Bride-trafficking: Pradhans to keep track of Uttarakhand girls married in other states

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In a unique initiative to clamp down on bride trafficking from Uttarakhand, the state commission for women has roped in village pradhans who will keep track of girls from their respective areas married to men in other states. The pradhans will also submit a “well-being report” of the girls once in three months to the commission. In case the women go “missing”, the rights panel and police will reach out to her in-laws.

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The project has been launched in Uttarkashi whose Moori and Purola blocks see rampant bride trafficking.

Ramindri Mandrawal, secretary, Uttarakhand State Commission For Women, said, “There are some areas of Uttarakhand where daughters are sold by poor parents. In some cases, parents are fooled by traffickers who pose as matchmakers to get the girls married to men in other states. The women are then treated as commodities and slaves. Village pradhans will now keep an eye on this.”

Hundreds of young girls in northern India are lured or sold into involuntary marriage every year, according to a 2015 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The women are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity, and exploited under conditions that amounts to a modern form of slavery. The report cited findings of a study by NGO Shakti Vahini which said that victims were mostly from Uttarakhand, AssamWest BengalJharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

In Uttarakhand, many cases of bride trafficking from the state have come to light in the recent past. Earlier in November, two men from Jammu and one from Nepal were arrested by Pithoragarh police’s anti-human trafficking cell along the Indo-Nepal border for allegedly trafficking a minor Nepalese girl on the pretext of marriage.

Uttarakhand shares a porous 263-km-long India-Nepal border in Pithoragarh and Champawat, and the commission has plans to ask pradhans from these districts as well to help curb bride trafficking.

Meanwhile, many pradhans from villages in Uttarkashi said they were willing to create awareness and “protect” girls from sham marriages. The more forthcoming ones among them said that they would use social media to stay connected to the girls.

Arvind Kumar, pradhan of Math village in Purola block, said, “Keeping tabs on newlyweds may sound awkward but it is only by taking joint responsibility that we can eliminate bad elements from society. The villages here are small and girls are few so it is easy to do this.”

 Another pradhan, Raji Devi from Dhundhi village in Dunda block, added, “Such combined community initiatives will deter traffickers as well as parents who sell their daughters. We will create WhatsApp groups to connect with girls married in other states.”
 Some anti-trafficking experts, however, cautioned that such crimes were highly organized and pradhans should be trained first.
 Anti-human trafficking activist Gyanendra Kumar said, “Bride trafficking is a heinous and organized crime and those trying to put curbs on it need to be trained. In many cases, parents themselves sell off their daughters with local people acting as spotters for them. This network needs to be broken first.”

 

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70 हजार में बेच दी गई झारखंड की बेटी

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हरियाणा के पानीपत जिले के सींक गांव में बंधक बनाई गई गर्भवती किशोरी को लेकर झारखंड पुलिस और पानीपत की बाल कल्याण समिति (सीडब्ल्यूसी) भिड़ गई। बुधवार को झारखंड के जिला साहिबगंज की मिर्जा चौकी के एएसआइ सतानंद तिवारी, महिला पुलिसकर्मी मोएमुरू और किशोरी का भाई पानीपत पहुंचे। वे किशोरी को साथ ले लाने पर अड़ गए। वहीं, सीडब्ल्यूसी ने किशोरी को उनके साथ भेजने से इन्कार कर दिया। समिति ने दलील दी कि किशोरी गर्भवती है, ऐसे में यदि उसे झारखंड भेजा तो उसके बच्चे को खतरा हो सकता है। इस मामले को लेकर सीडब्ल्यूसी बृहस्पतिवार को डीसी के साथ बैठक करेगी।

क्या है मामला

साहिबगंज के गांव पैरागौडा की किशोरी को उसके कथित पति महेश्वर ने सींक गांव के अनिल के हाथों 70 हजार रुपए में बेच दिया था। किशोरी ने फोन कर इसकी जानकारी अपने भाई को दी। भाई ने झारखंड की एनजीओ के जरिए दिल्ली के नेशनल कैंपेन कमिटी के कन्वेनर निर्मल गोराना से संपर्क किया। किशोरी को निर्मल का मोबाइल फोन नंबर दिया गया। इसके बाद ख्क् दिसंबर को निर्मल गोराना ने स्थानीय प्रशासन के साथ मिलकर उसे सींक गांव से मुक्त कराया। तभी से वह सौंधापुर के अनाथालय में है।

अनाथालय में रह रही है युवती

इधर, बुधवार को किशोरी का भाई पुलिस के साथ पानीपत बाल अनाथालय पहुंचा। अनाथालय संचालक अमरजीत सिंह नरवाल ने उन्हें बाल कल्याण समिति के कार्यालय भेज दिया। समिति की प्रधान सुमन सूद ने उन्हें बताया कि इस मामले में डीसी के साथ बैठक करके विचार- विमर्श किया जाएगा। वहीं, एएसआइ सतानंद का कहना है कि क्म् जुलाई को महेश्वर के खिलाफ किशोरी के अपहरण का मामला मिर्जा चौकी में दर्ज किया गया था। वे किशोरी को साथ ले जाएंगे।

झारखंड के बच्चों से दिल्ली में चोरी करवा रहा था तस्कर गिरोह, तीन दबोचे

स्लग: शादी समारोह से चोरी कर लौट रहे तीन बच्चे निहाल विहार इलाके में पकड़ाए, चोरी के महंगे मोबाइल बरामद – पूछताछ में बच्चों ने साहिबगंज निवासी बताया, कहा- नौकरी का झांसा देकर लाए थे दिल्ली

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दिल्ली पुलिस ने एक ऐसे मानव तस्कर गिरोह को पकड़ा है, जो झारखंड के बच्चों को नौकरी दिलाने के नाम पर दिल्ली ले जाकर चोरी करवाता था। 10- 11 साल के इन बच्चों से गिरोह के मेंबर्स मॉल, बाजार, दुकानों व शादी समारोहों में चोरी करवाते थे। शादी समारोह से चोरी कर लौट रहे ऐसे ही तीन बच्चों को पुलिस ने निहाल विहार इलाके में चेकिंग के दौरान पकड़ लिया। पुलिस ने इनके पास से चोरी के महंगे मोबाइल फोन भी बरामद किए हैं। कीर्ति नगर थाने की पुलिस ने पूछताछ की तो पता चला मानव तस्कर सभी को झारखंड के साहिबगंज जिले से नौकरी दिलाने के नाम पर लाकर चोरी करवा रहा है। बच्चों के बयान पर पुलिस ने मानव तस्कर गिरोह के तीन बदमाशों को दबोचा.

लंबे समय से चल रहा था गिरोह

मिली जानकारी के मुताबिक, ये गैंग काफी लंबे समय से इलाके में एक्टिव था। बच्चों को झारखंड से 30 हजार रुपए की नौकरी दिलाने के बहाने दिल्ली लेकर आए थे। गैंग के ऊपर चोरी के चार मामले दर्ज हैं। इस गैंग ने इससे पहले भी कितने परिवारों से इसी तरह से बच्चे लाकर अपराध करवाए हैं। पुलिस ने बच्चों की काउंसिलिंग भी करवाई है, जिसमे उन्होंने बताया कि सभी को झारखंड से लाया गया है.

.बॉक्स

पहले भी पकड़े जा चुके हैं कई मानव तस्कर

दिल्ली पुलिस की क्राइम ब्रांच ने लड़कियों को बेचने वाले गिरोह में शामिल पति- पत्‍‌नी सहित तीन लोगों को गिरफ्तार किया था। ये झारखंड व बिहार से गरीब लड़कियों को बहला- फुसलाकर नशीला पदार्थ खिला देते थे और उत्तर प्रदेश तथा हरियाणा में ले जाकर बेच देते थे। ये गिरोह उन लोगों को लड़कियां बेचते थे, जिनकी शादी नहीं हो पाती थी। गिरोह के सरगना अरविंद और उसकी पत्‍‌नी ने पुलिस को बताया था कि गिरोह अब तक सात लड़कियों का सौदा कर चुका है। गौरतलब हो कि बसिया पुलिस ने नौ माह पूर्व एक नाबालिग बच्ची को दिल्ली में बेचने के आरोप में तीन महिला मानव तस्करों बसंती देवा ग्राम पंथा, शोभा कुमारी ग्राम पतुरा लोंगा दोनों थाना बसिया जिला गुमला व रांची की पूजा देवी को जेल भेज दिया है। इसी कड़ी में पुलिस ने एक ऐसे गिरोह को भी दबोचा, जिसमें अभियुक्त बच्चों का अपहरण कर देश- विदेश में बेचने का काम करते हैं।

वर्जन

राज्य सरकार चाइल्ड ट्रैफिकिंग को लेकर प्रचार- प्रसार कर रही है और इसकी रोकथाम को लेकर बाल संरक्षण आयोग का गठन कर अपनी पीठ भी थपथपा रही है। लेकिन, सरकार की लाख कोशिशों के बावजूद कुछ ट्रैफिकिंग गिरोह अभी भी सक्रिय हैं.

Bihar’s child bazaar: 2,000 kids trafficked annually

The Asian Age

Once the child is handed over to members of these gangs, which pose as placement agencies, there is no end to their exploitation.
Victims of trafficking being brought back from other states to Bihar by NGO activists.

Victims of trafficking being brought back from other states to Bihar by NGO activists.

There has been a steady increase in cases of child trafficking in Bihar, a fact accepted by the Nitish Kumar government which has launched a special drive to combat the menace which is suspected to be impacting 2,000 children every year.

Activists who have been fighting against trafficking claim that victims, including girls under the age of 18, from poor families are being pushed into slavery, prostitution and surrogacy by agents who manage to mislead poor parents with their lucrative offers of getting their children good jobs.

Once the child is handed over to members of these gangs, which pose as placement agencies, there is no end to their exploitation.

Government sources said that directions for a focussed drive against child trafficking came after activists involved in rescue operations demanded immediate action to stop the surge in such cases.

Statistics cited by Human Liberty Network — a social group involved in rescue and rehabilitation work — showed that 2,000 children disappear from the state every year.

In April, senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav, who was then in Opposition, had raised a question in the state Assembly claiming that over 572 children had gone missing from various locations in Patna district in last one year.

However, not all missMr Yadav, who is now a senior minister in Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet, had cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to point out that cases related to human trafficking in Bihar had increased in past few years.

“After I raised the issue in the state Assembly, several persons who have been involved in the racket were arrested, most of them were from Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

NCRB data shows that in 2015, 332 cases of child trafficking were registered in Bihar, the third highest in the country. Assam registered 1,317 cases and West Bengal had 1,119 cases.

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Reports suggest that in 2017, around 160 persons involved in child trafficking were arrested by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel on the Indo-Nepal border. Around 560 children were also rescued.

SSB personnel during their operation in 2016 had arrested 136 persons from border areas. These included 89 from Bihar and 47 from Nepal. Altogether 824 children, including girls, were rescued during this period.

According to an assessment, minor girls and women are the main targets of immoral trafficking in Bihar. Activists involved in combating child trafficking in the state recently claimed that 6,000 children from various parts of the country have been rescued in last couple of years.

“Areas surrounding Nepal border are highly sensitive. It is tough to rescue girls as they are often pushed into flesh trade by traffickers. We also found that underage boys were mostly sold to bangle and carpet factory owners outside the state and are forced into bonded labour,” activist Suresh Kumar told this newspaper.

Giving an account of an incident which occurred a few months ago, Mr Kumar said that a teenage girl from Patna was pushed into  prostitution by people who posed as placement agents.

“We later came to know that the girl was taken to Uttar Pradesh and probably pushed into prostitution. Despite all our efforts, we couldn’t trace the whereabouts of the girl,” Mr Kumar said.

In another incident, a 12-year-old girl from Nawada was sold to UP-based traffickers by her own maternal grandmother and aunt for `12,000. The girl was later rescued by a group called Tatwasi Samaj Nyas which also helped the police  arrest people who were behind the racket.

According to a recent report, a majority of victims are from Patna, Gaya, Nalanda, Nawada, East and West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur, Madhepura, Supaul and Kishanganj.

Child rights organisations working to prevent such cases are of the view that the surge in immoral trafficking is also linked to pushing the victims into “forced surrogacy”, an emerging money spinner.

Earlier a group working against girl trafficking had rescued several victims out of whom four complained of being used as “surrogate mothers”.

Talking to this newspaper about the issue, an activist working with Human Liberty Network said, “Surrogacy racket is booming in the country. Young girls between the age of 17 and 20 are being pushed into the bearing children for others,” said the activist who helped rescue and rehabilitate nearly half a dozen such girls.

Rani Hong

Rani Hong

A Role model
Tronie Foundation CEO Rani Hong, a survivor of child trafficking, is a role model for all rescued children. She had earlier met Bihar government officials to launch a campaign against gangs who work as touts and exploit people, especially daily wage earners in rural areas and their children.

“I strongly believe that we need to stand up and if we can do that as a nation then we can drastically reduce, even prevent child trafficking. I want to work with the Government of India and launch a massive campaign against trafficking and slavery,” said Ms Hong.

Ms Hong was pushed into the slavery when she was just six years of age. She was kidnapped from Kerala and taken to Canada before being rescued. “I was tortured and treated like a slave and later abandoned as a destitue,” she said.

Ms Hong and her husband run special awareness drives in 20 countries, including India, through her US-based foundation. Till 2016, she served as special advisor, human trafficking, for the UN.

Human trafficking: NGO seeks direct state-to-state transfer of child labourers rescued from units

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“There is an apprehension that children, especially those below the age of 14 years, may be returned to child labour if they are not given access to benefits after being rescued."
Child labour, Human trafficking, Child Welfare Committee, Mumbai NGO child labour, Mumbai News, Indian Express

In a recent inter-state collaboration between Maharashtra and Bihar on child labour and trafficking, panelists, including officials of the Mumbai police and CWC members, discussed the possibility of beginning state-to-state transfers of children rescued in the recent drive as a pilot project.

An NGO has approached the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Mumbai seeking direct state-to-state transfers of children rescued in raids against child labour. In a recent drive by the Mumbai Police, over 40 children each from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were rescued from child labour. The NGO, Pratham, wrote last week to the Mumbai CWC requesting that instead of handing over the custody of the children to their parents, they should instead by sent to their homes by involving the local district authorities in their home state.

“There is an apprehension that children, especially those below the age of 14 years, may be returned to child labour if they are not given access to benefits after being rescued. For such children, we have requested that the local district authorities of their home states be involved,” said Kishor Bhamre, programme director of Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children.

Under current procedure, if parents come to seek custody of the children after they are rescued and lodged in a children’s home, the CWC takes a decision on transfer of custody. According to the Juvenile Justice Act, in case of direct state-to-state transfer, the CWC, if satisfied after an inquiry that it is in the “best interest” of the child, can order his or her transfer after due consultation with the CWC of the child’s home district as soon as possible. Through such transfers, parents and children can be made aware of benefits that they can avail of various schemes put in place to prevent child labour, experts say.

“For instance, the Labour Department in Bihar immediately gives Rs 3,000 to any child rescued. The Bihar government also has a scheme where Rs 25,000 are put in a fixed deposit in the name of the child. The interest of this deposit can be used for the child’s education. If the children are transferred in coordination with the local district authorities, the parents can be made aware of these benefits to ensure the child is not sent back as child labour again,” said Bhamre.

In a recent inter-state collaboration between Maharashtra and Bihar on child labour and trafficking, panelists, including officials of the Mumbai police and CWC members, discussed the possibility of beginning state-to-state transfers of children rescued in the recent drive as a pilot project. “We had suggested the idea of direct transfer of children to the state capital of the their home states.

For instance, in case of Bihar in Patna. We are in the process of forming a centralised databank of children who were rescued to make monitoring easy. If they are sent back to their remote districts directly or to their parents, monitoring becomes difficult and increases chances of them being re-trafficked,” said Shashank Shekhar, a Supreme Court advocate who had filed a PIL on the issue of child labour in Bihar and had participated in the inter-state collaboration in December. Members of the Mumbai CWC could not be reached for a comment on the NGO’s proposal.

Cross-border Trafficking of Bangladeshi Girls – A Journal by Meha Dixit

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India, a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking, does not explicitly recognise and punish all forms of labour trafficking to the extent required by the United Nations Trafficking Protocol. A study conducted on human trafficking in five districts of West Bengal highlights urgent need for cooperation between the governments of India and Bangladesh, for participation of governmental institutions and civil society organisations, the importance of monitoring of the implementation of anti-trafficking laws, and the need for a database of victims as well as the specific safeguards to protect victims, etc.

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The Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram share 4,096.7 km of land border with Bangladesh (MHA 2017). Most of the Indo–Bangladesh border is unfenced and porous, which makes it vulnerable to trafficking in persons and fake currency. Out of the states mentioned above, West Bengal, which shares approximately 2,220 km land border and 259 km riverine border with Bangladesh, is the hub of internal and cross-border human trafficking from Bangladesh.

Defining Human Trafficking

Human trafficking can generally be described as a crime that exploits children, women, and men for a number of purposes, including sex and forced labour. Trafficked persons usually come from the areas “where economic and social difficulties make migration a popular choice” (Friesendorf 2007: 381). Trafficking has frequently “been described as the perfect crime.” The profits are huge and continuing risks of apprehension are extremely low; and prosecutions for this crime are extremely rare (Gallagher 2006: 163). Wheaton et al (2010) assert that like the illicit arms trade and international drug trade, profit is the driving motive for trafficking in persons. Few states have escaped the impact of this increasingly sophisticated and invariably vicious phenomenon (Gallagher 2006: 163). Every state across the globe is affected by human trafficking, whether as a state of origin, transit or destination for victims (UN 2016).

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According to the 2017 report “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage,” at any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people were “in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage” (ILO 2017). The critical issue concerning human trafficking is that while the perpetrators or traffickers may receive modest to no punishment, “trafficked individuals may be victimized twice: first by the traffickers, and second, by the host governments” (Lobasz 2009).

International Law

Instruments that have dealt with the issue of human trafficking have their origins in the abolition of slavery. They include provisions within the Slavery Convention (1926) as well as the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery (1956). Other tools of international law that include segments against human trafficking are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949), the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979). These instruments laid the basis for the contemporary conventions and efforts towards elimination of trafficking (King 2008).

The key instruments of international law on human trafficking are the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two related protocols: the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (also known as the UN Trafficking Protocol or the Palermo Protocol), and the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, which came into force in 2003–04. Until the early 1990s, trafficking was primarily regarded as a form of human smuggling and a kind of illegal migration. As a result of the signing of the UN Trafficking Protocol in 2000, “a more detailed, internationally agreed-upon definition of trafficking is available” today (Laczko and Gramegna 2003).

The UN Trafficking Protocol, to which India is a signatory,is the single-most significant international legal instrument on human trafficking. Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Trafficking Protocol defines trafficking in persons as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (UNODC 2016)

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Therefore, trafficking in persons can be identified by the confluence of three factors: (i) the act (the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons); (ii) the means (by threat or use of force or other forms of coercion); and (iii) the purpose (for the purpose of exploitation). Further, Article 3(c) of the protocol provides a separate definition for trafficking in children which requires elements (i) and (iii) above, but does not require the use or threat of force or coercion in achieving them. Although the protocol offers a rather nuanced definition of trafficking, its purposes are rather general: “to prevent and combat trafficking, to assist victims and to promote and facilitate cooperation among States” (Gallagher 2006: 165). Gallagher rightly notes:

In terms of substance, however, its emphasis is squarely on criminal justice aspects of trafficking. Mandatory obligations are few and relate only to criminalization; investigation and prosecution; cooperation between national law enforcement agencies; border controls; and sanctions on commercial carriers. In relation to victims, the Protocol contains several important provisions but very little in the way of hard obligation. States Parties are enjoined to provide victims with protection, support and remedies but are not required to do so. States Parties are encouraged to avoid involuntary repatriation of victims but, once again, are under no legal obligation in this regard.

However, notwithstanding the shortcomings of the International Law on Trafficking, it may also be pointed out that even countries that are not a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two related protocols “are obligated to protect the rights of trafficked persons under provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which comprises customary international law” (King 2008).

Human Trafficking in India

India is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Majority of trafficking in the country occurs internally (interstate or intra-state), and the rest occurs across national borders. India is a destination for individuals trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, and a transit country for persons being trafficked to West Asia and other countries. Moreover, India serves as a source for individuals trafficked to West Asia, North America and Europe.

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In March 2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 was passed by India. The act amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code and included the country’s first definition of human trafficking based on the UN Trafficking Protocol. Till then, there was no comprehensive definition of human trafficking in the Indian law. Under Article 23 of the Constitution, trafficking in humans is prohibited; however, the article does not define the term. Besides this, various other laws provide police officials with the mandate to undertake activities pertaining to prevention of crimes, prosecution of offenders and protection of the victims of trafficking. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 (as amended in 1986) is a special legislation which addresses the issue of sex trafficking. It provides wide-ranging powers to special police officers as well as other police officers, working on their behalf for carrying out searches, rescue of victims, and arrest of offenders (SSB 2015). However, it does not address the issue of labour trafficking.

The laws in India do not explicitly recognise and punish all forms of labour trafficking to the extent required by the United Nations Trafficking Protocol. The definition of human trafficking in the now-amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code does not include forced labour. Further, other laws which deal with forced labour in the country do not adequately address the complex issues concerning the trafficking of persons for the purpose of labour. In addition, although the 2013 Amendment Act reformed Section 370 to penalise those individuals who engage sex trafficking victims, however, it did not criminalise the acts of those who engage labour trafficking victims (Rhoten et al 2015).

In May 2016, Maneka Gandhi, the Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, released a draft of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill that was referred to as India’s first ever anti-human trafficking law. Its primary objectives are to unify existing laws on human trafficking and extend the definition to include labour trafficking as well. Further, the bill aims at treating “survivors of trafficking as victims in need of assistance and to make rehabilitation a right for those who are rescued” (Sriram 2016). Among others, one of the main criticisms of the bill is that the terms “protection,” “prevention” and “rehabilitation” have not been defined in the draft. This, in turn, leaves it open to subjective interpretation.

From Bangladesh into West Bengal

West Bengal is the hub of internal and cross-border human trafficking in India. Most of the Indo–Bangladesh border is unfenced and porous, which makes it susceptible to trafficking in persons and fake currency. The districts in West Bengal which are most vulnerable to human trafficking include North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Nadia, Malda and Cooch Behar. West Bengal is a source, transit and destination for trafficking in persons. According to a non-government organisation (NGO) working on human trafficking in the state, West Bengal has also become a transit for Bangladeshi girls who are sent to Bengaluru and Hyderabad by both Indian and Bangladeshi traffickers.

Field Research in West Bengal

The fieldwork on human trafficking was conducted in January 2016 in five districts of West Bengal—Kolkata, Howrah, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas. While Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas were selected for their vulnerability to cross-border human trafficking, Kolkata and Howrah were part of the study since the shelter homes in these districts housed a substantial number of trafficked Bangladeshi girls. The respondents included Bangladeshi girls in shelter homes in West Bengal, NGOs working on the issue of trafficking and government and police officials. Due to limited time period of the field research and difficulty in getting access to all the major shelter homes in the state, non-probability sampling was used.

The author interviewed 38 Bangladeshi girls, between the ages of 11 and 23, at three shelter homes in West Bengal. These shelter homes include the government-run Sukanya and Liluah in Kolkata and Howrah, respectively; and the shelter home run by Sanlaap in Kolkata, an NGO which works on human trafficking in West Bengal. Of the 38 girls who were interviewed, 12 were trafficked from different districts in Bangladesh to West Bengal. Further, at Shilayan shelter home in Behrampur, Murshidabad, where the author was unable to get the permission to interview Bangladeshi girls, a senior official told her, “most Bangladeshi girls who are currently lodged at the home were victims of trafficking.”

Due to poverty and rampant unemployment in Bangladesh, and the perception of India as a land of opportunities among many young Bangladeshis from poor backgrounds, human trafficking from Bangladesh to India has become a flourishing trade. Many poor and young Bangladeshis, girls in particular, are falsely promised jobs and are then trafficked to West Bengal. Most trafficking victims who were interviewed came from poor and underprivileged families and were lured by traffickers who promised them jobs in India. However, once both the victim and the trafficker entered the Indian territory, the trafficker sold the girl or sent her to a brothel within West Bengal or some other part of the country.

When the author met her in 2016, Ayesha (a 16-year-old from Dhaka, Bangladesh), had been at Sanlaap shelter home in Kolkata, West Bengal for over one and half year. She was trafficked from Bangladesh and taken to a brothel in Mumbai from where she was rescued by the police. Thereafter, she was sent to Sanlaap in Kolkata. She was awaiting repatriation to Bangladesh. When the author asked her questions about her trafficking to India, she appeared hesitant to explain.

Soniya, a 15-year-old girl from Dhaka, had also been lodged at Sanlaap for over one and half years. She was trafficked from Bangladesh and sent to a hotel in Kolkata, West Bengal. Soniya noted, “the hotel was raided by the police. Thereafter the police and some NGO rescued me and I was sent to Sanlaap.” Soniya was awaiting repatriation to Bangladesh. Like Ayesha, Soniya was also hesitant to speak about how she was trafficked to India.

Once the cross-national victim and the trafficker are arrested, they are both charged under the 14 Foreigners Act 1946 due to their illegal entry into India. According to the Foreigners Act, if an offender is a foreigner, she/he should be charged under this act, punished and then deported. In the case of cross-border trafficking, the victim is mostly revictimised. She/he is treated as a criminal for her/his illegal presence in the country. The perpetrator is merely released after she/he completes the sentence under the act and if the former is a foreigner, she/he is deported after the sentence. However, the victim is sent to a shelter home in India as per the court orders and is required to stay there till the court hearing since she/he is the witness in the case.

The victim is often treated as a criminal despite the Advisory from Ministry of Home Affairs, India on Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking in India—Dealing with Foreign Nationals (MHA 2012) which states:

It is seen that in general, the foreign victims of human trafficking are found without valid passport or visa. If, after investigation, the woman or child is found to be a victim, she should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act. If the investigation reveals that she did not come to India or did not indulge in crime out of her own free will, the state government UT (union territory) Administration may not file a charge sheet against the victim. If the chargesheet has already been filed under the Foreigners Act and other relevant laws of the land, steps may be taken to withdraw the case from prosecution so far as the victim is concerned. Immediate action may be taken to furnish the details of such victims to the Ministry of External Affairs (Consular Division), Patiala House, New Delhi so as to ensure that the person concerned is repatriated to the country of her origin through diplomatic channels.

There is a lack of adequate laws in India which must recognise the trafficked person as a victim and not as a criminal. The Indian laws also do not adequately target traffickers and their associates or punish them effectively. Further, the trafficker can be charged under Section 366 B of the Indian Penal Code according to which importation of a female below the age of 21 years is a punishable offence. However, this legal provision is rarely implemented owing to a lack of its awareness among police officials. The penal clauses are also not used adequately to bring the clients to justice.

Another critical issue concerning the cross-border trafficked victim, as pointed out by a senior official at Sukanya shelter home, is that the verification and confirmation of the addresses of the trafficked victims who are lodged at shelter homes in West Bengal takes a long time (sometimes as long as three years). The reasons for this include delay in confirmation by the Government of Bangladesh or inaccurate, incomplete or vague addresses given by the victims at the shelter home. Riya, an 18-year-old from Dhaka who was falsely promised a job by a trafficker and taken to West Bengal, had been at the Liluah shelter home in the state for over two years and four months after she was rescued by the police. She was awaiting repatriation when the author met her.

Further, Shafi, a 17-year-old and Taslima, a 15-year-old from Bhola district in Bangladesh, who were both falsely promised jobs by a trafficker and taken to West Bengal, had been staying at Sanlaap shelter home for over three years since they are both witnesses in the human trafficking case. They were rescued by an NGO and were thereafter produced before the court. According to the court orders, they were both required to stay at the shelter home till the hearing of the case.

India–Bangladesh Provisions

In June 2015, India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the prevention of human trafficking, especially of women and children. The agreement calls for joint co-ordinated efforts by officials in both states “along with a systematic process of data circulation and coordinated patrolling in the border areas.” “There is also a provision for repatriation and rehabilitation of the victims which will be carried out by their mother territory” (Ray Chaudhary et al 2016). For addressing the various issues pertaining to “prevention of trafficking, victim identification and repatriation” and making the process speedy and victim-friendly between the two countries, a task force has been constituted (MEA 2016).

Cooperation and coordination

Although the MoU envisages collaborated efforts between the two countries, to address the problem of cross-border trafficking from Bangladesh to India, there is anurgent and greater need for cooperation and coordination between the two governments andNGOs on either side of the border. There is also a need for networks between actors pursuing diverse approaches. For instance, good networking betweenNGOs and India’s border guarding forces’ border outposts is required. Further, a number ofNGOs working on the issue of human trafficking in West Bengal noted that Border Security Force (BSF) that guards the Indian side of the border needs todevelop good rapport with childcare and protection agencies. In recent times, there has been increasing cooperation and coordination between theNGOs and BSF on the issue of cross-border trafficking from Bangladesh into West Bengal.

In addition, there is also a need for networking between actors pursuing similar approaches or working on similar objectives. In West Bengal, a number of NGOs deal with internal human trafficking, however, not in a holistic manner. There is a need for coordination among the NGOs working on human trafficking. Moreover, there are very few NGOs in the state that work on cross-border trafficking from Bangladesh. There should be a coordination between NGOs that work on internal trafficking and those which deal with both internal and cross-border trafficking. It is imperative that networking is not “obstructed by red tape, the failure to exchange information, and zero-sum games between networked actors” (Friesendorf 2007: 386). In addition, there is a need for community mobilisation and sensitisation of the BSF on the issue of human trafficking along the border.

Increasing participation

All necessary measures should be adopted to ensure participation of governmental institutions, including national asylum authorities, international organisations as well as civil society organisations where appropriate, in the general assessment of protection needs of trafficking victims. This can help in determining, from a technical and humanitarian perspective, which protection measure is most fitting for each individual case. This would also help ensure that appropriate referral mechanisms are in place where parallel protection regimes exist.

Evaluation and monitoring 

There is also a need for evaluating and monitoring the relationship between the intention of anti-trafficking laws, policies and interventions, and their real impact. In particular, it needs to be ensured that distinctions are made between measures which truly reduce trafficking and measures which may have the effect of transferring the problem from one group or place to another. Moreover, it is imperative to recognize the significant contribution that survivors of trafficking can, on a purely voluntary basis, make to developing and implementing anti-trafficking interventions and evaluating their impact. Further, NGOs can play a central role in improving the law enforcement response to trafficking by providing relevant authorities with information on trafficking incidents and patterns ensuring the privacy of trafficked individuals.

Database on victims 

In a consultation on cross-border trafficking held in May 2017 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), one of the key recommendations was of a country-specific or centralized database on the number of victims awaiting/granted repatriation to be maintained by India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It was also suggested that task forces may beestablished at all levels to ensure that there are no obstacles in the process of repatriation. Further, amonitoring mechanism within each government was also suggested “to track time-bound repatriation and support services provided to the victims” (UNODC 2017). However, as rightly pointed out by a former senior official of BSF, the database should be regional rather than country-specific and it should be accessible to the general public.

Further, there is a need for standardising the collection of statistical information on trafficking and related movements (such as migrant smuggling) that may include a trafficking element. The data concerning trafficked persons should be disaggregated on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity and other relevant attributes.

Transit homes 

During a consultation (May 2017),UNODC noted, the pilot transit home established in West Bengal, and rehabilitation homes in Bihar, are good practice models. However, in case “where no shelters exist at the border, mahila thanas or government barracks with basic amenities may be allotted and equipped for female victims, especially at night.” These may possibly be developed under a public–private partnership (PPP) model. Existing detention centers may also be transformed into shelter homes (UNODC 2017).

Safeguards for victims

Specific safeguards for the protection of girl and boy victims of trafficking should be established including: (a) a formal determination of the best interest of the child; (b) the adoption of child-specific protection measures, such as the appointment of guardians; (c) the collecting of information on the role parents might have played in the trafficking situation of their children; (d) issues of tracing and family reunification, and (e) the observance of specific safeguards in cases of the repatriation of separated or unaccompanied children.

Identification of trafficking victims

Finally, there is a need to augment the existing efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, in particular deportees and undocumented migrants. It may be noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office, on a regular basis, visits holding and detention centers and conducts monitoring missions to evaluate the arrival of refugees within mixed migratory flows, and helps ensure identification of victims of trafficking or individuals at risk of being trafficked in a gender- and age-sensitive manner.

Godman running trafficking racket: DCW after rescuing 2 girls from Delhi ashram

The girls were confined illegally at an ashram run by spiritual leader Virender Dev Dixit in Karawal Nagar.
DCW chief Swati Maliwal has demanded a CBI probe into ‘human trafficking racket’ being run by Virender Dev Dixit. (Photo: PTI/File)

DCW chief Swati Maliwal has demanded a CBI probe into ‘human trafficking racket’ being run by Virender Dev Dixit.

Two girls were on Tuesday rescued from illegal confinement at an ashram run by spiritual leader Virender Dev Dixit in Karawal Nagar in a joint operation by the police and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), officials said.

Some literature was also confiscated from the ashram where the girls were  confined, as crackdown continued on the controversial spiritual leader’s premises, they said.

DCW chief Swati Maliwal along with Ajay Verma, advocate appointed as amicus curae by the Delhi High Court, had visited the centre at Karawal Nagar on Monday. They found six women, including the two minors, living in confinement there.

Maliwal, who visited another centre run by Dixit at Nangloi on Monday, demanded a CBI probe into what she suspected was a human trafficking racket being run by him.

“It appears that Baba Virender Dev Dixit is running a human trafficking racket. The CBI should urgently and simultaneously conduct raids at all ashrams of Dixit across India and close them down. By delaying the raids, he is getting time to cover up his action,” she had said.

On December 23, the DCW along with the Delhi Police raided Dixit’s ashram in Mohan garden area of Uttam Nagar and found 25 women confined there.

The issue had come to light due to a PIL filed by an NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment before the Delhi High Court.

The NGO had informed the court that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined there.