SHAKTI VAHINI – ANTI TRAFFICKING PROJECT
Unsafe migration leads to Trafficking. Presently India has a large movement of rural people going to the urban areas. In this stream of migration many children and women are being trafficked for forced labour , child labour , forced marriages, sexual exploitation , bonded labour etc. Many cases of missing children and women have been reported who have subsequently been trafficked. In recent times men, women and children are made false promises of good jobs in the urban areas and made to work in illegal activities.
Thousands of illegal placement agencies flourish in cities like Delhi where there is a high demand of live-in maids who can work even at odd hours according to the schedule of the employers. The employers are also specifically looking for younger children because ‘they are cheaper’, complain less and can be exploited. Apart from this there are those source regions struck by poverty, natural calamities, lack of employment, education where parents are willing to let go off their children in the hope that their child will live a better life in the city and send back some money so that those back home can enjoy two meals a day, but instead what the children go through in these cities is nothing less than hell.
There is also a lot of reporting on the sex abuse of maids. Many cases off such exploitation has been reported. The maids work from dawn till midnight, do all household chores, they are deprived of food, clean clothes, basic sanitation, and what they get is physical, sexual and mental abuse with most or all wages going to the agents operating the placement agencies. The employers don’t think twice before giving their wages to these middlemen who never send back the money home nor do they intimate the families of these maids about the whereabouts of the maids.
Recently, there has definitely a growth in the number of cases that have come to light. This has been possible as there is an increased partnership between NGOs and Police. With awareness and sensitization programmes being conducted and also with increased media space being provided to such issues there has been an increased public participation in providing information about such violence to NGOs and Police.
With setting up of Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) there is more exchange of information between source area law enforcement and destination NGOs leading to several joint investigations. The government scheme on setting up Anti Human Trafficking Units has focused on all forms of trafficking. It envisages training law enforcement officials, sensitizing them, rescues and also post rescue initiatives for rehabilitation. It stresses on NGO involvement at every step of a case intervention. The police today are much more aware of the organized gangs involved in trafficking for not only commercial sexual exploitation but also labour and more specifically domestic labour through placement agencies.
Media has been playing a lead role in highlighting the issue. Creating pressure on the government to take action, it has kept the police on its toes. This has led to increased debate on such issues among the general population.
The government has also playing its part. India recently ratified United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime of which the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children is a part.
Recent Cases – 2012
The recent rescue of a 13 years old domestic help from the house of a doctor couple reflects how inhuman an educated employer can be. The Doctor couple had gone to Bangkok after locking up the girl in their second-floor house six days before. The girl was left without food and had been starving for three days. The couple was not paying her any wage and didn’t allow her to leave the house. The girl is from Jharkhand and was brought to Delhi and sold to a placement agency and later sent to the couple’s house to work as a maid. When the couple came to know about the rescue and a case had been registered against them they postponed their return to India from Thailand. In the mean time the police issued lookout circular for the couple. The couple also moved an anticipatory bail application before the court which was strongly opposed by Shakti Vahini. Later the couple was arrested by the police and were in police remand for five days. After that the couple was sent to the judicial custody by the honourable court. Shakti Vahini has been providing legal aid to the victim. The couple is out on bail after staying in Jail for Five days .
In yet another worst case of exploitation of domestic help of a 14-year-girl was raped and sodomised by her employer for two years before she was rescued from her employer’s house by the joint intervention of Police and Childline. After the accused raped her the first time, he threatened the girl with murder if she told on him.
In another case an 11-year-old domestic help was rescued from Greater Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, after neighbours said she was being tortured and kept hungry.Police found her with bruises all over her body. Her employers – a golf instructor and an artist – were charged under the Juvenile Justice Act.
In a joint operation by Assam Police, Delhi Police, Crime Branch, Shakti Vahini and Childline 22 minor girls were rescued from different places of National Capital Region. All the girls were trafficked on the pretext of job by one illegally running placement agency under the banner of N. K. Enterprize in Shakurpur area. The placement agency allegedly runs by one Home Singh Pandey. During the time of rescue the girls were found locked outside in the N. K. Enterprise premise in Shakurpur. These girls were brought by the source traffickers and sold to the said Home Singh Pandey. Police arrested Home Singh Pandey and his three associates under FIR no. 14/2012 at Mushalpur Police Station, Dist. Baska, Assam u/s 420/372/366A of IPC. All the accused were produced before the court of Sh. Sumedh Kumar Sethi, Metropolitan Magistrate, Rohini Court on March 15, 2012. The court has granted transit remand and also directed to be produced before the CJM/MM/DMM concerned. As said by the police the Home Singh Pandey came in contact with one Assamese girl as a part of his job in Delhi and married her. With the help of his wife Rupa, in a very organized manner he started bringing girls from Assam with the involvement of the source traffickers. Home Singh Pandey started buying girls from the source traffickers by Rs.5000 each. He then gradually started the Placement Agency in the name of N. K. Enterprise. He along with his associates started employing girls for domestic help by taking Rs.15000 -20000 as security money and every month he used to take salary on the girls’ behalf as Rs.1500-2000. Home Singh Pandey allegedly kidnapped 60 girls from Assam and employed them as domestic helper in Delhi. Police is investigating the matter. Of the 20 girls who were rescued, 8 were from Assam, 7 were from West Bengal and 5 from Jharkhand.
In another case in which the Crime Branch, AHTU, Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini conducted multiple raids following an order issued by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a bench of Magistrate and targeted the premises of the placement agency in Chirag Delhi and houses where maids were believed to have been supplied. Six girls including two from the houses of their employers and four from the premises of the LG placement agency were rescued on April 4, 2012. The girls had allegedly not been paid by their employers. Most of the girls were trafficked from villages in West Bengal and the agencies allegedly run by two persons named Laxman and Rahu. Police arrested Laxman and sent him to the Judicial Custody as per the order of the honourable court.
Among the series of cases of the recent past, a 20 year old woman working as domestic help in the capital was beaten up by her employer and sustained a neck fracture. The woman hailing from Jharkhand was beaten up and forced to do menial jobs by her employer. She was rescued on April 15, 2012 by the police. The victim said that on April 13 she was asked to wash a huge bundle of cloths and when she refused as she was not feeling well, she was beaten up by a bat used to wash cloths. During her service she was suffering from throat infection and though she informed her employer about this, no medical attention was given to her.
Another incident of girl trafficking for maid has come into light in the capital with the recovery of a teenaged, a native of Jharkhand on April 14. The 18 years old girl was found in a doctor’s clinic where she was allegedly brought for abortion purpose. A well wisher called Shakti Vahini NGO and with the help of the police the case was intervened. During the counselling the girl said that one Rajesh who allegedly raped her in the placement agency premise at Aligaon. After the rape the girl was placed as a domestic help in a house in Gurgaon, where she worked for two months. After two months she came to the agency in a break where she told Rajkumar, the alleged co-owner of the agency about the rape because she had skipped her menstrual cycle but he asked her to keep quiet. Then she was sent to Faridabad for work where also she worked for two months. Her employer was going out of town so she requested Rajkumar to bring her to the agency for a few days. As there was no one at the agency office in Aligaon, Rajkimar brought her to one Pancham’s placement agency in Chirag Delhi. During this time she was allegedly given some pills after which she started bleeding profusely as said by Dr. Advani. The girl came to Delhi about 6 months back with a Kunti Devi from her village. Kunti Devi promised her a job in Delhi. On coming to Delhi Kunti took Manmeet to a placement agency in Aligaon operated by one Rajesh (Kunti Devi’s husband) and Rajkumar. First she was placed for work in a house in Dwarka where she worked for about two months and came to the placement agency for a 4 day holiday. During this time when everyone was sleeping, Rajesh woke her up and pulled her to another room and raped her. A case was registered in the Sarita Vihar Police Station u/s 376/312/313/201 IPC. The FIR no. is 116/12 and the accused Rajkumar was arrested.
Earlier Cases of placement Agencies involved in Organised trafficking rackets
In a major breakthrough in the drive against human trafficking, Delhi Police have apprehended one of the kingpins of the racket, Munna Chaudhary, who is the owner of a placement agency. At least nine minor girls have been rescued. An Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Crime Branch under ACP MS Bisht and overall Addl DCP (Crime), PS Kushwah on July 13, based on inputs from Assam Police and accompanied by a team of Shakti Vahini – NGO, raided the premises of Rajdhani Placement Agency at Rajouri Garden, Delhi. Munna Chaudhary (41) owner of the Rajdhani Placement Agency was arrested and subjected to intensive interrogation. He disclosed that he has been running the placement agency for the last six years. He procures minor girls through brokers and agents from rural areas of Assam and after being brought to Delhi, they are employed as domestic help. The minor girls had no knowledge about their salary and they had no contact with their parents after coming to Delhi. All the girls expressed their willingness to go back to their parents. Investigations revealed that brokers and agents of the placement agency indulged in trafficking of minor children from Assam and West Bengal and brought them to Delhi. These brokers and agents contacted poor parents of the children and won their confidence and then lured them by promising a better future for their child and money to them in the form of salary. After being brought to Delhi the minors were handed over to the placement agency. The agents were paid Rs.12, 000 per girl, as commission by the placement agency. The placement agency charged Rs.20, 000 to 25,000 from the employer for providing the girls as domestic help. Thereafter they also collected the salary of the child but it hardly reached the parents.
The Bengal CID team following a habeas corpus visited Delhi looking for one Sarathi Mondal D/O Deshbandhu Mondal, R/O Sandeshkhali on an FIR no. 157 dated 18.06.2010 u/s 363/363A/368/370/34. The West Bengal CID Team contacted Shakti Vahini for assisting them in raid and rescue. Shakti Vahini contacted the Crime Branch Delhi Police. The Additional DCP Crime, P.S. Kushwaha directed the district AHTU to coordinate and help in raid and rescue. In the case, there was one Sushma Mistry and a Rajesh involved in keeping the girls in confinement, sexually assaulting them and forcing them to work as domestic help. There was a man called Nimai Sardar who runs Alo Placement Agency who helped with bringing the minor girls to Delhi and putting them for work in people’s houses. According to the Bengal Police Sushma was to be staying in Ghaziabad in the office of the placement agency and Rajesh was living with her there with the other girls. The team had brought with them Saraswati Mondal who was rescued after Babu Mistry’s arrest back in Hingalganj P.S. She was brought to identify the accused and help rescue the victim from the identified locations. The next day the residence and office of Nimai Sardar were raided in RZ A-413, Jai Vihar, Najafgarh are. He lived in a three storey building from where 5 girls were rescued. After the raid at the office which was locked the residence of Rajesh was also raided. Rajesh was seen around his residence the previous day but on that day no whereabouts of the man could not be found. Also, at his residence there was no further clue found about his whereabouts and his wife and elder brother did not cooperate much. The next day the residence and office of Nimai Sardar were raided in RZ A-413, Jai Vihar, Najafgarh are. He lived in a three storey building from where 5 girls were rescued.
The Way Forward
Though cases are registered many end up in acquittals as the victim is represented by the state through the Public Prosecutor. Shakti Vahini has since the last two years representing and assisting the Public Prosecutors in almost all the cases many of them are in advanced stages of Trial.
In the recent cases bail applications of the accused have been very strongly opposed by the organization leading to sending of the accused to jails.
Though there is increased focus of the law enforcement agencies through the AHTU Police at the Police Station level still lack the basic skills of identifying a trafficking case which many times hamper in the investigations.
Though the government of India prohibited child labour for domestic work on 10 October 2006 the implementation has also been very slow. With most of the offence being bailable their is no fear of the law in the minds of the people and hence the general opinion is that they get away with such extreme human rights and constitutional rights violation.