1,100 friends for women and children appointed in Gujarat

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Crime against women

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As many as 1,100 Friends For Women and Children (FFWC) have been appointed in the state for assisting in crimes related to women and children, finding missing children, human trafficking, and others, the state police said on Thursday.

The appointments have been made under the government’s Suraksha Setu scheme, the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of Women Cell, Gandhinagar, said. In a presentation at the recent National Conference on Child Protection Services and issues related to child offences under POCSO Act, ADGP Anil Pratham said that organizations, NGOs and individuals, who are working in areas related to safety and security of women and children, have been asked to associate as Friends for Women and Children.

“They are familiar with working in the field, and can get better results if they are assigned the same area of operations,” Pratham said in the presentation, explaining the rationale behind appointing the FFCWs. He said that the 1,100 FFWC members were appointed in 2017-18, and have been given different tasks for searching the missing children.

The official release said that the process for filling 182 posts in women police stations under the central government’s Investigative Unit for Crime Against Women Scheme is in progress.

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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.

New lease of life for former trafficking victims

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Thirteen rescued women underwent a one-month skill-training programme under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.

Thirteen rescued women underwent a one-month skill-training programme under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Trained to perform the role of unarmed security guards

Thirteen former victims of trafficking who were rescued in New Delhi have been trained to perform the role of unarmed security guards, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) announced on Monday.

Special project

The rescued women underwent a one-month skill-training programme as part of a special project under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), the corporation added.

The 13 women were rescued from G.B. Road, the Capital’s infamous red light area, by the Delhi Police’s Special Police Unit for Women and Children (SPUWAC), an NSDC official said.

Viable professions

Juvenile Justice Committee Chairperson Justice Mukta Gupta said the objective of the special project was to provide support and skill-training to disadvantaged women and find viable professions for them.

Positive development

Human trafficking is serious issue. We believe the NSDC’s special projects will encourage other victims to come forward and find opportunities for better livelihood. Through this transformational programme, we seek to achieve substantial impact on the lives of these women,” Justice Gupta added.

After they were rescued, the 13 women were provided shelter at Nirmal Chhaya complex, a home for the destitute, where they were counselled to manage their aggression and seek the path towards positive development. The women were later shifted to a home in Dwarka for their protection and away from threats from their former agents.

Anti-human trafficking bill: Centre’s move to assign understaffed NIA as nodal agency is counter-productive

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Look at the statistics. The NIA was set up in December 2008 following the Mumbai terror attack and its mandate was that the government needed a central counter-terrorism investigative body to look into serious offences related to the sovereignty, security and integrity of the country.

It presently has a strength of 650 people. Their annual budget is around Rs 100 crore per annum. Almost a decade later, they have registered and investigated around 160 cases for which decisions have been given in 27 cases.

Can such an understaffed organisation, which is already tackling the gigantic footprint of terrorism across the subcontinent, be in a position to take on and investigate cases of human trafficking? Especially given that more people are being trafficked today than ever before in history, according to the Global Report on Trafficking.

The scale of human trafficking is mind-boggling. There are 27 million adults and 13 million children who are victims of trafficking. India, with its burgeoning population, is regarded as one of the main hubs of the trafficking trade. Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau state that over 20,000 women and children were victims of trafficking in 2016 but most NGOs believe this figure is just the tip of the iceberg.

Last month, the cabinet went ahead and cleared the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill. The bill was introduced in Parliament earlier this month but many parliamentarians feel it should first be referred to a parliamentary standing committee for a detailed discussion.

Regarding the amendment to the National Investigation Act 2008, which will empower the NIA to investigate cases of trafficking, officials of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) point out that it will require a separate amendment by the Parliament. The NIA is presently in the process of looking into these changes and is expected to give its recommendations shortly.

According to MWCD officials, with the NIA brass complaining of a shortage of funds to undertake their present investigation, funds from the Nirbhaya Fund for the safety of women will be transferred to NIA in order to set up a cell for investigating human trafficking.

Dr Ajay Sahni, executive director of Institute for Conflict Management, has strong views on whether the NIA is in a position to investigative a problem of this magnitude. “The government is looking for shortcuts especially since prostitution and human trafficking are giving India a bad reputation. Policing is a state issue. The Centre can play a coordinating role. What the Centre needs to do is set up a central authority which can investigate cases on their own. The only other body which could have taken up cases in this manner is the CBI but they already have their hands full,” Sahni said.

He also expressed surprise at how the NIA is being sucked into this ambit especially since, during the present NDA regime, the NIA is being expected to investigate ‘love jihad’ cases in the south.

“During the last two years, the NIA has been asked to look into love jihad cases which are linked to Hindutva. If this is not an abuse of an institution then what is?” Sahni said.

IG of police (NIA) Anil Shukla, who is also wearing the hat of CVO, pointed out that it was too early to give his assessment of whether the NIA could handle this additional work. “The law is under consideration. So, it is too early for me to make a comment on it,” Shukla said.

Enakshi Ganguly, co-director of HAQs: Centre for Child Rights feels, “it is the local police who need to be trained and empowered because most of the trafficking is taking place in small towns. From the start, we have been saying that we need to have a strong protective mechanism in place to take care of the children. This mechanism can operate as Village Level Child Protection Committees and can provide a safety net for the kids.”

Ganguly suspects that linking terrorism and trafficking will only serve to dilute the seriousness of the existing situation which is loaded against women and children. “Linking the two together, which seems to be an attempt by the present government, will do injustice to both these complex and multi-layered issues,” said Ganguly

Rishi Kant, who runs the NGO Shakti Vahini, believes the MWCD move to allow NIA to look into trafficking and prostitution cases is a welcome step.

Kant has helped train the police and BSF personnel in West Bengal and Jharkhand to help combat trafficking. “Our training and inputs have really helped the state police of these states to crack down on traffickers and that reflects on the graph in these states, which are showing a downward trend. If the NIA is brought into this ambit, with proper training, we can create a crack force to track down traffickers in a big way,” Kant said.

On 16 March, 2018, Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi sought to introduce the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 ( commonly called the Anti-Trafficking Bill). The new bill does not redefine trafficking but incorporates the existing definition under section 370 IPC.

Advocate Tripti Tandon, deputy director of Lawyers Collective, has come out strongly against this new bill which she points out has simply created a new category of ‘aggravated’ forms of trafficking, which carry a minimum sentence of ten years that may extend to life imprisonment.

Some of the aggravated forms of trafficking that have been introduced in the new Bill are: Trafficking for the purposes of forced labour, begging, marriage and childbearing. But, these are already criminalised under Section 370 of IPC. In fact, according to the National Crime Record Bureau in 2016, the police registered 10,357 cases of trafficking for forced labour, 349 cases of trafficking for forced marriage and 71 cases of trafficking for begging.

So, the new bill divides various offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. The former category of crimes would carry a jail term of seven to 10 years and the latter would carry a punishment of at least 10 years in jail, which can be extended to life imprisonment. Aggravated offences will include forced labour, bonded labour, forced surrogacy, use of narcotics to induce forced labour, trafficking in the garb of marriage and those that lead to a pregnancy or grave illness such as HIV/AIDS.

The bill also moots three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking. The law recommends a national anti-trafficking relief and rehabilitation committee to be headed by secretary WCDM. It also suggests setting up of a rehabilitation fund and prescribes a process to be followed for repatriation of trafficked persons.

Tandon asserts that to claim that these are ‘new’ forms of trafficking that are not addressed under existing laws is totally baseless. She cites the example of one so-called ‘new offence’ of administering hormones or committing trafficking by administering alcohol or drugs but adds that this has already been incorporated in section 328 of the IPC.

The existing response is patchy and scattered across different laws, which approach trafficking from varied, and sometimes, inconsistent objectives.

For example, while the new law focuses on removing and evicting sex workers from their occupation, the Bonded Labour Act protects the worker who was held in bondage from being evicted from the place where the individual has been working.

Tandon believes the need was for a comprehensive law that was expected to harmonise different approaches and integrate existing laws into one. The new Anti-Trafficking Bill does not do that. All it does is add yet another legislation to the already fragmented landscape of laws on human trafficking, further complicating the legal framework and its enforcement.

Activists point to how in the past, proposals to reform anti-trafficking laws were preceded by a great deal of research. To cite one example, in 2002-2003, the National Human Rights Commission had conducted a countrywide study of the problem and produced two voluminous reports on “Trafficking in Women and Children in India”. Findings of the NHRC report prompted the MWCD to move the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) (Amendment) Bill, 2006.

Similarly, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, which led to the enactment of Sections 370 and 370A of the IPC against trafficking and exploitation of a trafficked person respectively, were based on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee Report, 2013, in relation to laws on sexual offences.

The Anti-Trafficking Bill has not been preceded by any substantial research or analysis. The same ad hoc approach has been applied to get the NIA to start the whole process of investigation on trafficking and prostitution.

Although this is not part of the present Anti-Trafficking Bill, there is no doubt this move has also not been thought through thoroughly.

Instead of focusing on better policing and inter-state co-ordination to stop trafficking, getting an understaffed NIA to investigate these crimes will only serve to muddy the water further.

Society needs to unite to eradicate human trafficking

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New Delhi, Mar 8 (PTI) President Ram Nath Kovind today met survivors of human trafficking on the occasion of International Womens Day and said it was a crime against humanity and the society must unite for its eradication.

People should also be encouraged to urge the survivors of human trafficking into the mainstream of society and help them overcome their problems, Kovind said after meeting the survivors at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

“We need to create an appropriate eco-system for the survivors,” he said.

“We are in that period of communication revolution in which social evils are discussed openly. People are discussing the social evils among themselves which is eventually leading to solutions of these problems,” the president said.

But some problems were still not being discussed much and human trafficking was one of them, he said.

“It is a curse not only for the country but for the whole humanity,” Kovind said, although human trafficking adversely affects both boys and girls but its impact is more frightening on minor girls.

It becomes really difficult for the girls to come out from the grasp of this social evil, he said.

The human traffickers especially target weaker sections who do not have resources to fight them, he said.

It may appear that only an individual or just a family was getting affected by human trafficking but in reality it affects everyone directly or indirectly, the president said.

There has been an increase of over 39 per cent in human trafficking in the last three years and more than four crore people have been affected by it around the globe, he said.

“But the irony is there is lack of awareness about human trafficking,” he said, adding there was a need to give attention to this social evil.

“In such circumstances, I am happy to learn that the Union Cabinet has approved the trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 in which there is a provision for a jail term of up to 10 years for a person convicted for human trafficking,” Kovind said.

Under the bill, it was provisioned to provide relief to victims within 60 days and establishing special courts at district level to handle human trafficking cases, he said.

A special fund will also be developed under this bill for running welfare programmes for the victims, Kovind said.

He exuded confidence that passing of this Bill will strengthen people and organisations working against human trafficking.

The president hailed NGO Justice and Care, which has rehabilitated more than 4,500 human trafficking victims in the last 10 years, for its fight against this social evil.

He said four survivors of human trafficking, who have pledged to fight the social evil, may also be called as “champions of change” and all should work to increase the number of such champions.

He said many schemes of the Centre like Skill India, Start-up India, Stand-up India and Mudra would be helpful in rehabilitation and providing employment to the victims.

The survivors of human trafficking will be able to survive well only when an appropriate eco-sytem was developed for them, the president added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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