Child Labour: Capability and wellbeing

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“Well, if we don’t recruit children from Assam, they will get into more trouble, as who will then feed them? By working for us, at least they get to eat properly,” came a sympathetic response from a villager in Kimin block.
As part of a team studying human trafficking in our state, I visited Kimin block in Papum Pare district, due to its close proximity with Assam, in the winter of 2017. Another part of our team in Assam had informed us that almost 80 percent of the local children (from the tea tribes) are recruited in Arunachal Pradesh as domestic help, agricultural labourers, daily wage labourers, and as unskilled labour force. These children are spread across the districts of Arunachal Pradesh, with a major concentration in the capital complex.
In Kimin block, these children were present in hundreds. A few made the transit every day from work in the tea gardens while most others were employed in the capacity of domestic help in the houses of the towns. Ranging in the age group of 6 to 14 years, these children had come to be employed for meagre salaries between Rs 500 to 1500 per month, ie, Rs 16 to Rs 50 per day. While the salary rates differed in the capital complex, the statistics of prevalence remain the same.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by (a) depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, (b) obliging them to leave school prematurely, or (c) or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses, and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age.
Child labour is engaged in the agriculture, industries, and services sectors. The worst forms of child labour are sale or trafficking, pornography, debt-bonded labour, and child soldiers.
“It is not just the Assamese children; even local tribal children from the villages come to study in the towns and often stay with their relatives. However, they do not do much studying as they become cheap labour for their relatives in return for food and shelter,” said one a school teacher when I asked about the migrant children in their town.
“They wake up the earliest, finish all the work first, and then come to school. After school, they go back and do whatever their relative asks of them at that time. Thus, we have to take longer classes so that most of these children finish their homework in the school itself, as we know most of them won’t get to study at home,” added another teacher.
According to the ILO, globally 152 million children between the ages of 5-17 are child labourers, of whom 73 million are engaged in hazardous work. Based on the 2011 census, India has 5.6 million child labourers. Laws and legislation are in place to fight against these practices, but it requires collective and integrated efforts in ending child labour and promoting safe and healthy work for young people.
“It is quite difficult to find ‘bontis’ (domestic helpers) these days,” my uncle proclaimed the other day.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, you have to pay the person who brings the bonti, the person who finds the bonti, the person who made the connection between the first two people, and the bonti’s family. Too many payments have to be made for just one bonti.”
The increasing numbers of child labourers (CL) in Arunachal Pradesh need an urgent introspection on the capability and wellbeing of the future pillars of the nation. Our dailies have reported a couple of cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuses of CL. Diverse perspective and assumptions float when we discuss child labour. Are we shaping CL or slashing their future? How can we stop this inhuman practice in our state? Can they have books instead of tools in their young hands? These are some of the questions that bother us.
On 12 June, 2018, the ILO celebrated the World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), focusing on the need to end child labour and ensure safety and health of the young workers.
What is required in our state is a culture to stop engaging child labourers in our homes, hotels and other places as apprentices, janitors, babysitters, farm a hands, mining workers, and so on. Imagine the future and wellbeing of these young minds, denied education and childhood (freedom, pleasures, play, and socialization). We have failed to provide free education, childhood, and freedom in their impressionable ages.
We need to envision the future wellbeing of our children, where they grow up with capability and function as self-reliant persons. In order to achieve it, we have to give the best opportunities to our children. The laws have to be followed in their true spirit, and livelihoods of parents and family members should be secured, thereby helping prevent child labour. Not an easy task at all, but not an impossible task either with collective and integrated efforts of individuals, civil society, and the state.
These pillars are essential in upholding the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1992): Survival, development, protection and participation rights of the children. (John Gaingamlung Gangmei is Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, RGU; Ronnie Nido is former research officer, National Research Study on Human Trafficking in India, TISS, Mumbai)

Girls remain most vulnerable targets

The bride-buying business that amounts to trafficking is burgeoning in the state where numerous girls from West Bengal were sold for sexual abuse. Even though an NCRB report claims that there is zero incident on trafficking in the Valley, the reality on the ground portrays a quite different picture, writes SAFINA NABI

Tamanna (17) and Hafiza (16) are residents of 24 South Parganas, Kolkata from the state of West Bengal. The girls were sold to two Kashmiri men, much older than them for an amount of 25,000 each. Both the men are from Tujan area of district Pulwama, around 40-km away from the main city of Srinagar, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The girls’ parents are daily wage labourers who live in a slum under extremely poor condition. On top of that, supporting a family of seven members isn’t easy at all.

One day, the parents decided to marry off Tamanna and her sister in Kashmir after an agent Shubnam persuaded them that their daughters could lead a comfortable life and they too can earn some money in return.

Soon, these men from Kashmir got in touch with this family from Bengal through Shubnam, a native of Bengal. The sisters were informed by the family that their marriages have been fixed and both of them will be travelling to Kashmir with their husbands. The marriage happened in an informal set-up. The Nikhnama (marriage contract) was signed and both the sisters were given a small amount of money as ‘Mahr’ (alimony) for namesake.

The assurance of wealthy family, healthy lifestyle-two meals a day, and decent clothes to wear was more than everything for the girls and the family to fall into the trap. Soon, they arrived in Kashmir via Bengal-Delhi-Jammu route. Once they reached Tujan, Pulwama, their world turned upside down. The girls were kept in horrific conditions where husbands would rape them through the hours of darkness and family members would make them do all the household chores throughout the day. They were deprived of proper food and kept indoors to avoid contact with outside world. Nevertheless, the girls were in different families but experiencing a similar life of horror. The sisters were restrained to get in touch with each other.

The Escape

One day in early morning, the younger sister, Hafiza, escaped the house barefoot. Luckily, she saved the money that she received as ‘Mahr’ to use when the right time comes.

Hafiza narrated, “I was praying hard that my attempt to escape should not fail… Had I been caught, I would have been beaten to death.”

After escaping from Kashmir she managed to reach Bengal. There she met a journalist, who happened to work in Kashmir. Hafiza then narrated her ordeal and revealed the details about her sister too. The journalist contacted a Kashmir-based local NGO and informed them about the case. The NGO with the help of police started a robust investigation and finally, they were successful in tracing out Tamanna.

Today, Tamanna is living with a local family in Kashmir who came to support her. They wish to become her legal guardians now.

On May 22, 2018, Tamanna appeared before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

Explaining Tamanna’s situation, CWC Chairperson, Munazah said, “Tamanna wishes not to go back to her hometown neither she wants to stay in a child home. The report has been sent to the CWC, Pulwama for further investigation. Once the report comes, we will be able to decide how to take forward the case.

On the other hand, the man who bought Tamanna is now pressurising her parents to ask her to return. Her parents are now trying to persuade Tamanna to go back as she has been married to him. Although she has been rescued, no FIR has been registered against the husband’s family.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Farooq Ahmad said: “Although we are investigating the case and rescued her on the NGO’s request, but,we cannot register an FIR as she has signed the Nikahnama. Also, the trafficker has provided it as a proof of marriage.”

“During the course of the investigation, we came to a conclusion that Tamanna needs to be handed over to the NGO as the girl is a minor. She was not only married out of her wish but was also kept in an appalling circumstances,” Ahmad further explained.

Here, Hafiza is back to her home but torment has not increased. In a muffled voice, Hafiza shared, “My parents beat me continuously. They ask me, ‘why did you run away? Why did you come back? They have paid us money?’”

“What can a girl like me do apart from weeping in silence?” Hafiza added.

In the case of her agent Shubnam, she too has a similar past- trafficked to Kashmir where she was married-off to a Kashmiri family. However, she soon got separated from her husband, went back to her hometown in Bengal and married a local. Shubnam then stepped in to the business of human trade- buying and sending girls to Kashmir under the garb of employment-giver, match-maker. Being a local of Bengal, it was a cake-walk for Shubnam to target girls from poor and under-privileged families, luring them with a promise of good job, high-end lifestyle or by deceptively buying them from their families.

Bride-buying common in the Valley

The horrific brutality inflicted on these teenagers is not an isolated case. Going by some information, there are more 20 to 25 women from Bengal and other parts of mainland India who have been married-off to Kashmiri men. The kinds of grooms are those men who did not find any match in Kashmir, belong to below poverty line families or are disabled. In such situation, Kashmiri men buy brides from pimps who usually smuggle girls from West Bengal or other parts of India.

In a similar incident, twelve years ago, Naseema, 29, (now a mother of three) was forcefully married off to a Kashmiri truck driver by her parents for some amount. Today, she lives in a dilapidated house at Pampore, Pulwama, where, altogether, a total of eight members live in a tiny two-room house that serves as both kitchen and bedroom. Naseema, too, is a native of Bengal and was trafficked to Jammu and Kashmir as a bride. Her husband is a habitual drinker and largely spent all his earnings on liquor and drugs.

“I do not wish to see my parents or go back to them. They married me off to a person who was double the age of mine and sent me to a place about which I knew nothing, not even the language,” Naseema said.

Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide and agents like Shabnum are making a flourishing business by buying and selling girls to Kashmiri men who cannot find a match in the Valley.

India’s West Bengal state – which shares a porous border with Bangladesh and Nepal, is one of the hubs of human trafficking. There is a stout human trafficking connection between West Bengal and Kashmir, where families need brides for their sons who are either disabled or do not find local match to marry off their sons.

There is no check on the illegal buying and selling of young girls brought into the Valley as domestic workers and later sold as brides, neither there is any policy in place. Hence, this business is thriving with every passing day.

According to the latest (2016-2017) data by National Crime Record Bureau, there are zero cases of trafficking reported in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

“We are not able to do anything until and unless a case will not be reported to us. There are agencies registered with us who supply domestic helpers to families in Srinagar and other parts of the state but, till now, no complaint of trafficking has been reported to us,” said Deputy Superintendent Farooq Ahmad.

Forced labour: Assam girl rescued from Kingsway Camp

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Forced labour: Assam girl rescued from Kingsway Camp

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

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

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

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

मानव तस्करी मामले में आरोपित को भेजा जेल

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काजीमोहम्मदपुर थाना क्षेत्र के सादपुरा इलाके से युवती की मानव तस्करी मामले को लेकर तीन दिनों तक चले हाइवोल्टेज ड्रामा के बाद पुलिस ने बुधवार को आरोपित युवक फूलबाबू को जेल भेज दिया।

काजीमोहम्मदपुर थाना क्षेत्र के सादपुरा इलाके से युवती की मानव तस्करी मामले को लेकर तीन दिनों तक चले हाइवोल्टेज ड्रामा के बाद पुलिस ने बुधवार को आरोपित युवक फूलबाबू को जेल भेज दिया। उसकी मां और भाई को हिरासत में लेकर कई प्रमुख बिंदुओं पर पूछताछ की जा रही है। आरोपितों के खिलाफ पीड़िता की मां ने मानव तस्करी करने का आरोप लगाते हुए प्राथमिकी दर्ज कराई थी। लापता युवती को फारबिसगंज से पुलिस ने बरामद किया। वहीं से आरोपित को भी गिरफ्तार किया गया था। बरामद युवती को बुधवार को कोर्ट में बयान दर्ज कराने के बाद मेडिकल जांच कराया गया। इसी आधार पर आगे की कार्रवाई करने की कवायद में पुलिस जुटी है। इधर, पुलिस की प्रारंभिक छानबीन में मामला प्रेम-प्रसंग का बताया जा रहा है। आरोपित के परिजन ने युवक और युवती की शादी का प्रमाणपत्र कोर्ट में पेश किया है। पुलिस का कहना है कि युवती के बयान पर ही सबकुछ निर्भर करता है। उसी के बयान पर आगे की कार्रवाई की जाएंगी। अभी फिलहाल मामले की तहकीकात की जा रहीं हैं। बता दें कि युवती के घर से लापता होने के बाद इलाके में जमकर हंगामा हुआ। आरोपित के घर का घेराव कर लिया गया। थाने पर भी दोनों पक्ष आपस में भिड़ गए थे। इलाके में तनाव व्याप्त हो गया था। वरीय अधिकारियों ने मौके पर पहुंचकर किसी तरह मामले को शांत कराया था। पुलिस फोर्स को गश्ती बढ़ानी पड़ी थी। तीन दिन बाद आरोपित के जेल जाने पर मामला पूरी तरह शांत हुआ।

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

3 more arrested for human trafficking

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Three more accused in international human trafficking racket were arrested by unit III crime branch on Friday and Saturday. While Pyara Singh Gotara was arrested on Friday, Jarnel Singh Gotara and Rajinder Singh Atwal were picked up on Saturday.

Image result for 3 more arrested for human trafficking tnn | Updated: Jan 28, 2018, 18:34 IS

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The number of arrested accused has now gone up to ten. Police said that 57 youngsters were trafficked from the city to North America, Europe, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, apart from Maharashtra.

According to police, of the ten arrested, two accused would create fake bona fide and school leaving certificates. The youngsters were trafficked to shops, construction sites, hotels and malls as workers and for driving taxies. So far, 20 trafficked persons have been traced while hunt for other accused and victims is continuing.

Teenager crushed under truck

 Seventeen-year-old Prasanjeet Meshram, a labourer, who was riding pillion on a bike, died on the spot after being hit by an unidentified truck in front of Umiya gate at Kalamna on Saturday.
Prasanjeet was sitting between rider Mukesh Kosare and his cousin Ganesh Bawne when the trio was returning from Bhandara.
All the three fell off after being hit by the truck. Kosare and Bawne sustained minor injuries. However, Prasanjeet succumbed to head injuries.
Kalamna police have registered a case of negligence in driving against the unknown truck driver.