NIA likely to investigate human trafficking cases

nia-likely-to-probe-human-trafficking-casesPUBLISHED IN ECONOMIC TIMES

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) could be empowered to investigate cases of human trafficking, in what seems to be a breakthrough in the nearly year-long consultations among various stakeholders, including the home ministry and the ministry of women and child development.

Sources say the additional responsibility for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would be part of the proposed anti-human trafficking law unveiled by Maneka Gandhi last year.

The move will also require amending the law that gave birth to the counter-terrorism agency — the National Investigation Act, 2008.

The Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, proposed setting up a National Bureau on Trafficking in Person for “prevention, investigation of the trafficking of persons cases and protection of the victims of trafficking” — a role which could be performed by the NIA, sources said.

“The ministry of home affairs (MHA) wanted NIA to investigate trafficking and we have agreed to that. MHA has also given its approval for the draft Bill. After we get a green flag from Prime Minister’s Office, a Cabinet note will be circulated,” according to a top official of the ministry of women and child development.

Another official said “a cell within NIA” could be probing human trafficking cases.

After the Union Cabinet gives its approval, the draft bill will be tabled before Parliament.

“Traffickers enjoy immunity because local police agencies are not able to probe inter-state or cross-border crimes. We require a nodal agency as 80-90 per cent of trafficking cases span across various states,” said Ravi Kant, Supreme Court Advocate & President of NGO Shakti Vahini,  explaining why activists have been seeking a central body to probe human trade.

Government officials say to empower the NIA to investigate trafficking cases the National Investigation Act, 2008, will have to be amended.

The NIA was set up by the previous UPA government in 2009 to probe terrorist activities in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

As per the National Investigation Act, the anti-terror body is empowered to probe offences under eight specified laws, including the Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982.

The proposed anti-human trafficking legislation will be independent of the existing law on trafficking in relation to prostitution — Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 — while a section of the civil society has sought an umbrella law.

The draft law divides offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”.

The punishment for offences in the former category is rigorous imprisonment between 7 and 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, while aggravated forms of trafficking will invite a jail term of between 10 years and life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh.

Aggravated trafficking will include trafficking of children, transgenders, differently-abled, pregnant women and those which involve use of drugs and alcohol.

There is also a provision for a national committee as well as a central fund for the relief and rehabilitation services for the victims.


India’s shame: modern slavery

Image result for deccan herald


Representational Image 

The 2016 Joint Global Estimates of Modern Slavery – published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Australia-based NGO Walk Free Foundation (WFF) – which estimated that there are 24.9 million people in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriages worldwide seems to have rattled the Modi government. The reason is the survey’s conclusion that India accounts for most of them – more than 18 million of the estimated 40.3 million worldwide. After sending a rebuttal to ILO challenging India’s ranking, the government is now building pressure on it to distance itself from WFF, with which it collaborated in preparing the report. The government feels that the methodology of sampling is not clear and its focus on India had “enough potential to substantively harm India’s image and kill its exports market”.

This is a churlish response. Ironically the government’s stand has not been determined by those with domain expertise but by reports from the Intelligence Bureau. The methodology paper put in the public domain by WFF itself concedes that its report is not “without gaps and limitations” but provides “the best available data and information that exists about the scale and distribution of modern slavery today.” India has inarguably abolished slavery and its modern variants such as bonded labour, human trafficking and forced marriages. But it is equally true that the enforcement of these laws leaves much to be desired. The crime of modern slavery includes the act of recruiting, harbouring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labour or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It permeates most conceivable levels of supply chains far beyond the trade for sexual exploitation. A rare rescue of 25 bonded labourers last week, for instance, revealed that they had been recruited from Madhya Pradesh, after being given loans ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000, transported to Rajasthan and forced to work as field workers without any pay for seven years.

While methods of mapping modern slavery can be disputed, its prevalence cannot be denied. There are no national figures on the number of people in slavery in India, but the Ministry of Labour and Employment recently announced plans to identify, rescue and help over 18 million bonded labourers by 2030. Given this ground reality, going into an absolute denial mode, as the Modi government seems inclined to, can be counterproductive. It is important to first understand critical aspects of the crime, and then identify the scope of policy interventions. The trade in these modern slaves transgresses state and national borders and the perpetrators are constantly reinventing themselves. It is high time policies to combat them followed suit, and went a step ahead.


Using data to fight modern slavery

By livemint:

A systematic data and information platform with algorithms to recognize irregularities will make law enforcement more efficient

The illicit trade in flesh transgresses borders and transports humans around the world. Photo: iStockphoto

The inhumanity shows up in the numbers. A September report by the International Labour Organization estimated that in 2016, 40 million people were victims of modern slavery, every fourth of whom was a child. To put this in perspective, in 2016, only about 35 of 233 countries had a larger population. Despite the staggering numbers, there is a disconcerting lack of discourse and systematic policy interventions.

It is important to first understand critical aspects of the crime, and then identify scope for policy innovation. Perpetrators are constantly reinventing themselves; it is high time policies followed suit, and went a step ahead.

Trade in human flesh is the forceful or fraudulent removal of an individual, being intentionally misled about the purpose. Removal is followed by making it impossible to leave. This crime is controlled by a highly secretive and organized network of perpetrators with operations and presence in small villages, urban powerhouses and of late, the dark web, across the globe. While technology is facilitating efficient crackdowns, it is also rendering more security to these clandestine operations.

The illicit trade in flesh transgresses borders, and through the victims’ perilous journeys, transports humans around the world. International commitment to fight slavery is evident from Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to end human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour. Yet, actions remain disappointing.

Even nationally, laws often aim at regulating industries where victims are known to be held, like the sex trade industry, or through fair trade labels, but they lack in methods to identify these networks, the core of the problem. It is an uncomfortable truth that national governments, including ours, have failed to lay due emphasis on.

Indian states, however, are making commendable strides and innovating in their crackdown methods. Maharashtra, for instance, has 12 special cells for tracking illicit trade and a Crime And Criminal Tracking Network to connect police stations across the state. The mandatory registration of placement agencies in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh adds an impediment to forced outmigration and gives law enforcement agencies more backing to shut an illicit operation.

Micro solutions are very crucial in striking at the root of modern slavery, and therefore, states need to be empowered in their approach. In July, at a conference organized by the Maharashtra State Commission for Women—the first ever on women trafficking by a government institution—experts discussed issues around fostering better prevention mechanisms through shared data capabilities, among others.

The next crucial step in striking at human trade should be innovation in collaborations, using different digital capabilities. Cyber trafficking is one of the biggest contemporary challenges, and systems are getting more complex through technologies like crypto currencies. Often, in issues related to cyber crimes, different agencies have snippets of information since data points are geographically scattered. Therefore, a systematic data and information platform, developed at a micro level but shared at a macro one, with algorithms to recognize irregularities, will make law enforcement more efficient and accurate.

Any progress in developing cooperative databases and cracking down on cyber trafficking will be a futuristic move. The money and internet protocol trail, identified through data sharing, will be the golden circle in narrowing down and reaching perpetrators. The prosecution and conviction of Ross Ulbricht, founder of Silk Road website, is evidence of the success of such a systematic approach.

There is also room in improving physical crackdown, and use that to develop a comprehensive database. The initial steps in combating trafficking are the receipt of information of perpetration, investigation and prosecution. Victims are often smuggled using public transport and this can be made into an effective tool in identifying plausible instances.

Recently, Air Asia trained thousands of staff members in recognizing in-transit instances of human trafficking. Education campaigns like these for transport staff and general public and the passengers can help prevent the crime early enough. We should consider taking assistance from victims in the process of profiling, educating, and creating a data base, since no one would be better placed to spot these often inconspicuous crimes. Along with networks of information sharing, this will improve investigative processes, and help identify first-instance perpetrators.

Trafficking is a menace that transgresses boundaries—national, international and of human tolerance. A 100% cooperation at the inter-state level is non-negotiable. Different states in India must recognize the roles that networks play within their boundaries, assimilate this information and share it on a national, and possibly an international platform. Developing systems that group different information points and modalities could add the much-needed sophistication and address the lack of coordination among the state’s functionaries, furthering more nuanced efforts in preventing perpetration.

Delhi raps region on trafficking

Delhi raps region on trafficking

Delhi raps region on trafficking


Guwahati, Feb. 17: The Union ministry of home affairs has asked three northeastern states to improve their performance in combating human trafficking. Official sources said the ministry’s anti-trafficking cell had taken serious note of the Northeast becoming a major source of trafficking of women and children to other parts of the country. “Expressing concern over reports of human traffickers preying on the northeastern states, the ministry has asked police in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland to put their act together,” a source said.

He said the home ministry had last month reviewed measures taken by different states to combat human trafficking, which has assumed the dimensions of an organised crime in the country. The home ministry is also considering a proposal to make Guwahati the nodal centre for coordinating anti-trafficking operations in the Northeast, he added. The ministry has decided to give cash rewards to police personnel for outstanding work in the field of anti-human trafficking and has invited nominations from all the states. “This is being done to encourage policemen to improve their performance in this field, which held low priority for them till not very long ago,” the source said.

“Because of their Mongoloid features, girls from the Northeast are sold at a higher price because they are presented as foreigners from Southeast Asia. Eventually these girls land up in brothels and circuses,” he said. A large number of girls trafficked from the Northeast are also forced to enter into wedlock in Haryana, particularly in Hissar district. He said Assam police, with the help of NGOs, had rescued many girls from Hissar who were forcibly married after being trafficked. “These forced marriages are happening because of the dismal gender ratio in Haryana,” the source said.

The home ministry has taken steps to strengthen law enforcement response against human trafficking as a joint initiative of the Centre and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Because of the inter-state and international dimensions of such crimes, the home ministry has also stressed on improving cooperation among the police forces of different states and with the CBI.

“This problem has an international dimension also because girls from Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked to metropolitan cities and popular tourist destinations in the country like Goa through eastern India,” the source said. The ministry has also asked the state police forces to send regular details on missing children and women and gangs operating in their respective areas to the CBI, which has established a criminal intelligence cell to collect and share such data. The states were also asked to expeditiously set up anti-human trafficking units, to investigate the crime at all points — source, transit and destination — and to keep an eye on all suspectspotter, recruiter, buyer, seller, transporter, harbourer and financier.

We try our best, police say

Sumit Kumar Singh, New Delhi, February 11 2012,

Despite a force of more than 70,000 police personnel, a special unit for children, an anti-human trafficking cell and a juvenile justice unit, last year 1309 missing children cases were reported in the capital. Police claimed to have recovered around half of them.

Police also found 557 unidentified children last year, who were sent to children’s homes.

According to National Crime Record Bureau figures on crime against children, there were 3630 cases reported in  the capital in 2010. The agency found that 2,839 children had become victims of  crimes in 2009.

“We have got a long way to go. Delhi has the best model as Delhi police is more sensitive towards such issues compared to other cities,” additional deputy commissioner of Police Suman Nalwa said.

But in many slums and other low income localities where government runs welfare programmes, the police are not involved, he said.

“If these are the areas where child abuse is rampant the police should be encouraged to participate. Everything is on paper right now. There is no co-ordination between police personnel across states. We need to form a comprehensive network to prevent crime against children in Delhi as this city is the most vulnerable,” Nalwa said.

Last year, Delhi Police arrested 12 persons, busting international and inter-state human trafficking rackets.

An anti human trafficking unit gathers intelligence on organised gangs involved in missing children cases, bonded labour and trafficking of girls for prostitution. It has offices in all the 11 police districts of the national capital. The district investigation unit (DIU) officers looks after anti-trafficking matters.

“An officer of  the assistant commissioner of police rank works 24 hours with one inspector, two sub-inspectors and other subordinates in each unit,” the officer said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (outer) BS Jaiswal told Deccan Herald, “There are various forms of child abuse. We have trained staff in every police station that especially deals with children becoming victim of abuse. We conduct periodic raids at various office and factories to rescue bonded child workers.”

Similarly, Deputy Commissioner of Police (east) Prabhakar said, “The beat constables have been sensitised to look out for cases of suspected trafficking and bonded child labourers at transit points like bus stands, taxi stands, isolated hotels, guest houses and on the streets.”

Related articles

Kidney racket busted


LUCKNOW/CHANDIGARH: Beware of anyone who tries to befriend you next time you go to a liquor shop. He may convince you to get a minor operation done in exchange of anything between Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.

Lucknow police on Sunday busted a gang of four miscreants involved in arranging kidneys for the needy after luring poor people into selling theirs. Till now, they claimed to have sold kidneys to at least 7 people-all in Chandigarh.

The four were identified as Harishankar Maurya, the kingpin of the gang, Dilip Nigam, Vinod Dubey, and Harish Prajapati. Maurya, who was a private teacher about a year ago, according to Lucknow DIG D K Thakur, used to stay in Chandigarh and search for patients needing a kidney transplant. He focused on only two hospitals, Silver Oaks and Shivalik Hospital in Mohali.

After assuring a kidney to the kin of the patient, Maurya used to contact his partners-Dilip and Vinod in Lucknow. Maurya would charge over Rs 3 lakh from the patient’s kin. The duo then used to search for gullible targets near country-made liquor shops. They used to convince people to get a minor operation done and donate one kidney and get Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.

Harish, who is a computer designer, used to contribute by preparing fake certificates and documents to prove that the patient and the donor were related to each other. Prima facie the involvement of the hospitals has not been ascertained, the DIG said.

Speaking to TOI at Chandigarh, Dr Arjinder Bains, a surgeon of Shivalik Hospital in Mohali, said, “A police team from Lucknow had visited the hospital a few days ago and in fact, we were the ones who helped them nab the culprits. A prospective donor had approached us and as per rules, we had sought verification of the NOC and found it to be faked. Thereafter, the donor was never operated upon.”

When contacted, Dr Akhil Bhargava, of Silver Oaks denied that any police team had visited the hospital in connection with any scam.

“There was a police team from Lucknow who had come to Mohali about four days ago in connection with an investigation of a minor who had gone missing. Upon investigation, it was found that the alleged kidnappers were staying in a hotel in Burail, Chandigarh and the team from Lucknow was asked to approach Chandigarh police,” said DSP (city) Darshan Singh Mann.

(With inputs from Abhijit Prashar in Chandigarh)

Kidney racket gang may have over 2 dozen members

LUCKNOW: While the number of victims whose kidneys were transplanted in exchange of money have been rising, the investigators have a hint that the number of miscreants, who are members of the gang, could also go beyond two-dozen.

Sources said that one of the gang members, who is still out of the police net, is supposed to be a legal luminary. It is in this regard that the police have applied for the remand of the four accused including their kingpin Harishankar Maurya, a resident of Brindawan Yojna in PGI area.

The other members of the gang were identified as Dilip Nigam, a resident of Malihabad; Vinod Dubey and Harish Prajapati, both residents of Telibagh. The police had arrested the four on December 25 and busted the kidney trade racket.

Initially, as per the miscreants’ claim, the number of people whose kidneys were transplanted in exchange of money, was believed to be only 7. However, the police search resulted in around 20 victims coming up with the same information that their kidneys were transplanted through the same gang.

During the investigation, now the police have got some information that the number of people involved in the gang is also approximately to touch two-dozen marks with Maurya as their kingpin. The police sources also said that two members of the gang are also supposed to be from Nepal.

Though the officials, when contacted by TOI, refused to confirm the number as well as about Nepal residence of two members of the gang, they said that efforts are being made to take the remand of the accused and know about the functioning of the gang. A senior official, preferring anonymity, did confirm the involvement of a legal luminary in the racket. He said that once the court opens on January 2, efforts would be made to pursue the remand application. DIG D K Thakur also said that once the police are able to get the remand of accused, a team of officials would be sent to Chandigarh to ascertain the nexus of the hospital staff with the gang members, if any.

Efforts to rehabilitate them diluted due to indiscretion of judicial magistrates

(Hyderabad) While an estimated 1.5 lakh children and women in the State are victims of trafficking and sexual abuse; efforts to rescue and rehabilitate them are being gravely diluted due to indiscretion of judicial magistrates.

Even as few victims are rescued due to surreptitious nature of trafficking, many of them fail to be rehabilitated due to inopportune releases. “Many rescued victims are immediately taken away by traffickers and are again subjected to sexual abuse. This is because magistrates release them merely on production of certificates, which are most often counterfeit. This has been our grouse,” says Chaya Ratan, Principal Secretary to Government, Women Development and Child Welfare Department (WDCWD). Officials informed that magistrates order release without even seeking social investigation report, family background or case studies of the victims. In November last year, over 60 sexually exploited minor children were rescued from areas of Chandrapur and Yavartala, but officials informed that they were released within days without being provided any opportunity for counselling, education or training. The ‘Swadhar’ and ‘Ujjawala’ homes established by the government are being run with support of NGOs, for rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked women. But, NGOs too allege that such releases are leaving them incapacitated. “Most women and child victims are harassed both physically and mentally. While they are rescued and brought to the home, we are forced to release most of them within a week due to court orders. Some even leave in a day,” said the manager of an Ujjwala home in Ramanthapur.

“When the court that is supposed to protect their rights orders their release, we are powerless and can do nothing for their rehabilitation in such a short span,” she added. Several NGOs running the homes suggested that victims would benefit from such a scheme only if they are made to stay for at least three months.

 “Several times we know that the person seeking release is the trafficker, but we have to let them go due to orders from a magistrate. Many are brought back to the home a second time after being caught in raids again,” said Padmavati of Kasturbha Gandhi National Memorial Trust which runs a Swadhar home.

 Officials of the WDCWD had brought the issue to the notice of the Chief Justice in 2009 and had also written to the Registrar of the High Court requesting review of training curriculum for judicial magistrates to incorporate such concerns. Officials informed that they are still awaiting response.