Jharkhand Govt mulls ordinance route for stringent anti-trafficking law

PUBLISHED IN HINDUSTAN TIMES RANCHI

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Jharkhand government is mulling to bring an ordinance to promulgate Jharkhand Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act, which could not be placed in the budget session of the state assembly, as it was curtailed by eight days.

The Act is aimed at effectively countering the menace of human trafficking from Jharkhand, which as per NGOs working in the field see 10,000 girls—mostly minors—trafficked to Delhi and NCR region every year through placement agencies. They eventually end up as domestic servants—tortured and sexually abused in captivity in many cases.

“The draft bill for Jharkhand Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act was ready with all the modifications sought by the governor. But it could not be placed and passed as the assembly session ended before. I will meet chief minister (CM) Raghubar Das in a day or two and request him to bring an ordinance to promulgate the Act to effectively counter the menace of girl and child trafficking and child labour,” Raj Paliwar, state labour minister told the HT over phone.

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Governor Droupadi Murmu had returned the draft bill earlier seeking more stringent provisions. “The earlier draft had penal provision of two-year jail and the governor wanted it to be more stringent. Now, penal provisions have been modified making it seven-year jail term on conviction,” a source said.

Paliwar though refused to get into details of the bill, but said all the modifications sought and suggestion given by the governor have now been accommodated in the draft of the said Act.

“The Act is the need of the hour and our government wants it enacted at the earliest. We have made stringent provisions and hope this will give police and antitrafficking agencies an effective tool to rein in traffickers and illegal placement agencies. We will also launch mass awareness drive,” the minister added.

West Singhbhum superintendent of police (SP) Anish Gupta said a strong law was needed to deal with the fake and illegal placement agencies along with awareness drive so that parents don’t get trapped and send their girls on promise of lucrative jobs.

“Parents need to lodge complaint and a strong law will help in speedy prosecution, effective trial and stringent punishment as a deterrent. There’s also sexual exploitation angle involved and we are imposing POCSO in such cases. We have identified certain placement agencies and traffickers and would launch crackdown against them soon,” Gupta said.

Gupta was the Khunti SP when the massive crackdown against child and girl traffickers was launched in Khunti, with antitrafficking unit in-charge Aradhana Singh alone nabbing 85 traffickers and rescuing about 230 trafficked girls between 2015 and 2017.

However, half of those 85 traffickers are already out on bail even though they were booked under non-bailable sections. “In most cases, the parents of the victims turned hostile with the traffickers and their associates threatening them or paying them money to shut up mouth. There’s no effective law to tackle the placement agencies either,” Aradhana Singh said.

Rishi Kant, founder coordinator of NGO Shakti Vahini, said Jharkhand Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act would be a very effective tool to fight the menace run by about 25,000-30,000 placement agencies in Delhi and NCR, as Delhi government has no

placement agencies Act to regulate and monitor them.

“We alone have rescued over 200 trafficked girls from Jharkhand in Delhi and NCR. About 30-40 girls and underage boys are trafficked from Jharkhand every day. And Delhi police are invariably reluctant to act against these

agencies, traffickers or the families hiring the girls. CM Raghubar Das in 2014 had announced to bring back 50,000 trafficked Jharkhand girls back to the state and rehabilitate them. It’s now for bureaucrats and police to take the initiative,” said Rishi Kant.

HTI

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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.”

Crimes against women at alarming levels in Bengal

19216.otherhorror1PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on crimes against women, including trafficking in West Bengal, have shown alarming highs.

What happened?

The NCRB report for 2016, which was released on November 30, 2017, recorded 283 incidents and 307 victims under Section 326A (acid attack) and Section 326B (attempt to carry out an acid attack) in the country. Of these, West Bengal recorded 76 incidents of such attacks and about 83 victims, accounting for 26% of all incidents and 27% of victims. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country with almost double the population of West Bengal, recorded 57 incidents and 61 victims.

Why can’t it be controlled?

Despite guidelines from the Supreme Court on regulating the sale of acid, there is little monitoring on the ground in West Bengal. While the guidelines ban over-the-counter sale of acid without identity proof, no restrictions have been imposed in rural and semi-urban areas where most of the attacks take place. The easy availability of the corrosive substance has resulted in high incidence of acid attacks in the State, according to the police.

What about other crimes?

Acid attacks are not the only crime directed at women in Bengal. One of the highest contributors of crime against women are cases registered under Section 498A of the IPC (cruelty by husband or his relatives). During 2016, 1,10,434 cases were registered across the country, of which West Bengal recorded 19,305 cases (over 17% of the total cases in the country).

When it comes to human trafficking, West Bengal is not only the highest contributor to the crime but it alone accounts for 44% of all cases nationally. Of the 8,132 cases of human trafficking reported in 2016, West Bengal accounted for 3,579 cases. In terms of missing children, which is related to human trafficking, the State recorded 8,335 cases of children gone missing in 2016. As the State shares a border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, it has become a transit route in human trafficking. The distress-ridden tea gardens of north Bengal, the remote islands of Sunderbans and the districts of Malda and Murshidabad with poor human development indicators and high density of population serve as ideal source point for traffickers luring young girls on the pretext of jobs or marriage to other States. Some experts say that the number of cases of human trafficking are high as the police are proactive in registering cases of human trafficking and missing children. One of the aims of the Kanyashree Prakalpa launched by the West Bengal government was to curb trafficking by providing conditional cash transfer to school-going girls but the numbers clarify that a lot more needs to be done.

Who is to blame?

West Bengal has been recording a high crime rate against women over the past several years. In 2016, West Bengal ranked second with 32,513 cases of crime against women, contributing 9.6% to all such crimes in the country. Uttar Pradesh with over 17% of the female population of the country — Bengal has 7.5% — accounted for 14.5% of all crimes against women. But despite the high levels of crimes against women, it has failed to garner adequate attention from the authorities. The State government has not taken note of the numbers, and the Opposition too has not raised the issue.

Statutory bodies such as the West Bengal Women’s Commission and the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights have failed to put any system in place by which crimes against women and child trafficking can be arrested. According to non-governmental organisations working in the field, the commissions need to improve victims’ access to legal services and put in place concrete steps that can act as a safety net for women and children. The overall conviction rate for crime against women in India stands at 18.9 %. For West Bengal, the conviction rate is the lowest in the country at 3.3 %.

Rise in number of rescues, arrests as well: Almost half of India’s trafficking victims from West Bengal, reveals NCRB data

A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases

Published in The Indian Express

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Forty-four percent of the nation’s trafficking victims are from West Bengal, according to fresh data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Though the data also showed a rise in the number of rescues and arrests in such cases, experts called for more grassroots intervention by the state government and NGOs.

After West Bengal, Rajasthan is a distant second at 17.49 per cent. A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases.

After Rajasthan (5767) and Madhya Pradesh (4817), Bengal recorded the third highest number of victims rescued by police, at 2,793 (77 per cent). Of those rescued, 2,323 are females whereas 470 are males. The numbers of persons arrested in West Bengal in connection with sex trafficking (1,847) is also the highest in the country. The police were also able to charge a large number of those arrested (1,795). However, in 2016, only 11 were convicted, while 224 were acquitted or discharged by court.

“Somewhere, government and NGOs are failing to identify the vulnerability in villages. We are all to blame for this. (That) West Bengal contributes 44% of the nation’s trafficking victims is alarming. Also is the fact that these are registered cases and just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Bahini, an NGO that works towards rescue and rehabilitation across the country, while speaking to The Indian Express from New Delhi.

“Police seem to be playing a proactive role with a large number of arrests and rescues in 2016. But the district administration and NGOs, which are supposed to reach out to vulnerable families, are not doing their job to a satisfactory level. Bengal remains the hotbed for trafficking,” added Kant.

Experts said poorer sections of society in villages are most vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers have a good network in villages through touts and utilise poverty and lack of jobs as bait to lure victims. According to the NCRB report, sexual exploitation, prostitution and forced marriage remain the main purposes of trafficking.

“It is mainly through marriages and lure of jobs that girls are trafficked out of Bengal. There is a need of a placement agency Act in the state. The Act will enable proper tracking of agencies (many of which operate from outside Bengal) and whoever they have placed for jobs (possible victims). Secondly, more awareness is necessary to prevent child marriages. Early marriages are still a menace in Bengal. A number of initiatives have been taken like Kanyashree in Bengal, which has been beneficial,” said Chittapriyo Sadhu, general manager, state programme (West Bengal and Assam).

“The modus operandi of traffickers has also changed as compared to five years ago. Also is the fact that more cases are reported now by parents of victims,” added Sadhu. “We are trying our best to rescue girls when a case is reported. In many cases, family members do not report it, mostly when victims are lured for jobs. There is a need for NGOs, civil society, panchayats, police and government to come together for prevention of the menace,” said a senior police officer.

Delhi family to pay Rs 2.18 lakh for employing trafficked woman

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Published In Times Of India

RANCHI: Twenty-five-year-old Anjali (name changed) is excited to return home to her family after five years. She was lured to Delhi by a cousin on the pretext of a job five years ago, but things did not turn up as she had expected.

On reaching Delhi, her cousin sister took her to a placement agency, from where she was placed as domestic help in a household in Pashchim Vihar area. Anjali spent over three years with her employee. She was not only confined inside the house but beaten up brutally. She was neither given any proper food nor paid a single rupee for her work.

The girl was finally rescued by Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini in May last year, following which she was kept in a shelter home in Delhi. The police managed to trace her family and now, Jharkhand police has left for the national capital to bring her home.

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It was only recently that Anjali got to know that her mother had passed away three years ago. Talking to TOI over the phone, Anjali said, “I still cannot believe that I am not going to see my mother again. I wish I had never left. However, I am looking forward to meeting my father and my three siblings after such a long time.”

Meanwhile, the girl’s employers were booked under various sections of Indian Penal Code, mostly grievous hurt, unlawful labour and unlawful confinement. The employers were also booked under the Bonded Labour System (abolition) Act, 1976.

The employers told Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) that they hired the girl from Kamat Placement Agency and paid Rs 22,000 for the first year and Rs 20,000 for the second year to the agency. They admitted that they did not pay any wages to the girl.

The commission has directed the employers to pay a total of Rs 2.18 lakh to the girl as compensation. Once the girl arrives at Chaibasa, her bank account will be opened by the district administration in which the compensation amount will be deposited.

NIA likely to investigate human trafficking cases

nia-likely-to-probe-human-trafficking-casesPUBLISHED IN ECONOMIC TIMES

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) could be empowered to investigate cases of human trafficking, in what seems to be a breakthrough in the nearly year-long consultations among various stakeholders, including the home ministry and the ministry of women and child development.

Sources say the additional responsibility for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would be part of the proposed anti-human trafficking law unveiled by Maneka Gandhi last year.

The move will also require amending the law that gave birth to the counter-terrorism agency — the National Investigation Act, 2008.

The Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, proposed setting up a National Bureau on Trafficking in Person for “prevention, investigation of the trafficking of persons cases and protection of the victims of trafficking” — a role which could be performed by the NIA, sources said.

“The ministry of home affairs (MHA) wanted NIA to investigate trafficking and we have agreed to that. MHA has also given its approval for the draft Bill. After we get a green flag from Prime Minister’s Office, a Cabinet note will be circulated,” according to a top official of the ministry of women and child development.

Another official said “a cell within NIA” could be probing human trafficking cases.

After the Union Cabinet gives its approval, the draft bill will be tabled before Parliament.

“Traffickers enjoy immunity because local police agencies are not able to probe inter-state or cross-border crimes. We require a nodal agency as 80-90 per cent of trafficking cases span across various states,” said Ravi Kant, Supreme Court Advocate & President of NGO Shakti Vahini,  explaining why activists have been seeking a central body to probe human trade.

Government officials say to empower the NIA to investigate trafficking cases the National Investigation Act, 2008, will have to be amended.

The NIA was set up by the previous UPA government in 2009 to probe terrorist activities in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

As per the National Investigation Act, the anti-terror body is empowered to probe offences under eight specified laws, including the Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982.

The proposed anti-human trafficking legislation will be independent of the existing law on trafficking in relation to prostitution — Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 — while a section of the civil society has sought an umbrella law.

The draft law divides offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”.

The punishment for offences in the former category is rigorous imprisonment between 7 and 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, while aggravated forms of trafficking will invite a jail term of between 10 years and life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh.

Aggravated trafficking will include trafficking of children, transgenders, differently-abled, pregnant women and those which involve use of drugs and alcohol.

There is also a provision for a national committee as well as a central fund for the relief and rehabilitation services for the victims.

Create Jobs for NE Women to stop Trafficking: NCW chair

shadow-abuse-holding-background-black-imprisoned-retarded_1791dccc-b9b5-11e7-970b-e502f534a12ePublished in Business Standard

“False dreams given by traffickers, the internet, financial weakness of the family and no mean to sustain their livelihood in their homes is fuelling trafficking of women from the northeastern region,”

National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma on Tuesday stressed the need to create employment opportunities for women from the northeastern states to restrict trafficking of women.

“False dreams given by traffickers, the internet, financial weakness of the family and no mean to sustain their livelihood in their homes is fuelling trafficking of women from the northeastern region,” she said on the sidelines of an official function here in Meghalaya.

Sharma said there were reports of trafficking of women from the region, who were trapped by traffickers through dubious means.

She underscored the need to create enough employment opportunities in the region’s rural areas so that unscrupulous people are not able to lure unsuspecting victims in search of better opportunities outside the confines of their homes.

“Trafficking (of women), especially from Assam, and also, in certain cases, from Mizoram has come to our notice. They are taken away to work in massage or beauty parlours but are often used for different reasons,” Sharma said.

She said that in some cases, these women were trafficked out of the country.

Stressing that rehabilitation of the rescued women is often a problem, especially with the families refusing to accept them, Sharma said: “There is a need to rehabilitate them by offering them skill training and also by providing them shelter.

“Although there is a perception that women in the northeastern region are better off than their counterparts in the rest of India, females in this part of the world, too, are a disadvantaged lot.”

Earlier addressing a meeting at the North East Council on recommendations of the study on social, economic and political empowerment of women in northeastern states, Sharma said: “Women in the northeast are disadvantaged under the customary practices.

“Women are not seen participating politically. There are few women MLAs and (women) MPs are even rarer. Though economically women are seen working in every sphere, they still are being deprived of the right to land,” she said.

Meanwhile, the report stated that many women of the region are engaged in agricultural activities and earn less than their male counterparts.

“They work in fields which they do not own, because landed property can be owned by only the men in their families. Women working in family fields do not earn any wages for their labour. Here also, it is the man who is in control of the management and income from such farming,” the report said.

It also noted that women cannot own immovable property, like ancestral fields and homesteads, according to prevalent customary laws of many tribes of the region.

“Some women who have no land of their own — widows or single mothers — often go out of their homes to work as daily labourers at construction sites or even in other people’s farms, where they earn less than their male counterparts for the same kind of work and hours,” the report said.

It also revealed that women in the northeast are politically lagging behind their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

“The toughest hurdle being the continued sway of tribal customary laws which intrinsically exclude women’s entry and participation in governance starting from the village levels,” it stated.

“In an already deeply entrenched patriarchal set-up through which these people had been governing themselves, the newly protected and almost un-touchable customary laws only hardened such a mindset.”

As a result, women have not been able to make much headway in wresting any political power for themselves in local, state and centre politics too, it said.

“Ironically, the very same provision which protects the traditional rights of the people, failed to take into account the human, civil and political rights of women of these states — rights which are enshrined and guaranteed in the same Constitution.”

The report also stated that it would only be fair to assume that along with the traditional bias against women entering politics, lack of economic power of women in general has acted as a strong deterrent for many “would-be-legislators”.