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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‘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.

 

Delhi businessman held for raping teenaged maid at home

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17-year-old girlwas raped by a businessman in his house in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh on Tuesday afternoon. The girl worked there as a maid and nobody was at home during the incident, said the police. The businessman, who had allegedly molested her earlier as well, has been arrested.

The police were informed about the incident by the girl’s father who got to know about it from his wife. They also informed an NGO, whose members came to the police station along with the survivor’s family. The girl was soon taken to a hospital for treatment, cops said. The accused, identified as Kapil Bhatia (40), owns a store in Kashmere Gate, cops said.

The girl told the police that she had been working at the house for over six months and there were people at the house every time she had gone for work. On Tuesday, however, there was nobody apart from Bhatia. When the girl was about to leave, Bhatia called her to his room and raped her. She said the man had molested her several times earlier but threatened her into silence.

Police said the girl was produced before the child welfare committee (CWC) following which a case under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 376 (punishment for rape) and 377 (unnatural offences) of IPC, and also under POCSO Act and Juvenile Justice Act was registered. The survivor has been sent to a children’s home on the order of CWC.

The police raided Bhatia’s house on Tuesday night itself and caught him while he was trying to flee. Cops are also trying to find out if he had sexually assaulted any other girl.

Traffickers recruit child labour as Indian schools break for summer, campaigners warn

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Anti-trafficking groups are warning that many children never return to school once they start working

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As schools break for summer, human traffickers across India are convincing impoverished parents to send their children to work over the holidays in factories and farms, campaigners said.

Anti-trafficking groups are urging the government to crack down on child labour during the two-month break, warning that many children never return to school once they start working.

“In this season, playgrounds and neighbourhood shops become hunting grounds for traffickers,” said Kuralamuthan Thandavarayan of the International Justice Mission, an anti-trafficking charity.

“They track children from poor families and convince parents that it is a waste of time to allow their children to play or stay home when they can earn instead.”

There are an estimated 10.1 million workers between the ages of 5 and 14 in India, according to the International Labour Organization.

More than half of them toil on farms and over a quarter are in the manufacturing sector embroidering clothes, weaving carpets, making matchsticks and bangles.

“In many villages, with both parents out working, teenagers at home during summer break are lured by recruiters looking to hire cheap labour in the (textile) mills,” said Joseph Raj of the non-profit Trust for Education and Social Transformation.

Other children join their parents in brick kilns, where they work between November and June, when the rainy season begins. The recruitment and payment systems in these kilns trap seasonal migrant workers in a cycle of bonded labour, according to a 2017 report by the rights groups Anti-Slavery International and Volunteers for Social Justice.

Wages are low and often paid at the end of the season, and families are forced to put their young children to work to make 1,000 bricks a day, which allows them to make the minimum wage, said the report.

“Agents promise to bring the children back to the village in time for the new academic session. But the problem is that many don’t return,” said Krishnan Kandasamy of the National Adivasi Solidarity Council, an advocacy group.

Tamil Nadu state government data showed that nearly 30 percent of the 1,821 people rescued from debt bondage in 2017 were children.

“It starts out as children helping their parent, but slowly they take on more work that involves longer hours,” Kandasamy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said his organisation has already rescued 456 bonded labourers in the southern states of Tamil Nadur, Karanataka and Andhra Pradesh this year, many of them children.

“We are increasingly finding children in mango orchards, jasmine flower farms, brick kilns, rag-picking centres and out grazing cattle,” said Kandasamy.

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.

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

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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.

Nepal girls trafficked into India up by 500% in last 5 years: SSB report

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The study by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) claims the number of victims brought illegally into India has gone up by 500% since 2013
  • SSB says they are then forced into prostitution or pushed to into domestic help or other forms of exploitative labour

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A study conducted by border guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) on “Human Trafficking on Indo-Nepal border” claims the number of victims brought illegally into the country has gone up by 500% since 2013 with girls trafficked from villages and Terai region of Nepal sold to brothel owners in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities for up to Rs 50,000.

In 2013, 108 girls/children were rescued at Indo-Nepal border, while 607 such victims were rescued in 2017.

Calling Nepal the “source” country for most of the trafficking of children and women to India, SSB says they are then forced into prostitution or pushed to into domestic help or other forms of exploitative labour, and in a few cases their organs are illegally harvested.

Quoting statistics of Nepal’s women and social welfare ministry, according to which 26 of Nepal’s 75 districts are trafficking prone, SSB says that most women/children at risk are from the hills and of schedule castes, but members of higher castes are also trafficked into India.

The traffickers, men (often called ‘dalals’) and women (‘didis,’ who are sex workers themselves), bring the girls aged 9 to 16 – to border towns before they are brought to India by bus. Near the border, professional agents who lure the girls for selling in the brothels are paid up to Rs 6,000 for every child. Apart from the ‘didis,’ SSB says, sometimes family members also act as traffickers. The girls are coached to conceal their true age in case they are stopped and questioned by the police.

Discussing the routes taken by traffickers, SSB says Nepalese girls from villages are first taken to Kathmandu, either to the guest houses or carpet factories, or from there to border towns in Nepal, where they are sold to “brokers.”

“The brokers then travel by bus or by train to Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi or even to smaller cities and sell these girls to a brothel owner or madam (referring to female agents in India) for up to Rs 50,000. Most brokers travel by local buses to Delhi, and then Mumbai by train,” says the SSB research, exclusively accessed by TOI.

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Some of the brothel owners, SSB says, are politically connected and hence, are not convicted.

 SSB says peak trafficking months in Nepal are between June and late August or early September when ‘didis’ return to their villages and recruit girls to bring to Indian cities. “At this time of the year (June to August), every mountain village of Nepal suffers from more than the usual level of poverty, while they wait for new harvests,” says SSB.

Quoting a recent Indian government survey, SSB says 60% of women/children working as commercial sex workers do so out of poverty or economic compulsion.