part of the gang, the other three had bought the women from them for
Rs 1.5-2 lakh,” said additional SP Keshar Singh. The main members of the gang were in Delhi and would supply women to Rajkumar and Jhabar, who in turn would supply them to people in Rajasthan, he added.

Two other women from Delhi and Punjab, were also freed. Churu police will send a team to Delhi to scout for others involved in the racket.

 

3 more arrested for human trafficking

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Three more accused in international human trafficking racket were arrested by unit III crime branch on Friday and Saturday. While Pyara Singh Gotara was arrested on Friday, Jarnel Singh Gotara and Rajinder Singh Atwal were picked up on Saturday.

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The number of arrested accused has now gone up to ten. Police said that 57 youngsters were trafficked from the city to North America, Europe, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, apart from Maharashtra.

According to police, of the ten arrested, two accused would create fake bona fide and school leaving certificates. The youngsters were trafficked to shops, construction sites, hotels and malls as workers and for driving taxies. So far, 20 trafficked persons have been traced while hunt for other accused and victims is continuing.

Teenager crushed under truck

 Seventeen-year-old Prasanjeet Meshram, a labourer, who was riding pillion on a bike, died on the spot after being hit by an unidentified truck in front of Umiya gate at Kalamna on Saturday.
Prasanjeet was sitting between rider Mukesh Kosare and his cousin Ganesh Bawne when the trio was returning from Bhandara.
All the three fell off after being hit by the truck. Kosare and Bawne sustained minor injuries. However, Prasanjeet succumbed to head injuries.
Kalamna police have registered a case of negligence in driving against the unknown truck driver.

 

Open Trafficking

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Employment opportunities should be created in Nepal to prevent cross-border trafficking between Nepal and India

Following the 2015 Nepal earthquake, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that human trafficking from Nepal to India witnessed “a three-fold jump”. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) reported that most of the victims were minors, with girls and boys in equal numbers, and many were from the earthquake-affected districts of Nepal. In Dhangadhi and Rupandehi districts of Nepal, representatives of NGOs working on human trafficking said that quake-affected Sindhupalchowck district was among the key source districts for cross-border trafficking to India. A large number of women from this district left the country after the earthquake to find employment abroad, either through Rasuwagadhi or some other transit point along the India-Nepal border, said Asha from an NGO. “The destination countries for most of them were Kyrgyzstan, Israel, West Asia, and India. Many have also left for Kathmandu,” she said.

But identifying cases of human trafficking is not easy. Pancha Kumar Bakhu, who is Inspector, Area Police Office, Barabise in Sindhupalchowk, said: “No case of human trafficking has been registered since 2015, but ‘love affair’ (elopement) cases have been registered.” It is often difficult to identify a human trafficking case at the source since the victim may have been lured through the false promise of marriage or a job, said advocate Adrian Phillips from Justice and Care, an NGO that works on human trafficking.

The Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950 provides for an open border between Nepal and India. At the Gauriphanta border in Lakhimpur Kheri district and Sanuali border in Maharajganj district of U.P. bordering Nepal, I discovered how easy it was to cross over to Nepal. An official from SSB at Gauriphanta, which guards the Indian side of the border, said that those entering India are not stopped, but “those with luggage are stopped and questioned.” As I crossed over to Dhangadi in Nepal from Gauriphanta, an official from the Armed Police Force, which guards the Nepali side, said that individuals are stopped on the basis of “suspicion, intelligence or information from family members or relatives.” The SSB also profiles victims and suspects.

Closing the border may prevent cross-border trafficking, but it could also engender or accentuate economic vulnerabilities for those who have jobs or own businesses along the border. Poverty and unemployment in Sindhupalchowck have left young people vulnerable to internal and cross-border trafficking through the Rasuwagadi-Kerung border. It is imperative to create economic opportunities, particularly for the youth, within the country. Further, the Nepal-India border needs to be equipped with enhanced intelligence networks and effective monitoring mechanisms.