‘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.

 

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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.

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.

Forced labour: Assam girl rescued from Kingsway Camp

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Forced labour: Assam girl rescued from Kingsway Camp

A 14-year-old girl from Assam, who was forced to work as a domestic help, has been rescued from north west Delhi’s Kingsway Camp, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) said on Sunday – making it the third time this week that a girl was rescued from forced labour. The Commission said that it received information about the case from a phone call, immediately after which a DCW team along with Delhi Police reached the stated address and found the child working there.

“The girl was rescued and also counselled. She informed the Commission that her father had passed away when she was very small, after which her mother remarried and the two began living with the stepfather,” a DCW official said. The official further said that the girl claimed to have requested her cousin for a job in Delhi. The cousin knew a family, where she soon started working for Rs 5,000 per month from February 2017. However, till now, she had only been paid Rs 12,000 till now and even that money was given to her cousin. The owner of the house where the girl was working deals in auto parts.

After her rescue, the girl was sent to a shelter home to stay the night, and she was produced before the child welfare committee (CWC) the next morning. The CWC ordered police to register an FIR and also ordered an ossification test. A case was registered under sections 75, 76, 3, 14 and 16 of the Juvenile Justice Act.

DCW chief Swati Maliwal, on Sunday tweeted, “14 year old Assamese girl rescued by DCW. She was forced to work as domestic help by a plush family in Delhi. This is third such rescue this week by DCW. Earlier, 2 girls from Jharkhand were rescued by us. Delhi has become a hub of human trafficking. This needs to be curbed!” She further said that young girls are working in inhuman conditions in Delhi. “Humanity itself is at stake. We all need to ensure a healthy childhood, education and health facilities for these kids. All stakeholders must come together and act”. Earlier, two girls from Jharkhand were rescued from Rajouri Garden and Kingsway Camp. Both the girls had not haved receive payment from their respective employers. “Placement agencies are running a trafficking nexus in Delhi which needs to be curbed. I appeal to all stakeholders to regulate the functioning of placement agencies. Strongest action should be taken against the employer,” Maliwal had earlier said.

CBI busts human trafficking racket in New Delhi, books five for sending 11 boys to US

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The CBI on Tuesday busted a human trafficking racket and booked its five members for allegedly attempting to send 11 teenaged boys from Punjab to the United States on forged and fabricated documents.

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A CBI spokesman said that immediately after registering the case, searches were conducted at six places in Punjab. The five, identified as Sundeep Singh Luthra, Amit Jyot Singh, Rohit Gauba, Anshika Matharu and Rachna David, allegedly conspired in and attempted human trafficking of 11 teenaged boys to the US under the garb of an educational trip, the agency said.

It was alleged that the accused persons submitted false and fabricated documents to the US Embassy for obtaining a non-immigrant visa for these boys who were shown as students of a school in Pathankot in Punjab.

David, who was to escort the group of boys, was shown as the principal of the school, the CBI said and added that none of them belonged to the school mentioned in their applications. During the preliminary investigation, it was found that the accused persons, who run a travel agency in Southwest district of Delhi, had taken lakhs of rupees from the families of each of teenaged boys for sending them to the US.

The boys were brought from Punjab to New Delhi by the accused and were tutored to present themselves as school students at the time of their interview at the US Embassy.

Raped, beaten up, trafficked to Delhi…and now a rescuer

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A victim of rape, child marriage (to the rapist), domestic violence and, as if this wasn’t horrible enough, human trafficking!

Today she is 18, owns a small business and saves girls from descending into the same hell, at a village in the Sundarbans, West Bengal. Aparna (name changed) was just nine when she was raped by a 19-year-old man who entered her house while she was sleeping and her mother had gone for work.

He left her bleeding on the bed. In the evening, when her mother returned, Aparna narrated the incident to her, and the duo went to the village’s arbitration centre seeking justice.

After an investigation, the boy was identified and was forced to marry her. That was, as per the village elders, justice enough and punishment enough for the rapist. Today, Aparna encourages rape survivors to register FIRs rather than go for arbitration and end up marrying their tormentors.

Marrying the man who raped her soon turned into a nightmare for Aparna. Her husband started beating her up, singed her with cigarette tips, struck her with rods and belts. Every day, she was left blue and black.

Unable to bear it any longer, Aparna approached the arbitration centre to complain about domestic violence. This time, the elders told her to take the legal path.

“I filed a case and started visiting the court for the legal proceedings. Soon, it became a hassle for me to visit the court for hearings. One day at Canning railway station, from where I was supposed to board a train to meet my advocate, an unknown woman approached me. She was carrying a water bottle with her. I was thirsty and asked the woman for a drink of water. But she bought me a new water bottle. Few minutes after I drank that water, I became unconscious. When I regained consciousness, I was in a brothel in Delhi,” she said.

Some days later, Aparna got to know that her mother-in-law had sold her to a human trafficker.

“At the brothel in Delhi, I was forced to attend to more than eight customers a day,” she said, adding that there was physical violence also.

“Almost a month later, I learnt that the brothel was located in central Delhi’s GB Road. The building was like a cage where you can’t even breathe. At times, I was tortured by the customers who have left several cigarette burn marks on me,” Aparna told MAIL TODAY.

One day, and she remembers that it was raining outside, a customer dressed in a white shirt and blue denims came.

“He looked educated. After I locked the door, I started crying and I told him how I was trafficked. He assured me that he will rescue me. Few days later, a police team along with an NGO raided the brothel where I was caged. They rescued me. When I reached the police station, I was surprised to see the same man sitting in a senior official’s room. He recognised me and I was sent back to my village,” she said.

Aparna has also dedicated her life to saving young girls in her village from falling prey to predators.

“I am a part of Bandhan Mukti, a rape suvivors’ collective group. I am also a part of Swayangisddha, an initiative taken by West Bengal Police. I don’t want others to experience what I have. We work with vulnerable girls and victims, try to educate them and make them strong enough to defend themselves,” she said.

The 18-year-old has counseled more than 30 rape survivors and has educated several vulnerable girls about human-trafficking.

“During counseling sessions, many minor girls have told me about traffickers in their localities. I keep on passing such information to the police,” she said.