HC orders Bengal govt to compensate trafficking victim, says right to relief notwithstanding result of criminal proceedings

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The compensation, to be given by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), is to be handed over within ten days of the order.

In a landmark judgment, the Calcutta High Court Monday ordered the state to pay compensation to a trafficking victim even as investigation is ongoing and trial is yet to begin. Justice Rajshekhar Mantha observed that the victim of a crime has the right to receive compensation notwithstanding the result of criminal proceedings.

The compensation, to be given by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), is to be handed over within ten days of the order.

The order was passed on a writ petition filed by the victim’s lawyer after their application for compensation was turned down by both the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and SLSA. The victim was 14 years old when she was trafficked (see box).

Criminal lawyer Kaushik Gupta, who is representing the victim, said, “When the case was filed in West Bengal, it was not filed under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), unlike in Pune…If it is a case of simple kidnapping, the case can be investigated by a sub-inspector. Under ITPA, the minimum rank required is that of inspector. Secondly, police stations and officers-in-charge don’t have the resources to investigate under ITPA, because for that you have to investigate the entire route — in this case from the district to Sealdah to Mumbai to Pune. The officer has to take a team with the victim’s family. Sometimes, it takes years for the cost of investigation to be reimbursed by the state. The probe is therefore limited to surrounding areas of the village from which the trafficking has taken place.

“Therefore, the investigation carried out is often inadequate, as is the chargesheet. For the lawyer to then prove the case becomes very difficult. More often than not, this results in acquittal of accused. This is a landmark order as it shifts the concept of justice from the sole purpose of convicting the criminal, to compensatory justice.’’

Justice Mantha’s order states: “The writ petitioner has been a victim of trafficking. She was identified, traced and brought back from Pune to West Bengal…The victim had filed an application under the West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme of 2017. Such scheme came to be framed after the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, was amended to bring in section 357A in 2009.’’

It further states: “According to this law, every state government in coordination with the central government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for compensation to victim or dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation. Article 38 of the Constitution obligates the State to render social justice to its citizens.

Right to receive just compensation as a victim of a crime, notwithstanding the result of criminal proceedings emanating out of the incident of crime can be read into Article 21 of the Constitution of India guaranteeing ‘Right to life’. ‘Right to life’ encompasses within its fold, the ‘Right to live with dignity’. A citizen cannot be asked to forfeit the right to live with dignity just because such citizen has become a victim of a crime. The state is obliged to protect the life and property of its citizens. The victim may or may not receive compensation in the criminal proceedings. The criminal proceedings may result in acquittal of the accused. Disposal of such criminal proceedings with a particular result does not mean that, the incident of crime did not happen or that the victim is not entitled to or requires compensation.”

The order also states: “Acquittal of the accused, ipso facto, does not mean that the incident of crime did not take place. The victim of the crime may require support, monetary and otherwise to mitigate the loss and injury suffered as a result of the crime. The victim may require rehabilitation.”

Justice Mantha observed that the victim must be compensated under section 357A as her fundamental rights under Article 21 (Right to life) have been violated. “Denial of compensation to such victim would continue such violation and perpetrate gross inhumanity on the victim…This cannot be the object of section 357A and the 2017 scheme…I therefore hold that both requirements the accused not being identified or traced as also that the trial should not have commenced, need not be satisfied for entitlement of compensation…,” stated the order.

The Calcutta High Court also directed that the CID take on the investigation.

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Efforts On to Revive Twin Rescue Centres

Social welfare department plans to rope in NGOs to run Ranchi, Delhi hubs

Ranchi: Two resource centres, one each in the state and national capitals, set up around four years back to help women and child trafficking victims and curb the influence of dubious placement agencies, are being revived after these had failed to take off due to bureaucratic lethargy and a lack of clarity on their functioning.

Director of integrated child protection scheme (ICPS) Rajesh Singh said they had begun work seriously on reviving the two centres.

“We plan to outsource the centres to a trusted agency with experience. We have uploaded a notice in this regard on our website asking interested parties to apply latest by the first week of July,” said the director of the scheme under the state social welfare department.

Rescue of abused children and battered women from Jharkhand, who have been working as domestic helps in places like Delhi and UP after being trafficked, is common. It indicates Jharkhand’s failure to have a proper mechanism in place to either keep a tab on those leaving the state in search of a livelihood or crack down on dubious placement agencies that exploit the scenario.

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The continued inactivity of the resource centres has, in fact, invited criticism from Jharkhand High Court. While hearing a PIL in connection with the welfare of victims of trafficking and policies related to child development, the court commented in February that the bureaucracy in Jharkhand was doing the work of the government only on paper.

The resource centre in Ranchi was set up at the CID office at Doranda in association with NGO Save the Children, police and the social welfare department. The Delhi centre was set up at Jharkhand Bhavan.

On issues plaguing the centres, a department official said that so far the partner NGO had been funding staff salaries, while the state government had provided the space.

“Now, this NGO does not want to continue and has withdrawn funding. In any case, we should fund it on our own and run it properly,” he said, adding that the annual cost of running each centre was around Rs 50 lakh.

But Singh claimed funds weren’t an issue. “Earlier, there was no clarity on the mandate of the resource centres. Now, that has been specified clearly,” he said.

The centre in Delhi, he explained, was to gather intelligence on the whereabouts and work places of trafficked women and children, rescue them in tandem with local police and repatriate them in coordination with the centre in Ranchi. The centre in the state capital would need to keep tabs on complaints received about missing children and women from each district, conduct research and ensure rescued individuals were rehabilitated.

Rishi Kant, among the founders of Delhi-headquartered NGO Shakti Vahini, welcomed the state social welfare department’s move to outsource the running of the centres.

“The government’s decision to outsource the centres is a good one. This means, a significant section of the civil society will get involved and this will make a difference. But the selected agency should be able to provide 24/7 service,” he cautioned, adding that the trafficking scenario in Jharkhand and Bihar was alarming.

“Roughly, our organisation has been rescuing 200 children of Jharkhand annually for the last few years. These children were forced to work in inhumane conditions in places like Delhi, UP and Haryana,” he said.

The Telegraph- 15.06.2018

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.

‘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.

Child Labour: Capability and wellbeing

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“Well, if we don’t recruit children from Assam, they will get into more trouble, as who will then feed them? By working for us, at least they get to eat properly,” came a sympathetic response from a villager in Kimin block.
As part of a team studying human trafficking in our state, I visited Kimin block in Papum Pare district, due to its close proximity with Assam, in the winter of 2017. Another part of our team in Assam had informed us that almost 80 percent of the local children (from the tea tribes) are recruited in Arunachal Pradesh as domestic help, agricultural labourers, daily wage labourers, and as unskilled labour force. These children are spread across the districts of Arunachal Pradesh, with a major concentration in the capital complex.
In Kimin block, these children were present in hundreds. A few made the transit every day from work in the tea gardens while most others were employed in the capacity of domestic help in the houses of the towns. Ranging in the age group of 6 to 14 years, these children had come to be employed for meagre salaries between Rs 500 to 1500 per month, ie, Rs 16 to Rs 50 per day. While the salary rates differed in the capital complex, the statistics of prevalence remain the same.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by (a) depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, (b) obliging them to leave school prematurely, or (c) or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses, and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age.
Child labour is engaged in the agriculture, industries, and services sectors. The worst forms of child labour are sale or trafficking, pornography, debt-bonded labour, and child soldiers.
“It is not just the Assamese children; even local tribal children from the villages come to study in the towns and often stay with their relatives. However, they do not do much studying as they become cheap labour for their relatives in return for food and shelter,” said one a school teacher when I asked about the migrant children in their town.
“They wake up the earliest, finish all the work first, and then come to school. After school, they go back and do whatever their relative asks of them at that time. Thus, we have to take longer classes so that most of these children finish their homework in the school itself, as we know most of them won’t get to study at home,” added another teacher.
According to the ILO, globally 152 million children between the ages of 5-17 are child labourers, of whom 73 million are engaged in hazardous work. Based on the 2011 census, India has 5.6 million child labourers. Laws and legislation are in place to fight against these practices, but it requires collective and integrated efforts in ending child labour and promoting safe and healthy work for young people.
“It is quite difficult to find ‘bontis’ (domestic helpers) these days,” my uncle proclaimed the other day.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, you have to pay the person who brings the bonti, the person who finds the bonti, the person who made the connection between the first two people, and the bonti’s family. Too many payments have to be made for just one bonti.”
The increasing numbers of child labourers (CL) in Arunachal Pradesh need an urgent introspection on the capability and wellbeing of the future pillars of the nation. Our dailies have reported a couple of cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuses of CL. Diverse perspective and assumptions float when we discuss child labour. Are we shaping CL or slashing their future? How can we stop this inhuman practice in our state? Can they have books instead of tools in their young hands? These are some of the questions that bother us.
On 12 June, 2018, the ILO celebrated the World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), focusing on the need to end child labour and ensure safety and health of the young workers.
What is required in our state is a culture to stop engaging child labourers in our homes, hotels and other places as apprentices, janitors, babysitters, farm a hands, mining workers, and so on. Imagine the future and wellbeing of these young minds, denied education and childhood (freedom, pleasures, play, and socialization). We have failed to provide free education, childhood, and freedom in their impressionable ages.
We need to envision the future wellbeing of our children, where they grow up with capability and function as self-reliant persons. In order to achieve it, we have to give the best opportunities to our children. The laws have to be followed in their true spirit, and livelihoods of parents and family members should be secured, thereby helping prevent child labour. Not an easy task at all, but not an impossible task either with collective and integrated efforts of individuals, civil society, and the state.
These pillars are essential in upholding the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1992): Survival, development, protection and participation rights of the children. (John Gaingamlung Gangmei is Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, RGU; Ronnie Nido is former research officer, National Research Study on Human Trafficking in India, TISS, Mumbai)

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.