Man held for human trafficking

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BIRATNAGAR: Locals of Hasandaha from Morang district today held a man on charges of involvement in human trafficking and handed him over to the police.

Police arrested Prakash Chhetri of Jalwaigudi of India on charges of luring Laxmi Chaudhari (17) and Ramila Shrestha (17) of Hasandaha to India and selling them.

According to the police, Chhetri had taken the teenagers girl to India a month ago promising them of lucrative jobs. Though Ramila was rescued immediately; the whereabouts of Laxmi is still unknown.

Meanwhile Hridayawati, Laxmi’s mother, said Chhetri had taken her daughter to India with the help of his sister-in-law Nirmala Chhetri whose maternal home is in Hasandaha-7, Morang. Police said that Nirmala is in India now. The locals had trapped Prakash when he had come to visit his relative Dipak Thapa in Hasandaha.

Chhetri denied of his involvement in selling the girls. However, Police Inspector Keshav Bhattarai, Area Police Office Pathari, said that Chhetri has admitted taking the girls to Chandigarh, India, after taking Rs 24,000 Indian rupees.


Lady death abroad reveals home truth

Fake passport holds up body in Saudi Arabia

Darjeeling, Nov. 21: The death of a young Panthabari woman in Saudi Arabia has brought to fore the existence of a racket that sends people from the Darjeeling hills to Arab countries on fake Nepali passports.

Anu Darzi, a mother of three in her late twenties, had died in the oil-rich Kingdom eight months ago. But her body couldn’t be brought home as she had gone to Saudi Arabia on a fake Nepali passport.

In Saudi Arabia, Darzi was known by the name Ratna Kumari Chand, a resident of Dailekh in Nepal. “She was sent to Saudi Arabia on a Nepal passport. The photograph on the passport was hers, but the name and the address were those of Ratna Kumari Chand. There is a spurt in the use of fake passports by agents who send people abroad,” said Rangu Shouria, the chairperson of the Siliguri-based Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra.

Shouria was speaking at a seminar on human trafficking here on Friday. The conference was organised by Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG) and the Goa-based Anyay Rahit Zindagi.

“Darzi was from Panthabari near Mirik. Her husband Bijay Mazumdar, who breaks stone on the riverbed in the Tarabari-Panthabari belt, was told in March this year by an unknown person that his wife had died in Saudi Arabia. However, we have not been able to get her body till date. We got to hear that she had probably been murdered on the night of February 28,” said Milan Chhetri with the Kendra.

The Siliguri-based organisation has not been able to help much as officially Darzi was not an Indian citizen in the eyes of the Saudi officials.

“We even went to Nepal and with the help of an NGO, Maiti Nepal, met government officials there. The problem lies in the fact that one Ratna Kumari Chand is alive in Dailekh. Her husband Bhim Bahadur Chand is also alive. Darzi’s husband had been mentioned as Bhim Bahadur Chand in the passport. For obvious reasons, the Saudi authorities wouldn’t send the body to India,” said Chhetri.

Darzi’s family in India hasn’t been able to do much. “The husband has lodged an FIR with Darjeeling police but Darzi’s agent Vikram Rai, who stays at Panitanki (a border town along the Indo-Nepal border near Kakarivitta ) is untraceable,” said Chhetri.

The Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra simply hopes that Darzi’s body will be handed over to her family members.

The incident has highlighted how the use of fake Nepalese passport is rampant. “Actually, a group of around 12 people had gone abroad using fake passports. One of them managed to come back seven days ago but the rest are still untraceable,” said Shouria.

People in the hills are assured of a passport and visa free of cost by the agents. The people who dream of a decent living in the Arab countries are also given anything between Rs10,000 and Rs 20,000 before they fly abroad from Nepal.

“The victims are told that the amount would be deducted from their salaries once they get jobs abroad. They do not get any help if they land in trouble, as the passports are bogus. People must stop thinking that just because someone managed to go and return home using such passports, everything is fine,” said Shouria.

Nirnay John Chhetri of MARG said a lot of people from the hills were being trafficked. “Since there is only one rehabilitation home for the three districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar in Cooch Behar, we are facing a lot of problems in arranging accommodation for the rescued people.”

The case was handed over to the CID on August 25, an officer of the Mirik police station said. Ratnakumari Chand was the name mentioned in the FIR. Darjeeling police superintendent, Anant Kumar, said the police had come across such cases. “We have sent a report to the CID on fake passport rackets and also on this particular case. We are keeping a watch on the situation,” Kumar said.


60-wife trafficker arrested

Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal, India

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Youth sold girls to brothels – THE TELEGRAPH , NORTH BENGAL

Darjeeling, Nov. 25 , 2010 : A 27-year-old with multiple identities who managed to marry almost one girl a month for five years and sell them to brothels in Pune and Mumbai has been arrested by Darjeeling police.

The arrest of Bikky Biswakarma alias Bishal Chhetri alias Prakash Rai from his Kalchini residence in Jalpaiguri district yesterday has helped police trace at least nine girls so far. The police believe they will be able to find the whereabouts of another “seven to eight” girls. Social workers think the arrest could help track down around 60 victims.

Darjeeling police chief D.P. Singh said: “The modus operandi was simple. He would propose young girls especially from tea gardens and remote areas, marry them and then sell them off to brothels in Pune and Mumbai. Since many of the victims were poor and uneducated, hardly anybody filed complaints.”

The police chief said each girl would be sold for anything between Rs 70,000 and Rs 1 lakh. “Biswakarma was a smart operator. He used to change his locations frequently. We have found that he had bases in Bidhannagar and Bagdogra (in Siliguri subdivision), Kurseong and Darjeeling,” said Singh.

The police started working on Biswakarma’s trail after complaints from Mirik and Panighata in Kurseong subdivision and, more recently, from a family at Singtom tea garden in Darjeeling.

The Darjeeling girl has been rescued from Pune. Biswakarma used to pose either as a contractor or an army man. “In most cases, he pretended to be an army man who had come home on holiday and wanted to get married before returning to his post. We believe he was the kingpin of the racket and had women accomplices who introduced themselves as his relatives to the girls’ families,” said Prabhat Pathak, the coordinator of Siliguri-based Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra, an NGO which works for the rescue of trafficked women.

Pathak cited an instance when a victim from Sonada in Kurseong was lured into marriage within seven days of her acquaintance with Biswakarma.

Kanchenjungha Kendra had been trying to track him down for sometime. “I even managed to speak to him once on his cellphone. He sounded extremely polite and was confident and convincing,” said Pathak.

Biswakarma mostly used the SIM cards of the victims to trap his next prey. “This year alone we rescued around six-seven girls from Pune. They were all directly sold by the kingpin. He used to take the girls either to Calcutta or Patna before boarding the train,” said Pathak. “On the way to Pune, he used to tell the girls that he has a relative in Pune and used to make the brothel owners speak to the victims to convince them that there was no foul play.” On reaching the destination, Biswakarma would disappear.

Both the police and social workers believe that the gang used to randomly call up cellphone numbers. He would strike up a conversation and pick on his potential victim, said Pathak.

Biswakarma’s arrest and the subsequent findings have busted the myth that trafficking usually takes place in closed tea gardens of the Dooars. “Our centre has the names of 60 missing girls, of whom 30 per cent are from the hills,” said Pathak.

A police officer said it was difficult to crack the case as the complaints were far between and the families did not realise that the girls had been trafficked. “They had seen the groom and approved the marriage. They did not find anything fishy.”

Singh said the police have got the names of a few people who might be Biswakarma’s accomplices.

Biswakarma was today produced in the court of the subdivisional judicial magistrate in Kurseong which approved an identification parade requested by the police. The families of the victims in Kurseong will have to identify the accused during the parade. “After this, we will seek a remand,” said Singh.