Human trafficking worry for Sundargarh

Published in The Telegraph

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Rourkela : The return of two married women, aged 24 and 36, from Saudi Arabia has brought women’s trafficking in the district to the fore again.

“Our study suggests that the situation is not encouraging,” said Rajendra Behera, chief co-ordinator of Pragati, which works for the rescue of trafficked women.

“We did an exhaustive study in 11 blocks out of 17 in the district and concluded that more than 13,000 women from different age groups are missing,” he said. Between 43,000 and 44,000 women across age groups have been trafficked between 2002-14 from the district, the study showed.

The women returned home on Sunday and narrated their ordeal. The Tarkera residents claimed that a neighbour and his family members had sold them off in Saudi Arabia for a hefty sum. Their employers kept them in confinement and physically and mentally abused them, the duo alleged.

Abul Kalam Azad of Childline at Bisra had rescued a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl two years ago and returned her to her parents. He said: “These women are sexually abused both by the middleman and the employer.”

He said there was also an increase in the number of unwed mothers. Citing statistics, he said: “In the past six months, I have received 63 unwanted children either at my doorstep or from different places.” Most of them were found in remote jungle or far-off areas, said Azad. He found that most of these children belonged to those women who had been trafficked.

“The maximum trafficking takes place between the 14-18 and 19-25 age groups at 41 and 38 per cent respectively,” said Behera. His study also revealed that apart from poverty and the search for greener pastures, the glamour of bigger cities also lured many women into the traffickers’ traps.

Sundargarh district superintendent of police Pinaki Mishra agreed with Behera.

Most of the traffickers are also known to the women. They are either relatives or neighbours. “And when the girl does not return for a long time, the relative goes missing,” said Behera.

Mishra admitted that despite human trafficking being a major problem in the district, inadequate manpower forced police actions to go for preventive drive than going on the offensive. “We have written to the government for help with more manpower,” he said.

He also plans awareness drives, and creating a data bank of the blocks affected

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Rescued child sex workers in India reveal hidden cells in brothels

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Anuradha Nagaraj in The Reuters
NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A ladder propped against a stained wall leads up into a dark passage on the second floor of an Indian brothel, lined by a series of locked doors. Hidden inside are tiny cubicles, stashed with sex workers’ clothes, blankets, cosmetics and condoms.

The barely-lit passageway meanders along, intersected by many other dank corridors, and arrives at a trap door, which swings open to reveal another secret space, rarely seen by clients or outsiders.

“They are actually meant to deceive and hide,” one sex worker said quietly. “A person can get lost and then simply disappear.”

Trafficked young girls are being “broken into prostitution” – and hidden from the law – behind a maze of passages and secret cells in crumbling brothels across New Delhi and other major cities, campaigners say.

Of an estimated 20 million commercial prostitutes in India, 16 million women and girls are victims of sex trafficking, according to campaigners.

Thousands of children, largely from poor families, are lured or abducted by traffickers every year, and sold on to pimps and brothels who force them into sexual slavery.

“These tehkhanas (hidden cells) harbour minors and have also become an escape route for them when there are raids,” said Swati Jai Hind, head of the Delhi Commission for Women, which has rescued 57 girls this year.

“We get specific tip-offs about children being brought here but when we come for rescue, we sometimes find no girls – they vanish.”

The government has introduced a number of measures to combat sex trafficking – from strengthening laws to boosting social welfare schemes.

But reports of young girls being sold for sex and hidden in labyrinths are rising, campaigners say.

“There are increasing cases where girls are describing life inside these dark and dirty places,” said Rishi Kant of the anti-slavery charity Shakti Vahini.

“We were part of a rescue where a seemingly regular cupboard led to a hidden passage from where girls were found. Urgent action is needed.”

HIDDEN IN BUNKERS

When policeman Prabir Kumar Ball started investigating a missing persons complaint in West Bengal this year, he thought it was a routine case.

But the search for a teenage girl led him to the brothels of New Delhi and Agra, a popular tourist destination some 200 km (124 miles) south of the capital and home to Taj Mahal.

“The brothels in Agra had bunkers, just like the ones found along international borders,” he said.

“We had to break into them to rescue the girl. We found six others hidden in these bunkers. Rescuing them was like going to war,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ball said the traffickers take girls from West Bengal to Delhi safe houses, then sell them on to brothels in other towns.

The arrest of a couple from Delhi in November dismantled one of the region’s biggest trafficking networks and gave “a rare insight into how bunkers and tunnels are used to hide young girls when police raids happen”, he said.

Many trafficked young girls end up on the congested streets of New Delhi’s largest red light district, known as GB Road.

Dimly lit staircases, next to ground floor hardware stores, lead up to hundreds of multi-storied brothels. Pimps haggle with customers, older women solicit and younger ones watch quietly.

As exchanges are agreed, customers enter the brothels. They are led to small, windowless rooms and the doors are closed.

“Nothing in this place has changed since I was brought here 20 years ago,” a sex worker said as she applied make-up and got ready for clients.

“It was a dirty place when I came and still is. The maze of rooms, the way deals are struck and the plight of the women stuck here is frozen in time.”

More and more survivor testimonies are providing evidence about brothel layouts and the extent of exploitation in them, spurring many agencies to push for their closure.

West Bengal’s child welfare committee ordered the police in May to demolish “hidden places” in GB Road brothels, after listening to the testimony of a rescued girl.

The Delhi Commission for Women has also written to the police and civic authorities, demanding they identify and seal the cells and passages.

“No action has been taken,” said Hind.

“We are working on a database of people who own these brothels and are determined to see they are shut down.”

Young woman and toddler daughter sold for Rs 2 lakh, two people arrested

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A 28-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter were allegedly sold in a human trafficking racket which originated from a flower shop near a Bhopal temple, discovered the police.

While the woman was sold for Rs 1.5 lakh to a 55-year-old widower farmer Sumer Gurjar in the dense forests of Malawar, her daughter was sold for Rs 50,000 to a beggar Gangaram (35) in the neighbouring Vidisha district, said the police.

The flower seller was allegedly paid an advance of Rs 10,000 by Gurjar and the remaining Rs 40,000 was to be paid in ten monthly instalments of Rs 4,000 each, claimed the police.

After being trafficked, the woman was imprisoned by Gurjar in a room, where he allegedly routinely raped her and forced her to work as labourer in agricultural fields under watchful eyes of armed guards.

The woman is a native of Khandwa district (280 km from Bhopal) and had been living with her daughter and maternal aunt in the Mother India Colony since being divorced by her husband four years ago. She used to earn a living working as daily wage labourer and also used to beg at railway stations, places of worship and traffic signals.

The incident came to light when the woman’s sister recently reported to Shahjahanabad police that her sister and toddler niece had been missing since August 2017. The subsequent probe led the police to flower seller Ranjit, who upon thorough interrogation allegedly confessed knowing the woman through a friend.

Additional SP (ASP-Bhopal Zone) Rajesh Bhadouria told the New Indian Express, “Two of the five accused include Ranjit, who runs a flower shop near the Kali Temple in Bhopal’s Talaiya area and the beggar Gangaram to whom the toddler girl was sold. It’s also suspected that Gangaram’s live-in partner in Vidisha district could have been trafficked from Rajasthan.

“Entire operation by six teams of city police which included female cops started on Thursday and spanned over 72 hours. Three remaining accused, including rich farmer Sumer Gurjar and his father and the middleman in Bhopal identified as Shanu are yet to be arrested,” he added.

The accused, including the arrested duo, have been booked under IPC Sections 363A (kidnapping or maiming a minor for begging), 366 (kidnapping or inducing a woman to compel marriage, etc), 376 (rape) and 370 (human trafficking).

According to the Crime in India 2016, a report released by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), a total of 51 cases of human trafficking were reported in MP during 2016. A total 120 persons (66 males and 54 females) were trafficked, out of which 97 were aged below 18 years (62 males and 32 females) and 23 aged above 18 years (4 males and 19 females). Also, total 4817 victims (1595 males and 3222 females) were rescued from traffickers.

India’s first anti-trafficking bill likely to get cabinet nod soon

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In a first, the draft bill piloted by the Union women and child development ministry treats a trafficked person who gets into prostitution as a victim rather than offender.
The draft bill also recommends the creation of an anti-trafficking fund and new identities for victims.

The draft bill also recommends the creation of an anti-trafficking fund and new identities for victims.(Getty Images/Vetta)

The Union cabinet could soon consider and approve the country’s first anti-human-trafficking law, according to a senior government official familiar with the matter.

The law, two years in the making, proposes punishment of up to 14 years for traffickers, measures to rehabilitate victims, and the mandatory registration of placement agencies that recruit and place domestic helps, said the official who asked not to be identified.

In a first, the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2017, piloted by the Union women and child development (WCD) ministry, treats a trafficked person who gets into prostitution as a victim rather than offender.

In the existing law, there is no distinction between the trafficked person and the trafficker. Both are treated as criminals, punishable with jail terms of up to seven years.

The draft bill also recommends the creation of an anti-trafficking fund and new identities for victims.

Around 8,100 cases of trafficking were recorded in India in 2016, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The data show around 23,000 victims of trafficking were rescued that year.

Experts say that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with the actual numbers of people trafficked being much higher.

The proposed bill was held up over objections of the Union home ministry to a separate law on trafficking. The ministry wanted to amend the existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code to address trafficking cases.

However, the home ministry finally conceded to a separate law after the WCD ministry agreed to its demand to allow investigating agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate trafficking cases.

In an earlier version of the draft, the WCD ministry had proposed the creation of a new agency to handle trafficking cases. The home ministry argued against this on the grounds that existing agencies are well equipped to handle such cases, which often involve money laundering and are sometimes related to terrorism.

“The WCD ministry has agreed to our proposal to allow existing agencies to probe trafficking cases. We are fine with a separate law,” said a senior home ministry official who didn’t wish to be named.

The draft law also makes giving hormones and drugs to trafficked young girls to accelerate sexual maturity and forcing them into prostitution a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

It also proposes to make registration of placement agencies that recruit and place domestic helps mandatory. Failure to register with the state authorities will invite a fine of Rs 50,000.

Currently, there is no single law dealing with human trafficking and the crime is covered under different acts administered by at least half-a-dozen ministries, including WCD, home, labour, health, Indian overseas affairs and external affairs. More often than not, this results in lax enforcement.

Man, wife arrested for trying to sell 16-year-old at GB Road

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PUBLISHED IN INDIAN EXPRESS

Mohammad Kalam (25), a resident of Lucknow, would randomly dial phone numbers — and usually find elderly men or children on the receiving side. In October, he dialed a number and a young girl in Kanpur picked up. Over the next two months, Kalam befriended the 16-year-old. They would make video calls and even though Kalam was married, he managed to lure the girl to Lucknow on the pretext of marriage. When she came to meet him, he and his wife allegedly confined her to a room.

Kalam, an alleged sex trafficker, first tried to ‘sell’ the girl in Lucknow and Mumbai. He then came to Delhi to ‘sell’ her at GB Road. On Thursday, police arrested Kalam while he was walking around the area, allegedly looking for a customer.

“A policeman in plainclothes found that he was trying to ‘sell’ a minor. He bargained with the accused before ‘settling’ at Rs 2,20,000 as the final price. He also managed to identify the minor through a photograph. He then asked Kalam to meet him at a decided location, from where he was arrested by a police team,” an officer said.

His wife, Shaheen alias Muskaan, was arrested from a rented house near Jama Masjid. Police also rescued the girl from the house. During questioning, Kalam said he told the girl he would marry her, and asked her to meet him. When she found that he was already married, he told her he would marry her as well and keep her happy. “She stayed with the couple for a month in a room in Lucknow,” a police officer said.

Police said the accused tried to employ her as a prostitute at a highway in Uttar Pradesh and at a dance bar in Lucknow. The girl refused, following which he decided to sell her at GB Road, police said .

On contacting her family, police found that her relatives had registered a missing person complaint at the local police station, which was later converted into a kidnapping case. “The girl will be produced before the Child Welfare Commission, where her statement will be recorded. Her parents are on their way to meet her,” the officer said.

Foreigners arrested for sex racket in Gurugram

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Gurugram, Dec 10 – Haryana Police on Sunday said they have arrested six women, including two foreigners, and a man for operating a sex racket from a spa here.

After a tip, the police on Saturday night raided the Auwa Thai spa centre in the Central Plaza Mall on Golf Course Road in Sector 53. The accused, including a woman from Thailand and another from Kenya, were booked under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act and sent to judicial custody for 14 days, police officer Ravinder Kumar told IANS.

Similar rackets have been busted in Gurugram earlier. On June 29, the police busted sex rackets operated in shopping malls and arrested 10 women aged between 20 and 25 and a man.

In January, 14 women and four men were arrested on similar charges from DLF 2 area and another shopping mall.

Untraceable sex racket: 99% illegal flesh trade go unreported

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PUBLISHED IN THE AFTERNOON VOICE

Almost every one of us receiving SMS texts, email, and sometimes even on WhatsApp messengers about the online sex advertisement with lucrative offers and girls picture. Most of us ignore or delete these messages though the message carrying every required detail of the senders without making any initiative for police complaint.

Prashant Ghatge from Dombivli, a latest victim of the racket explained how he was trapped in this web. Ghatge, a divorcee, whose marriage was not last for six months, said “Online prostitution racket is a flourishing business, and dating sites are another curse over it. These websites display obscene pictures with information for female escorts. Mobile numbers and email addresses were also displayed on the site for striking a deal with customers, and that too attract me also.”

Loneliness was haunting him and he went in depression, those days he approached a dating site with an intention to have likeminded friend or partner. “I registered myself for premium membership but later on I realized that I was dragged into sex racket. Whoever friend (the girl) who approached me ask for one night stand on the first dating only, along with shopping, gifts and perks. This becomes almost an addiction. One after another girl comes in your way and you get emptied at the end,” he said.

Ghatge further explained that, here everything is happening with a high confidentiality. “Going with a girl for fun is social stigma even today in our society, and no girl or boy approach police after the worst experiences also.”

Prashant further stated that, even girls at times go through worst, because they fail to recognise the one whom she is dating is first or second time. Many girls get addicted to these gifts and perks they receive and become soft target of such sites. Especially in metro cities, girls stay alone and they are bachelors for late 20s or early 30s because of jobs compulsion and they becomes vulnerable target for such things.

Recently Cyber Crime Cell of Mumbai Police has arrested five persons for duping over 2,000 people to the tune of lakhs of rupees through an online sex platform. The accused used to operate a call centre from Masjid Bunder in South Mumbai. Explaining the modus operandi of the accused, police said the customers had the facility to log in on three different websites.

“After registering on one of these websites and paying Rs. 999, one could connect with a person of the opposite sex, like a friendship club. The payments were being made through PayTm in the account number mentioned on the website, the registration fees paid by the customer used to get transferred into the bank account of a jeweller from the same area. The customers later used to realise that they have been duped,” police said.

Hacker and cyber security person Rakesh Sharma said, “Online dating clubs can be an excellent way to unite singles in a purposeful environment. The predominant advantage of many dating clubs is the ability to meet a wide pool of singles in an immediate face-to-face setting, though some clubs employ online measures as well”.

“Though, every site or club is not thug or involve in prostitution rackets. Nowadays, people are educated and ambitious, due to their career needs and they prefer to be singles and they find like-minded people on these sites. Rest is individual’s choice as they are adults to go with them or not,” added Sharma.

However, after the registration, the customer used to contact a specific number, displayed on the website, but could not get response despite repeated calls. The police had recently received complaints from men who had paid to become members of the online friendship clubs, but were not introduced to any women.

“Mobile phone frauds have become a common occurrence, but of late, another serious offence related to misuse of mobile phone numbers is being reported. Mobile phone recharge shops have been reportedly taking advantage of innocent girls who approach them for recharge coupons and give their numbers. The employees/owners of the shop or their friends call the girls on their numbers, develop friendships and later misuse them. In many cases, girls fall prey to the mischief mongers, and it has been reported that boys take maximum advantage of this, ending up ruining the girls’ lives. One of such incidence recently reported in Kundapur, but I am sure this might be happening everywhere,” said Mahesh Palande, a social worker.