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.

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Policy dive: All you need to know about Trafficking of Persons Bill, 2017

Hindustan Times - Latest News

Policy Dive picks a policy issue, traces the debate around it, the different schools of thought and the choices involved.
More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017.

More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017.(Shutterstock/Representative image )

The government had listed the bill aimed at protecting trafficked persons, especially young girls and women, for introduction in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded budget session. But continued disruptions, which virtually wiped out the second part of the session, prevented the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017 from being introduced.

Here is all you need to know about the proposed law

Issue

More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017, government data shows. Around 100,000 are yet to be traced and it is feared that many of them could have been trafficked.

In 2016, for instance, 111,569 children were reported missing. Of these, 55,944 children were traced but only 8,132 trafficking cases were reported.

Many of these children are victims of modern slavery — forced into prostitution, labour or domestic work.

They are also used as drug mules and even given up for adoption illegally. Poverty and lack of opportunity also pushes a lot of young women, especially from the interior parts of West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, into prostitution.

Despite the enormity of the problem, India lacks a single comprehensive law for human trafficking. At present, trafficking is covered under half-a-dozen laws resulting in confusion and poor enforcement.

Significance

For the first time, a standalone law to address the problem has been proposed that will treat a trafficked person as a victim and not an offender. It not only prescribes stringent punishment but also addresses the crucial issue of rehabilitation of victims, many of whom are lured by traffickers on the promise of a better life and jobs.

The rehabilitation is not contingent on criminal proceedings. A special rehabilitation fund has been proposed for immediate protection of rescued persons. The punishment for traffickers varies from 10 years rigorous imprisonment to life sentence and Rs 1 lakh fine in cases of aggravated crimes.

Also in a first, a national anti-trafficking bureau run by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) has been proposed to coordinate with other countries, as many times the victims, mostly women, are smuggled out of the country.

The proposed law also makes registration of placement agencies that recruit or supply domestic helps mandatory.

Debate

The bill has been debated intensely, within the government and also among activists and organisations. When the bill was being drawn up, the ministry of external affairs said the law should address trafficking of persons within India as well as overseas.

The women and child development ministry (WCD), which is piloting the bill, had countered, saying the bill already covered the movement of trafficked person from one place to another within the country and also overseas.

Activists and non-government organisations such as Lawyers Collective have criticised the proposed law, saying it has nothing new to offer and all its provisions are already covered under existing laws. The new law will only end up “complicating the legal framework and its enforcement”.

The government says because the laws dealing with trafficking were not consolidated, the issue could not be tackled effectively. Hence, the need for a comprehensive standalone law.

Activists have also said no substantial research has gone into the bill, an argument rejected by the WCD ministry.

Lawyers’ Collective has pointed out that the provision to charge a person who encourages another person to “migrate illegally into India or Indians to some other country” with aggravated form of trafficking punishable with 10-year imprisonment could have serious implications for cross-border movement of people, including refugees.

The WCD ministry has said the argument does not hold.

Manipur police arrest three Rohingyas at Indo-Myanmar border

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The two man (Rohingiya) confessed to have earlier involved in trafficking of Rohingiya girls with the help of a local man from Imphal West district to different parts of the world including India, added the SP.

The arrested individuals are believed to have entered into India from Bangladesh through Tripura. 

A joint team of Manipur police and CID, arrested three Rohingyas including a woman from Indo-Myanmar border town of Moreh, Tengnoupal district on Sunday. The Rohingyas were rounded up by the joint team on Saturday night around 8.30 pm from Muslim Basti ward no. 5 in Moreh, while taking refuge in the house of a local resident. The arrested Rohingyas hail from Baguna, the crisis ridden Rakhine state of Myanmar. The two arrested men have been identified as Md Saifullah, 34 and Md Salam, 25 while the woman is identified as Toiba Haut alias Nargis, 20, daughter of Abu Subiya.

“Following reliable information that some Rohingyas from Myanmar are staying at Muslim Basti with trafficked girls from foreign country to engage them in prostitution by inducement and force, the combined team rushed to the said area under my supervision and picked up two Rohingiya along with a woman”, said Dr S Ibomcha Singh, Superintendent of Police Tengnoupal district.

As per the finding of preliminary investigation, it has been established that Toiba Hatu was a victim of human trafficking while the two male associates were the traffickers, said the SP. The two man (Rohingiya) confessed to have earlier involved in trafficking of Rohingiya girls with the help of a local man from Imphal West district to different parts of the world including India, added the SP.

Md Saifullah, reportedly possessed an Adhaar card and a card issued by United Nation High Commissioners for Refugees but Salam and Toiba Haitu did not possessed any valid documents. Despite having valid document, Saifullah was booked under trafficking act along with Salam while the woman was booked under Foreigners act for not possessing any valid documents.

The three arrested individuals are believed to have entered into India from Bangladesh through Tripura. Since the Rohingiya refugee crisis erupted in Myanmar, the border area of Manipur have been put on alert particularly at Indo-Myanmar border Moreh and Manipur-Assam border.

The Manipur police up till now have arrested 6 Rohingiyas from Moreh border town alone. The last arrest was made on March 22, wherein three Rohingiya were arrested by a combined team. They are currently lodged in a jail in Imphal.

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.

Meet the Sex Workers Leading the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Child Marriage

The Wire

Rescuing young girls with the help of legal authorities has helped them change people’s attitudes and develop a sense of self-worth.
In 2017, these women helped arrest over 200 traffickers in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Representative image. Credit: Reuters

In 2017, these women helped arrest over 200 traffickers in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Representative image. Credit: Reuters

Sex workers in the districts of Anantapur, Kadiri, East Godavari and Belagavi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are often married off at a young age or trafficked to larger cities.

Statistics released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have put Andhra Pradesh at second, after West Bengal, in terms of the prevalence of human trafficking. A large number of minor girls are being trafficked and UNODC states that in January alone, 939 minor girls were reported missing.

Many of the women who have been victims of trafficking or child marriage are now working closely with legal authorities and the police to help put an end to the two.

Their success in this endeavour can be gauged from the fact that in 2017, they helped arrest over 200 traffickers in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. Many of these traffickers were trafficking young girls of about ten or 12. In order to ensure these rescued girls do not come to harm, the sex workers helped get them admitted into residential Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalayas. These are free schools being run by the state government in every mandal of Andhra Pradesh.

How has this incredible turnaround taken place? How have these women picked up the grit to challenge those very people who had been at the forefront of exploiting them for years on end?

These women best describe their journey.

Rajeshwari

Take the case of Rajeshwari from Kadiri in Andhra Pradesh, who has been engaged in sex work for the last two decades. A three-day workshop in 2015 by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) was a turning point in her life. There she received training on different laws including Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO), the Nirbhaya Act and the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act by a retired judge and his team of lawyers. She was also taught how to cope with sexual violence and sexual harassment.

These women also received training on becoming paralegal volunteers. The minimum requirement is clearing the matriculation examination (class ten). Rajeshwari was a class four drop out. An exception was made for her and the other sex workers who had participated in this workshop.

“We were given a crash course on different laws including POSCO, Nirbhaya law and the JJ Act. We were also taught how to deal with cases of domestic violence and marital discord and in cases of trafficking and child marriage, we had to inform the district authorities by using the child helpline. In fact, we are paid Rs 250 for every case that we report,” said Rajeshwari.

The workshop gave her enough confidence to start working closely with the police and district authorities. “Being a sex worker, I know the situation on the ground. When a young girl was sold by a trafficker in Bhiwandi in the Thane district of Maharashtra, the local police and some NGOs sought my help,” said Rajeshwari with a sense of pride.

“I was actually taken all the way to Bhiwandi to help bring the girl back and restore her to her parents who live in Kadiri. The local agents here threatened to kill me. When they see me, they abuse me to my face. But now that I am a member of Jan Jagarata (JJ), a local community-based organsiation (CBO), I enjoy a great deal of support,” she said.

She cites the example of another young girl who was trafficked to Mumbai for a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh. “The madam put her to work and had 20 men arriving to have sex with her every day. We got the girl rescued and put her into a school in Hyderabad. The trafficker who took the girl to Mumbai has been arrested and is housed in the jail in Anantapur while another fellow is presently in the Kadapa jail,” said Rajeshwari.

Rajeshwari’s own life bears a startling similarity with the girls she helps rescue. Giving broad details of her life, Rajeshwari said: “When I was in my early 20s, I was taken to Dubai under the pretext of doing domestic work. After three years of sexual exploitation, I sought police protection. The police did not help me. Rather, they too exploited me and shamelessly used me for two years. It was only with the help of a local agent that I was able to return to India.”

Mahalaxmi

Mahalaxmi from Gooty village, who is presently the treasurer for the CBO Ushodaya being run in the neighbouring city of Kalyandurg, cites how a minor girl was kidnapped by three local boys in her area.

After raping her for three days, these boys abandoned her outside her parents’ home in the dead of night. The parents had four marriageable daughters and felt that by taking their eldest child back, they would suffer disrepute in their village and thus were reluctant to take her back.

They had the good sense to seek the help of Mahalaxmi, who insisted they go to the police station and file a complaint against the three boys.

The police tried to misguide the parents and refused to lodge an FIR. Mahalaxmi warned them that in case they did not file an FIR, she would seek the help of the district child protection officer since the girl was only 14, a minor.

When the local cop failed to heed her warning, Mahalaxmi rang up the sub-inspector, warning him that if action was not taken, she would take the matter up with the State Child Rights Commission.

Mahalaxmi said: “The cop got scared and an FIR was registered. The girl was taken for examination to the local government hospital where the rape was confirmed and all three boys have been arrested and jailed.”

Fearing for the girl’s life once the boys were released on bail, the rape victim has been sent to Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya in Hyderabad where she is presently continuing her studies.

Usha

Usha, the manager of Ushodaya, who had been engaged in sex work for over a decade, also admits that participating in the legal workshop in Hyderabad provided a new direction to her life.

“It helped me develop a sense of confidence. I also understood for the first time that if I am subject to violence, I can turn to the police and the district machinery for help. Nowadays, we meet the police and the district legal authorities on a regular basis. When the district judge goes to visit a jail, he takes a group of us paralegal volunteers along. This has led the local community to change their attitude towards us. More importantly, we have developed a sense of self-worth,” added Usha.

Recently, Usha was informed of how a mother, a former devadasi, had pulled her two daughters out of the local school because she wanted them to be initiated into the same trade.

“A group of us complained to the police. The district child protection unit intervened and the girls have been put into the SOS school in Tirupati to grow up in a more protected and nurturing environment,” said Usha.

How Jan Jagarata was formed

In 2007, the sex workers in Kadiri felt they needed to start their own NGO and that is how JJ came about. Initially, it provided basic HIV/AIDS services to these women. But they soon realised HIV/AIDS was just one of the problems they were facing. Equally pressing were issues of social stigma, discrimination and problems of violence by the hands of clients and partners.

In 2011, after having lengthy interactions with several local NGOs including REDS and CFAR, they picked up enough confidence to get JJ registered.

“Now we have hired two rooms in Kadiri where we have set up an office. We meet every week with a special focus on health. We also hold annual general body meetings to elect a president, secretary and a seven-member board of directors,” said Rama Devi, an office bearer.

But registering their organisation has resulted in other spin off. Members of their organisations are now in a position to access government loans to start their own business. And most importantly, they do not have to offer any collateral for these loans. Their membership in JJ is enough.

Ease in getting loans

Another important initiative these women have taken is to undertake an informal survey of the number of sex workers in and around their district. This helps them provide assistance to someone who is needy and also to keep an eye on anti-social elements.

Adi Narayan amma took a loan of Rs 10,000 two years ago and bought ten sheep with that money. “These have now multiplied to 20. I have succeeded in repaying my first loan. I hope to get a second loan so I can expand my business,” she said.

Another JJ member, Sailaji, received a small amount of money to start a small department store selling groceries and cigarettes from which she earns Rs 7,000 a month.

“My position is now much more secure and I do not have to do sex work anymore,” said Sailaja.

Renuka amma was deserted by her husband at a young age. “I had to bring up my daughter on my own. When my daughter was 16-years-old, she ran away with a man. After having three daughters, she came to my house, left her girls with me and disappeared. I subsequently learnt she was abandoned by her husband. I gave one daughter each to my two sisters and brought up one girl myself. I approached the Single Windows and they helped get my granddaughter admitted to Prajwala Home. Ten years later, my daughter returned because her partner deserted her.”

“Meanwhile, I took a loan of Rs 30,000 to start a business but have used the money on spinal surgery. I take solace in the fact that at least my granddaughter has settled well in her school and is a good student,” she added.

Muni amma was also married off at a young age and is the mother of three children. She worked for several years as a daily labourer but did not earn enough, so she took to sex work to earn additional money.

“Leaving my three children with my in-laws, I was taken to Mumbai to do sex work but the conditions there were miserable. I was not given proper food to eat, even the water to drink was filthy. I got a truck driver to bring me back to Kadiri,” she recalled.

Muni amma also received a loan of Rs 15,000 but has spent the money on her treatment. While she has succeeded in getting two of her children educated, her youngest daughter is studying in college. “I am working hard to stop child marriages in my district and in the last two months have succeeded in stopping six such marriages,” she said.

Legal empowerment

Padmaja been working as lawyer in the district court in Anantapur for the last nine years. She is one of the lawyers appointed by the state government to teach these sex workers paralegal work.

“Our attempt has been to take these women out of this profession and you can do this only if you empower them legally. We also try and ensure they get support of the district legal authority. Now that they are empowered, we have sought their help in fighting cases of trafficking,” said Padmaja.

Rammohan Reddy is another senior lawyer working in Kadiri who is in the forefront of helping these women. “These women tell us we want our children to study and not lead the kind of lives we have led. The state government has opened 25 schools for girls of sex workers and we assist them in getting their girls admitted there. Of course this has created a situation where traffickers are very angry and these women are constantly being threatened by them,” said Reddy.

These women are targeting other social evils as well. Adolescent girls are forced into marriage (often at the instigation of their mothers) to their maternal uncles. Renuka amma cited her own example. She is a widow with two daughters. One morning, her maternal cousin arrived at her place and forcibly wanted to take her 14-year-old daughter who is a class VII  student to get her married to his son. If the mother dared refuse, he warned he would kidnap the girl.

She phoned the Ushodaya team who immediately took her daughter under their protection. They informed the child services and the district child protection officer. The girl has been transferred to a residential school while the cousin was let off with a warning from the police.

Another Ushodaya member, Lalita amma, was married off to her maternal uncle when she was only 13. She is now assisting a campaign launched by several NGOs to stop marriages between blood relatives.

Akhila Sivdas, executive director of CFAR, started the Single Window initiative in 2013 to provide basic services to these women. Although the initiative has now come to an end, CFAR continues to provide guidance to these women. Sivdas said, “They are playing an important part in community policing. They understand the social dimensions of these issues and also provide community support. In many ways, these women are operating like mohalla committees.”

More and more parents are turning to them for support. Recently, in Kotter village in Anantapur district, a boy cheated on a girl and she became pregnant and has delivered a baby boy. The boy’s parents have agreed to have their son undergo a DNA test. If child is fathered by their son, they will get the couple to tie the knot. This entire process is being supervised by the court.

The struggle continues.

RPF Curbing Human Trafficking from NorthEast

The Morung Express

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Agartala, March 7 (IANS) To check the widespread increase in human trafficking from northeast India, the railway authorities have taken steps to curb the menace with around 500 children being rescued by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and 14 traffickers arrested in 2017, an official said on Wednesday.

“In all, 498 children have been rescued by RPF and 14 traffickers were arrested last year. During 2016 and 2015, the RPF has been able to rescue 437 and 206 children respectively,” Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.

“In the face of the widespread increase in human trafficking from northeast India, the NFR and RPF have continued an all-out offensive for combating the menace in railway stations and railway premises. Trains are frequently used for ferrying trafficked children,” Sharma said.

“The NFR and RPF personnel have been able to apprehend a large number of offenders by putting in place foolproof security arrangements in stations,” he said.

Sharma also said that all the five NFR divisions have pressed mobile security squads into service to watch for any suspicious movement in trains and station premises.

The rescued children were handed over to their guardians or to NGOs for proper care and rehabilitation.

The NFR serves seven districts in West Bengal and five districts in north Bihar, besides seven northeastern states, excluding Sikkim.

The CPRO said that the RPF of NFR has also been doing commendable work in detection and recovery of contraband goods.

“The RPF has recovered smuggled goods worth of Rs 5.1 crore in 160 cases last year and arrested 68 offenders. This is much higher than the figures in 2016 where goods worth Rs.3.6 crore were recovered and 134 cases registered.

“This recovery of contraband goods has been possible due to frequent raids, ambush and checks conducted by RPF in sensitive areas within the scope of implementation of integrated security system programmes on the major stations of NFR. CCTV cameras have been installed and control rooms have been set up for real-time monitoring of stations and railway premises,” Sharma 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.