NEW DELHI : The government has launched a “Lost and Found” website to help families trace the tens of thousands of children in the country who go missing every year often abducted for forced labour or sexual exploitation and are never found. The “Khoya Paya”, or “Lost and Found”, website khoyapaya.gov.in was launched by Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, who said the portal would allow parents to register details of missing children and citizens to report sightings. The information will be shared in real time with police and state authorities, who are mandated to register the complaint and investigate the case. “It was felt that we could have this portal, where if a child goes missing, families can put the details and the picture onto Khoya Paya,” Gandhi said on Tuesday at an event to launch the website, which is the first of its kind in India. “Then if you see the child anywhere, you can upload information and then the police see if they can correlate it.” Around 70,000 children go missing every year in India, Gandhi said, citing figures from the National Crime Records Bureau. But only 73,597 children have been traced between January 2012 and April 2015, she added. Child rights activists and government officials say that many of the country’s missing children come from poor rural areas or urban slums where they are at high risk. “Most of the missing children are trafficked for labour, for sexual exploitation, abducted, or kidnapped … They could be runaway s from home, or simply be lost,” said a government statement. “This is the reason that it is not only important to get the information related to these missing children, but it is equally important that the information is exchanged speedily to locate the children.” It said that social media could play “a pivotal role” in the search for missing children, as it would mean faster reporting. Child rights activists welcomed the initiative and dismissed claims that it would only serve a small fraction of the country’s population, around 25 percent of whom are Internet users. “Even if people do not know how to use the Internet or have access, they can enlist the help of the village council members, an NGO, or local officials to register their case,” said Ravi Kant, president of Shakti Vahini, an anti-trafficking charity. “Many NGOs like ours have already being going out into communities where children are at high risk and informing people of Khoya Paya and how they can use it. It is a good step towards finding our missing children.”
Two minor girls reportedly brought to Faridabad some days ago and allegedly sold for Rs 30,000 to a resident as domestic helpers have been rescued. The girls, one of whom is a Bangladeshi national and the other is from West Bengal, have been lodged at a protection home.The girls, aged around 14 years, were allegedly sold as housemaids by a trafficker to the owner of a house in sector 16 here recently. They managed to escape from the house on Wednesday night.
While they reportedly tried to hide behind a vehicle parked near the main market, taxi driver Raju spotted them and asked them about their identity. Raju informed NGO Shakti Vahini whose representatives took the girls to the police station where their statement was recorded. While one of them said she was brought here from West Bengal’s 24 Parganas district on the promise of suitable employment, the other was from a village near the Bangladesh border.
Her exact address is yet to be ascertained.“We have traced the parents of the girl who is from West Bengal and have asked them to come here to get their daughter’s custody,” said Rishikant of Shakti Vahini. Stating that Childline, another NGO, had also played a vital role in the girls’ rescue, he said both would stay at a protection home till their repatriation.
A medical test has been ordered to detect the correct age of both girls. The district child welfare committee has asked the police to lodge a FIR.Though this is perhaps the first such case this year in the district, two victims of trafficking – including a 10-year-old girl — were rescued from Rohtak and Faridabad last December. At least four other trafficked victims were rescued from other parts of the state in the past year.
New Delhi, Nov. 22: All she remembers is that she was working as a domestic help for about a week in a three-storied house with 10 to 12 members.
Thankfully now, 15-year-old Payel (name changed) is going back home to Khunti, thanks to a couple of Good Samaritans who found her crying on the streets of Mayur Vihar, Delhi, on October 23, battered and bruised, and handed her over to the police.
“It was extremely difficult to trace Payel’s village,” said police sub-inspector Aradhana Singh, head of the anti-trafficking unit in Khunti, who is leading a team from Jharkhand that reached Delhi yesterday to take her back home, along with four other girls who had also been kidnapped from the state.
“She can’t tell the address, but it turns out that her village is in a Maoist-infested hamlet in the interiors of Khunti,” said the policewoman who has pieced together a likely chain of events that led to Payel’s abduction to Delhi.
Payel was at a village fair near her home in Khunti when three women picked her up and put her on a bus to Ranchi.
From there, she was brought to Delhi by train. Days later, she found herself employed as a domestic help in an east Delhi house.
On October 23, a few local residents spotted her on the streets of Mayur Vihar and brought her to the police station from where she was transferred to Snehalaya, a shelter home for girls in north Delhi.
“As a domestic help, Payel was made to do household chores for over 12 hours a day. She was abused and beaten up if she did not follow orders. But she is very confused and, therefore, unable to provide details of the women who had brought her to Delhi,” said Singh.
Based on her conversations with Payel, Singh believes, she was abducted a fortnight before October 23 when she was brought to the Mayur Vihar police station.
Payel, who dropped out of school after her father and siblings died of illness, can’t believe she will be going home. “I want to go to my mother. She is alone there… just like I am here,” she said.
Authorities at Snehalaya, where Payel has been staying for a month, said she keeps to herself. “Most of the time she cries,” said an employee.
Sub-inspector Singh said they had traced four other girls who had been abducted from Jharkhand and had been employed as domestic helps in various parts of Delhi. While two of the girls are from Chaibasa, the others are from Khunti and Gumla.
One of them was brought to Delhi by the network operated by Panna Lal Mahto, a trafficking kingpin who was arrested from Delhi last month.
Now, all of them, including Payel, will be heading for Ranchi on Monday. Their families would be asked to pick them once they reached the state capital, said Singh.
Those working for NGO Shakti Vahini, that helped the police team track the victims in Delhi, rued the fact that trafficking of young tribal girls from Jharkhand was a continuing menace.
“It does not seem the Jharkhand government is serious (about curbing trafficking). Otherwise, the district administrations would be much more vigilant at exit points to keep a check on such cases,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.
NEW DELHI: Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh have joined 18 other states to empower the Centre to bring a legislation against honour killings, in what could be a turnaround moment for the effort to curb the powers of caste and community bodies which seek to be the final arbiter of social mores and arrogate unto themselves the power of judiciary.
In its affidavit to the Supreme Court the Union law ministry has said besides Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan,, West Bengal and UTs like Chandigarh, Dadra and Nager Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshwadeep and Puducherry, have supported the “Prohibition of interference with the freedom of matrilineal alliances bill.”
Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh — all marked by poor sex ratio and high incidence of gender inequality — have been among the sites of gruesome instances of honour killings in the recent past. For them to sign up to the campaign against honour killings is significant because of the political class’s diffidence thus far about taking on powerful khaps. All the three states opposed an earlier move for a central legislation against against honour killings. In fact the group of ministers set up by UPA on honour killing could barely meet a couple of times in the absence of unanimity on the issue.
The development is also significant because states can be extremely reluctant to delegate their law making powers to the Centre on matters concerning law and order.
Law ministry’s affidavit, comes in response to a writ petition by Shakti Vahini which is scheduled to be heard on November 19.
The proposed bill drafted by the law commission in 2012, was expected to check the high-handed and unwarranted interference by caste assemblies or panchayats with sagotra, inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. In view of the rising number of incidents where young couples were excommunicated, tortured and killed for marrying within the gotra under orders from the Khap panchayats, the law commission recommended a threshold bar on congregation of people for condemning a marriage on the basis that the marriage has dishonoured caste, community or brought disrepute to the family or community concerned.
The penal provision for such unlawful assembly was proposed at imprisonment of six months to a year and a fine of Rs 10,000. The bill elaborated that criminal intimidation of the couple or their families would invite imprisonment ranging between one to seven years and a fine of Rs 30,000. The bill also proposes to make all offences cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
A heavily skewed sex ratio in Uttar Pradesh is resulting in trafficking and ‘forced marriages’ of many girls from eastern India. The girls are lured by ‘so-called lovers’ and sold to ‘clients or would-be husbands’ at a premium price. The girls are often used as ‘sex slaves’ and then resold. Two girls from the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal were sold as ‘brides’ on the outskirts of Noida in western Uttar Pradesh. Both the girls, aged 19 years, were rescued by the West Bengal Police in a joint operation with Shakti Vahini, an NGO, earlier this week. Consequently, a major trafficking racket was busted.
In another instance, a minor girl from Uttar Dinajpur district was rescued from Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh around the same time.
The two girls from North 24 Paraganas were lured by Akhtar Ali, a resident of the same district. They were forced into marriage to two villagers in Western U.P .who allegedly paid Rs. 40,000 for one girl and Rs 50,000 for the other.
“The girls who are forced into marriages typically end up as slaves. Due to skewed sex-ratio in places such as western UP, Haryana and Punjab, girls from West Bengal and other parts of eastern India are trafficked on a regular basis,” said Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini. The number of females per thousand males in Uttar Pradesh is 912, which is below the national average of 940, as per census of 2011.
After winning the confidence of the girls, Ali took them to Noida in separate trips. The girls were initially confined in the house of Basanti, an elderly woman, who later sold them to Sanju and Tinu of Khatna village and Tulsivihar in Noida, respectively. The girls were practically imprisoned by these men and ‘physically tortured’. However, they managed to get in touch with their relatives in West Bengal, who in turn approached the police and the NGO.
The accused (Basanti and Akhtar Ali and two buyers in UP) have been booked under relevant sections of the law on the basis of two complaints made at the Hasnabad and Deganga police stations of the district,” said Bhaskar Mukherjee told The Hindu, Additional SP, North 24 Paraganas.
According to Sarbari Bhattacharya, an officer with the anti-human trafficking cell of the West Bengal police, the practice of ‘forced marriage’ in the illegal trafficking business, is ‘relatively a new phenomenon.’
“I can recall an incident in 2012 when the remains of a girl were recovered by the police at Khurja in UP, after she was trafficked and forced into a marriage, and then killed and buried,” the officer said.
NEW DELHI: A tribal girl from West Bengal was found hanging from a grill in the courtyard of her employer’s house in Faridabad on April 14. She had a dog’s leash around her neck.
Till date, no FIR has been lodged in the case. While the police blame their helpless on the absence of a report, the girl’s body lies in a mortuary unclaimed. Attempts are on to track her family in Uttar Dinajpur and bring them to identify her.
The case, yet again, brings to the fore the rising cases of exploitation of domestic workers from tribal belts. In the absence of laws to regulate domestic work and placement agencies, these girls live and die without any identity or rights.
Police officials from Dabua Police Chowki of Saran police station had found the girl’s body in Sector 49 of Dabua Colony after her employers informed them. The employers told the police that the girl was hired on March 24 from Laxmi Placement Agency and she appeared to be depressed. But so far, no one has inquired into the alleged cause of depression or the girl’s employment history. The employers told police that it was a case of suicide. Police, however, has not initiated any inquiry to investigate the role of the employers in the case.
There is also no clarity on the girl’s age as she appears to be a minor. Preliminary inquiry shows that the girl was hired for a meager salary of Rs 3,500 to do the house work in a family of six members, police said, adding that the placement agency took around Rs 22,000 from the employers as commission.
Strangely, the placement agency owner has been tasked with the job of finding the girl’s family and bringing them to the police station. Meanwhile, the police officials say they are trying hard to keep the body from being eaten away by mice in the “dead house” where the freezer facility is not working properly and ice is being used to preserve the girl’s body.
While mystery shrouds the domestic worker’s death, NGO Shakti Vahini has written to the Faridabad police commissioner seeking an investigation into the matter from the point of view of inter-state human trafficking (West Bengal-Delhi-Haryana). “It is a matter of concern how the girl came in contact with the placement agency. What is the legal status of the agency? The girl’s age is also a matter of investigation,” the letter states.
Meanwhile, experts working on trafficking cases feel that much time has been wasted. Former member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Vinod Tikoo, cited Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to point out the role of police to enquire and report on suicide, and such matters.
As per the Code, a police officer has the power to inform an executive magistrate empowered to hold inquests. The police can also make a report on the basis of spot examination and preliminary investigation into cause of death to enable the district magistrate to act.
NEW DELHI — When Savita Debnath was 14, two unknown men came to her impoverished village in eastern India, promising her a job cleaning houses for $40 a month in nearby Kolkata. When she got there, agents forced her onto a train to New Delhi and sold her.
The buyers were a family that abused her and forced her to work long days cooking, cleaning, caring for two young children and preparing for parties without pay or being allowed to contact her family.
“I worked from 6 a.m. until midnight or 1 a.m.,” said Savita, now 15 and freed from her bondage. “When a dish burned, she slapped me many times. I’d cry for my mother, but the mistress ignored me.”
A report released Thursday by Australia’s Walk Free Foundation suggests that Savita’s story is a common one, not just in India but worldwide. The 162-nation survey estimated that there are 29.8 million modern-day slaves, and that bondage in some form exists in most countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and Western European nations.
Although other countries have a greater proportion of their population in bondage, India has by far the largest number, an estimated 13.9 million people. That is more than four times that of the No. 2 country, China, with 2.9 million. Pakistan ranked third, with 2.1 million.
Mauritania and Haiti had the highest percentage of the population in bondage, 4% and 2%, respectively.
Modern slavery, the report says, “takes many forms, and is known by many names. Whether it is called human trafficking, forced labor, slavery or slavery-like practices … victims of modern slavery have their freedom denied, and are used and controlled and exploited by another person for profit, sex or the thrill of domination.”
In India, much of the traffic in enslaved domestic workers is organized by dubious employment agencies that are virtually unregulated despite a court order requiring the government to set operating guidelines.
“The placement agencies get all the money, and the poor girl gets nothing,” said Rishi Kant, a social activist with Shakti Vahini, the New Delhi-based civic group that rescued Savita. “The girls are abused — mentally, sexually, physically. Officials don’t care, and sometimes even want maids for their own houses, [which is] partly why they’re silent on this.”
Nick Grono, Walk Free’s chief executive, said by phone that modern-day slavery in India includes children forced into marriages, entire lower-caste communities forced to work in brick kilns or quarries, and people lured by money lenders to assume debts that can last for generations.
In the case of enslaved domestic workers, middle- and upper-class families often happily pay as little as $33 a month to disreputable agents for 24/7 help, rather than paying the minimum wage of $125 a month and following other labor laws. The agents often ensure that ties are cut between girls — as young as 10 — and their families in rural villages. The girls’ isolation is made worse because they often speak no Hindi, fear the police and are penniless, leaving them little way out of their plight.
“The family is duped, left thinking one day she’ll come back with some money,” Kant said. “And many employing the girls in Delhi are rich, powerful families, so authorities don’t enforce the law.”
There are signs of progress, said Shalini Grover, an analyst with New Delhi’s Institute of Economic Growth, noting a increase in the number of part-time domestic workers who live outside their employers’ homes, giving them greater economic leverage and control over their lives.
In terms of percentage of people in slavery, India is fourth on Walk Free’s list. In Mauritania, which ranks first, one nongovernmental organization has estimated that as much as 20% of the population is enslaved, although Walk Free uses the more conservative figure of 4%. Slavery in Mauritania goes back generations and is deeply entrenched, although the country has banned the practice and signed international conventions against slavery and child labor.
“Indoctrination to ensure people in slavery accept their situation of ownership is a key feature of slavery in Mauritania,” Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index report says. “Without access to education or alternative means of subsistence, many believe that it is God’s wish for them to be slaves.”
At the other extreme, Iceland is estimated to have 100 slaves amid its population of 320,000. The United States ranks 134th, with an estimated 60,000 people in bondage.
The rankings are based on a compilation of government statistics, multilateral agency information, NGO studies and Walk Free’s surveys. The organization provided drafts to all 162 countries six months ago, but for the most part, only developed countries responded, with largely positive or neutral responses. Walk Free hopes to continue refining the data.
Walk Free acknowledged the difficulties in compiling and refining data for the survey, its first, but said it hoped the index would widen the discussion about reducing modern-day slavery.
“Our data is the best out there, but it’s a moving feast,” Grono said. “You have to be an optimist in this industry, otherwise you’d slit your throat.”
Magnier reported from New Delhi and Dixon from Johannesburg, South Africa. Tanvi Sharma in The Times’ New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.
- Millions in modern-day slavery, half in India: Survey (thehindu.com)
- Slavery, in many forms, remains a problem around the world (seattletimes.com)
- 30 million people are slaves, half in India: survey (ndtv.com)
A young Bangladeshi woman, who was trafficked to the Capital and sold off to a pimp for Rs.40,000 for commercial sexual abuse, managed to escape from his clutches at Rohtak in Haryana on Friday.
The 21-year-old woman, who had strained relations with her husband, was brought to West Bengal about three months ago by one Manas Das and his wife, who is also a Bangladeshi national. The couple, who had promised to get her placed as a domestic help, kept her at their residence in Asansol for two months.
Claiming that they had arranged a job for her, the suspects recently took her to Jaipur from where they came to the Capital and stayed a Paharganj hotel. “A pimp from Haryana met the couple and paid Rs.40,000 for the woman. She was then taken to Rohtak,” said Rishi Kant of non-government organisation Shakti Vahini.
When the trafficker attempted to force her into prostitution, she offered resistance. He then allegedly beat her up. A couple of days ago, he sent her to a client along with another girl who on getting an opportunity dialled 100 seeking police assistance.
While no policemen turned up, the hotel staffers were apparently tipped off that the police would soon conduct a raid. The victim purportedly revealed that the hotel employees raised an alarm, asking people to vacate the place immediately. They then asked her and the other girl to wait for a vehicle which would take them back to the pimp.
“In the melee, she along with the other girl managed to escape and reached Delhi on Saturday morning. They contacted the West Bengal Police at whose instance the two met us. We took the Bangladeshi woman to the Delhi Police Crime Branch, which has directed us to meet the Bangladesh High Commission officials to facilitate her travel back home,” said Mr. Kant.
- Child trafficking rampant in West Bengal (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Raped, then sold off as a bride in a distant land (traffickingnews.wordpress.com)
- Raped, then sold off as a bride in a distant land (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Child trafficking rampant in West Bengal (traffickingnews.wordpress.com)
- Trafficked girl at shelter home longs to unite with kin (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- 64 women rescued from GB Road brothels in 38 raids, only 16 FIRs filed (traffickingnews.wordpress.com)
- When ‘honour’ kills (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- 64 women rescued from GB Road brothels in 38 raids, only 16 FIRs filed (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Trafficked girl at shelter home longs to unite with kin (traffickingnews.wordpress.com)
- Parents murder daughter, lover for ‘honour’ in Haryana (thehindu.com)
NEW DELHI: The recent report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has laid down several steps to check the trafficking menace in the capital.
The recommendations talks about practices that can be put into place changes in the police force and the local administration. To begin with, it suggested that the local police co-ordinate more with the crime branch-led anti-human trafficking units (AHTU) present in the 11 districts of the city. “The cases need to be transferred from the local police to AHTU instead of getting entangled in getting of in to turf wars.”
It has also suggested that victims cannot be forced to travel to Delhi from far-flung areas to testify in Delhi courts. it is time that the victims are not forced to travel from far flung districts of Bengal and Bihar to Delhi to testify in courts.
Instead, UNODC believes, video-conferencing might be the way out.
Besides strictly following the standard operating protocols (SOP) for inter-state investigations, there is also an urgent need of a country SOP for repatriation of victims to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, said Rishi Kant of the NGO Shakti Vahini, who co-wrote the country assessment report on human trafficking. The Saarc protocol provides a mandate for such co-operation. “The present process done at the NGO level is slow and sometimes it takes months,” he added.
UNODP also said emphasis should be laid on cornering traffickers at the source and transit points. “Panchayati raj institutions should be strengthened at the states from where these children and women come. In Delhi, institutions like RWAs and anganwadis as well as MCD schools should report missing children to police,” said a Childline co-coordinator.
“We need to look into how trafficking has changed beyond forced marriages and prostitution. Besides bonded labour, there are organ trading gangs and paedophiles active in this circuit – the third largest illegal business in India after drugs and arms sale. There is also cross-border movement with new routes like the Nepal-Katihar (Bihar)-Siliguri ( West Bengal)- Bhutan-Bangkok (Thailand) which few agencies are even aware of. Unless, training and intelligence gathering goes hand in hand, the units cannot be successful,” said a top officer from Centre for Social Research who have been helping MHA to tackle such issues.
Officials of the Union home ministry and Delhi Police, however, believe that both police and the administration need to train the lower brass to change their mentality towards such victims. “The popular notion to book the victim under Sections 12 and 20 of
the Immoral Trafficking Act instead of punishing the traffickers is just one of the problems with our cops. We have now issued advisories asking all cops to desist from using these sections,” said a senior police officer.
- India: Country Assessment Highlights Status of Victim Assistance and Criminal Justice Initiatives on anti human trafficking (traffickingnews.wordpress.com)
- India: Country Assessment highlights status of Vctim Assistance and Criminal Justice Initiatives on Anti Human Trafficking (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Delhi HC orders probe in rampant trafficking for flesh trade (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)