Battered and bruised, some return, some are never to be seen again..

Meets MotherBy N Sai Published in the DNA News

In the last of the three-part series, dna travels to remote villages of India’s ‘slavery belt’, some of the remotest and backward areas of Jharkhand. Rescued slaves and the parents of those who have never come back reveal what makes these tribals easy targets

Ranchi: The road to Jahupkokotoli village in the Maoist-hit district of Gumla is a contradiction of sorts. As the two-lane road snakes through the forests and rolling hills of the Chottanagpur plateau, bauxite-laden trucks are the only constant reminder of activity here. Yet the public transport to this part of Jharkhand from the state capital Ranchi is rickety. The only bus everyday is as uncertain as life in this extremely backward region of India. Despite the lack of public transport, thousands of tribal boys and girls from Gumla-Khunti-Simdega region, India’s unofficial ‘slavery belt’, are transported and trafficked to upper middle class and rich homes of Delhi. After a period of enslavement and unpaid forced labour, many return battered and bruised. Some are never to be seen again. Some still carry on.

In Jahupkokotoli, an aboriginal hamlet of 160 Oraon tribal families, 45-year-old Mathoo comes running with a picture of his 14-year-old daughter. “Help me find her. I haven’t seen her after she went away in 2007,” says Mathoo. His daughter would be 21 now, but Mathoo doesn’t know her fate after she was taken by a ‘placement agent’ from a neighbouring village to Delhi to work as a domestic help. Within two months, the agent sent Mathoo Rs 1000 as a payment for his daughter’s ‘services’. Next year, he called up the agent again to inquire about his daughter. “The agent said that my daughter had run away and that he did not know her whereabouts. I do not know whether she is dead or alive,” says Mathoo.

A few houses away from Mathoo’s is the hut of Hari Oraon. His 16-year-old daughter Pramila was taken by an agent to Delhi in early 2014. But she ‘escaped’ within four months and came back. According to her statement to police, Pramila was taken to Delhi by another woman of the same village in the promise of a better life. As soon as she arrived in Delhi she was escorted to a Shakurpur-based placement agency by an agent. They took her finger prints on a piece of paper and sent her to work as a domestic maid at three different homes in Delhi. Facing ill-treatment and not having been paid by any of her employers or the placement agency, Pramila escaped. Lost on the streets in Delhi, she begged another woman to take her home. The woman instead handed her over to the Delhi police. The Delhi police handed her over to a shelter home in the capital from where she was taken to Kishori Niketan, a rehab centre for trafficked women in Bijupara, Jharkhand. Finally in April 2014, she was re-united with her family. For her work as a domestic help in Delhi, Pramila wasn’t paid any money. “The police left her in nearby Bishunpur from where we picked her up and got her home,” says Hari Oraon. “She says she will never go back to Delhi.”

Off the road from Bishunpur lies the Dalit village of Hadiya Toli, literally translating into ‘wine village’. There is no road connectivity to the village and reaching here requires walking a kilometre on a dusty track. The name of 15-year-old Sarita alias Budhni evinces a peculiar response from the village men. “That Dilli-return?”, one asks with a wry smile. “Who knows where she is,” says another. “Ask her mother. She might know.” We find her mother working outside her hut and as the conversation about her daughter nears completion, she says, “Who will marry her now? Who knows what might have happened to her in Delhi?”

Sarita disappeared from her house in 2013 with five other girls after an agent in her village promised her lucrative money in Delhi. Sarita says, “I was promised a monthly wage of Rs 5000. After working four months for an agency in Motinagar in Delhi, I asked for some money. They refused and locked me up instead. I begged to let me go home. But they said I cannot go home before I completed five years. Then one day the police raided the place and they took me in their custody,” says Sarita. She was finally sent home in April 2013.

“There were other girls in that house. I do not know what happened to them. I did not even get the money for my work,” says Sarita. When asked about the nature of her work, Sarita maintains an uneasy silence. Sarita is lucky enough to be back in her village. Even though her village doesn’t have either electricity, drinking water supply or roads, she feels safer here than in any of Delhi’s slave holes.

Phulin Murmu, 18, however doesn’t want to return to her village. Phulin Murmu is not a name that would ring a bell. But when she was found burnt, battered and bitten in a house in South Delhi’s posh Vasant Kunj locality it made national headlines in October 2013. She was found in the house of Vandana Dhir, an executive with a French multinational. Murmu’s body bore hot girdle-induced burn marks, deep scars on the head and bite marks all over her body. She was forced to drink urine, prevented from using the bathroom and confined in the house in a semi-naked condition before being rescued. She was working unpaid for two years before being rescued.

DNA tracked her down at a rehabilitation centre in Khunti, one of the hardest hit districts of the slavery belt. She is being educated and trained at the Mahilya Samkhya Society, which she shares with around 30 other minor girls, many of whom are rescued slaves. Phulin can barely write her name, the scars still show on her face. But she details her three years of enslavement with a brave face and with no emotion. “It is for the first time that I am seeing her talk so openly. It seems she is recovering well from the trauma,” says Asha Kusum, the warden of the institution. The Mahilya Samkhya Society is wary of letting Phulin rejoin her parents in her village. They ask her father to come to town for Christmas. They don’t want to take a chance again. “Most kids are from extremely poor tribal families. Their parents will send them to Delhi for any small amount. Phulin is safe here – from poverty and from agents who would want to prey on her again. She is still scared inside. She will only get better,” says Ms Kusum

मानव तस्करी के खिलाफ खड़ी हुई शक्ति वाहिनी

d2524

PUBLISHED IN DAINIK JAGRAN

जागरण संवाददाता, सिलीगुड़ी:

मानव तस्करी अपने आप में एक जघन्य अपराध है। किंतु आज भी मानव तस्करी धड़ल्ले से की जाती है। कभी विवाह का प्रलोभन देकर तो कभी नौकरी देने के बहाने तस्करी की जाती है। खासकर बच्चों और महिलाआंे की तस्करी की जाती है। ऐसे में एक संस्था आगे आई जिसे शक्तिवाहिनी के नाम से जाना जाता है। इसकी स्थापना सर्वप्रथम दिल्ली में वर्ष 2001 में हुई थी। तीन भाइयों ने मिलकर इसकी स्थापना की थी।

जिसमें रविकांत इसके अध्यक्ष है। निशीकांत एक कार्यकर्ता और ऋषिकांत एक एक्जेक्यूटिव डायरेक्टर है। इसी कड़ी के तहत वर्ष जुलाई वर्ष 2011 में शहर में भी शक्तिवाहिनी नामक संस्था की स्थापना की गई। जिसका प्रमुख उद्देश्य था यहां से तस्करी की गई महिलाओं को मुक्त कराना। इस संबंध में संस्था से जुड़े निशिकांत का कहना है कि इन तीन वषरे में पूरे देश से आठ सौ महिलाआंे और बच्चों को तस्करों के चंगुल से छुड़वाया गया। जिसमें तीन सौ पचास महिलाएं बंगाल से हैं। जिसमें चालीस प्रतिशत बच्चियां है। इसी कड़ी के तहत रविकांत कहते हैं कि इस शहर सहित छह जिलों में संस्था द्वारा कार्यालय बनाने की जरूरत महसूस तब की गई। जब हम देखते थे कि अक्सर तस्करी की गई महिलाएं इस राज्य से जुड़ी होती थी।

खासकर पहाड़ी और चाय बागान इलाके की होती थी। ऐसे में हमलोगों ने निर्णय लिया कि जब यहीं से तस्करी की जाती है तो यहीं पर कार्यालय की स्थापना की जानी चाहिए। ताकि प्रकार की तस्करी को रोका जा सके। इस बारे में यहां के लोगों बताया जाए। 1संस्था से जुड़े दीप बनर्जी कहते हैं जागरूकता अभियान चलाने के लिए लिए ग्रुप बनाए गए है जो विभिन्न स्थानों पर जागरूकता अभियान चलाते हैं।

दार्जिलिंग जिले में पांच ग्रुप बनाए गए है। जो सुदूर ग्रामीण इलाकों में जाकर वहां के पंचायत प्रधान, अध्यापिकाएं सहित महिलाओं को लेकर बातचीत करते हैं। उन्हें समझाया जाता है कि वे शादी और नौकरी इत्यादि का झांसा देने वालों के चक्कर में ना आए। पुरी जांच पड़ताल करे। इसके साथ ही स्कूलों में जागरूकता अभियान चलाया जा रहा है। 1जलपाईगुड़ी हाई स्कूल, मारवाड़ी हाई स्कूल, कालियांगज गल्र्स हाई स्कूल, सिलीगुड़ी देशबंधु उच्च बालिका विद्यालय, शक्तिगढ़ बालिका विद्यालय, बाल्मिकी विद्यापीठ, एक्तिसियाल स्कूल, घुघुमाली हाई स्कूल, अठारखाई उच्च बालिका विद्यालय, इलापाल चौधरी हिंदी हाई स्कूल सहित अन्य स्कूलों में जाकर विद्यार्थियों को बताया गया है कि वे किसी प्रकार प्रलोभन में ना आए। अपने आसपास के लोगों को भी इस बारे में बताए कि इस प्रकार का गिरोह सक्रिय है।

इस मौके पर विद्यार्थियों को इस मुद्दे से जुड़ी फिल्म भी दिखाई जाती है। किस प्रकार से एक छात्र की सूझबूझ से एक लड़की की तस्करी होने से बच जाती है। हाल ही में अनुपमा खोजे नामक नाटक जक्शंन, एनजेपी, माटीगाड़ा, कोर्ट मोड़ सहित शहर के मुख्य इलाकों और सड़कों पर खेला गया। जिसमें दिखाया गया कि किस प्रकार की मीठी बातें कर फंसाया जाता है। जो इस प्रकार की बातें करे उनसे सावधान रहे। जिसमें अंकूर नाट्य गोष्ठी की सक्रिय भूमिका रही। इसके अलावा कन्याश्री योजना के बारे में भी जागरूक किया जा रहा है। जिसमें 13 से 18 वर्ष तक की कन्या इसका लाभ उठा सकती है। इसके अलावा बच्चियों को कक्षा आठ में इनरोल होना चाहिए। इस योजना के बारे में बताने का मुख्य लक्ष्य है कि इससे बाल विवाह पर रोक लगती है। बच्चियों को पढ़ने का अवसर मिलता है। इसके अलावा हर थाने में पैंपलेट बांटे गए हैं। हेल्पलाइन नंबर दिया गया है।नुक्कड़ नाटक के माध्यम से मानव तस्करी के प्रति बच्चों को जागरूक करते शक्तिवाहिनी के सदस्य।जागरण

Human trafficking: A phone call to the heart of darkness

trafficking--621x414PUBLISHED IN THE MINT : By Ashwaq Masoodi

Siliguri: It usually starts with a missed call. When the call is returned, the person at the other end of the phone compliments the caller on, say, her voice. Unlike a normal relationship, these “phone relationships” in poor villages of North Bengal take quick leaps. Within a day or two, the person who had given the missed call proposes marriage to the teenager. He doesn’t want to wait. They must elope. There is a promise of love, faithfulness and always a better life in a big city. It’s a promise that is false. As many as 82,101 children went missing across India in 2013-14 (till February), of whom 48,688 were from West Bengal, according to government figures.

A 2004 report by the National Human Rights Commission on trafficking of women and children said that one-third of children reported missing every year in India remained untraced and that many of these were trafficked. Child labour, illegal adoption and prostitution are the main reasons why children go missing. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 3,940 cases were registered in 2013 under different provisions of the law that come under the generic description of human trafficking. Many of those trafficked end up as domestic workers, working in slave-like conditions. Placement agencies illegally earn Rs.13,000-41,000 crore per year by exploiting an estimated 7-17 million domestic child labourers, according to a report, Economics Behind Forced Labour Trafficking, by Global March Against Child Labour, a non-governmental organization (NGO). “In the National Capital Region, the estimated number of registered and unregistered placement agencies is around 3,000. At least 30% of these engage child labour. Each agency is able to place 60-100 children as domestic workers every year. The agencies receive commissions of Rs.20,000-50,000 per child. They pay the child anywhere between Rs.1,500 and Rs.4,500 per month. This money, too, is often kept by the agency and does not reach the child,” the report states.

On 27 May, a 16-year-old and her family went to attend a wedding, just a few miles from her house in Buraganj village, 32km from Siliguri. Among the guests was Rani, a woman in her 30s, dressed in a gaudy sari encrusted with sparkling crystals, and in distinctive, bright make-up. All eyes were on her and everyone speculated on what she did for a living. Over the wedding meal, Rani started a conversation with the teenager. She asked for her phone number and a photograph. The teenager handed over her details along with a crumpled passport-size photograph she had somewhere in her bag. Two days later, the teenager received a missed call, and called back. The man at the other end introduced himself as Mahesh Mardi. He said a mutual friend had given him her number and photograph. He was already in love with her, he said. Never having received such compliments and flattery before, the teenager believed every word. The youngest of eight siblings, the teenager grew up pampered with hardly any housework to do. The family is not poor by the standards of their village. All the brothers work, some in their own fields, others in the tea gardens close by. The family has cattle, lives in houses built of mud, bamboo and tin, the children have bicycles and the women wear gold. Three days after their first conversation, Mahesh asked the teenager to come to Naxalbari, which is located towards the north of her village. She happily said yes. When she reached, four people including Mahesh and Rani were waiting. Alarmed at seeing so many people, the teenager faltered; she said she wanted to go back home. But Mahesh swore undying love; he would consume poison if she didn’t come with him, he swore. Even more panic-stricken, the teenager tried to run, but Rani held her hand and pulled her into a bus headed to New Jalpaiguri railway station, 32km from her village. At the station, they gave her some food to eat while they waited for a train to New Delhi. Since everyone else was eating, she didn’t suspect anything. The next thing she remembers is waking up at 3am the following day. They were in Delhi. From there it was a short auto ride to a placement agency. Placement agencies rely on sub-agents such as Rani who provide them with information and “recruits”. How much the sub-agent earns depends on the “quality” of the recruit, in terms of how good looking they are. Along with local muscle like Mahesh, the sub-agents take new recruits like the teenager to the nearest bus or railway station to take them to their destination or else hand them over to either a new sub-agent who completes the journey. Moving through several hands, the recruits then land up at the so-called placement agencies for “employment”, a euphemism for slave wages and working conditions, as domestic workers. In Delhi, the teenager was kept in the placement office for a day before she was assigned to an employer. “I said I wouldn’t work. But they didn’t listen to me,” she says. Boys and girls are taken from tea gardens or poor villages to places such as Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Bangalore, Kerala, Kashmir, Bhutan and Sikkim with a promise of jobs or a better life. Nearly 3,600 children from poor families in the shut-down tea gardens of West Bengal migrated to Indian cities and West Asia, to work mostly as child labourers in 2010-11.

Of the total, 317 have gone missing, according to a study carried out jointly by the Unicef, Save the Children (an NGO) and Burdwan University, across 12 tea gardens in the state. The study was carried out between May and July 2011. When no one came to take her back, the 16-year-old told her employer that she had been forced by Rani to take up the job. Infuriated on hearing this, the owner called the placement agency, which decided to send Rani to work on the teenager’s behalf. But within a couple of days, Rani tricked the teenager into believing that she wouldn’t have to work for more than a week, and fled after the 16-year-old resumed her work. Left with no option, the teenager called her brother saying: “I have been sold.” According to the US department of state’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, in India, an increasing number of job placement agencies lure adults and children for sex trafficking or forced labour, including domestic servitude, under false promises of employment. “Activists estimate 20% of domestic workers who are rescued from Delhi homes complain of sexual abuse, either by the employer or those in job placement agencies,” the report said. Following the name of the placement agency that the teenager had given on the phone, her maternal uncle and brother filed a first information report (FIR) and headed to Delhi. “We kept calling. It was frustrating because we didn’t even know where to start from,” her maternal uncle, who is a tea garden manager, says. The girl was eventually rescued in a joint operation by NGO Shakti Vahini and West Bengal Police. Nearly a month after her rescue, Rani was arrested as well.

What happens in such cases, NGOs claim, is that only the destination trafficker is arrested and the entire chain of people involved or the racket isn’t busted—which means the investigating officers stop after arrests in the destination states. And because of gaps in investigation, acquittals take place. Furthermore, poor victim-witness protection generally discourages victims from testifying against their alleged trafficking offenders. “For every case of human trafficking, we should involve all the law enforcement agencies across the country and network with them so that all the traffickers from the source area till the destination area are booked,” says Shakti Vahini’s Ravi Kant, a Supreme Court lawyer. Even though a few states have victim compensation schemes, due to inadequate implementation, victims have to wait for several years to receive funds. “The criminal justice system in India is more focused on punishment for the perpetrator. Police efforts are towards punishing. There is no care and protection for the victim. The victim is left on her own to fight her battle. Even if a case reaches the trial level, summons from the place where she was arrested reach her, but not the money. She has to come on her own. In most cases, the state is not a facilitator in getting justice… All this discourages the victims. And if the victim doesn’t take interest, in several cases, it leads to acquittals,” says Kant.

The government has set up the Anti Trafficking Cell under the ministry of home affairs (MHA), launched a certificate course on anti-human trafficking under Indira Gandhi National Open University in partnership with the MHA, and implemented a comprehensive scheme for strengthening law enforcement response by establishing integrated anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs). The ministry released funds—Rs.8.72 crore and Rs.8.33 crore in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively, for the establishment of 225 AHTUs. The ministry of women and child development also runs shelter-based homes, such as short-stay homes, and Swadhar homes for women in difficult circumstances, including trafficked victims. The teenager has started going to school again. She says something happens in her spine whenever she tries to dredge up the memory of those 15 days. “I wouldn’t listen to anyone now. I will not let anyone befool me again,” she stammers. Her maternal uncle says that after this incident, even though she is safe and with her family now, she is traumatized. “She cannot complete even one sentence without stopping more than once or without forgetting while speaking,” he says. Over the last few years, many cases of exploitation of domestic help have been reported—almost all of them females—many of whom were abused, some brutally. Early this year, an 11-year-old domestic help from Uttar Pradesh was allegedly starved for days and tortured by her employers (in Thane), who inserted green chillies into her genitals to make her obey their orders. A civil engineer in Bangalore was booked in August for physically and mentally harassing an 18-year-old domestic help in his house. Even though the teenager is still traumatized, she was at least lucky to have escaped; not every story has a happy ending in such cases.

Human trafficking caters to demand for brides

PRP _5014by priyanka-k7YE--621x414@LiveMintPUBLISHED IN THE MINT : By Ashwaq Masoodi

A field study in Haryana found that over 9,000 married women were bought from other states

Jhajjar/New Jalpaiguri: Last year, she was raped by someone she called mausa (uncle) in front of and on the bed of a woman she called mausi (aunt). Then, the mausa sold her off as a bride to a 45-year-old widower, father of a three-year-old, in Haryana. Price of the exchange: Rs.70,000. Haryana, with the country’s worst sex ratio of 879 girls to 1,000 boys, now has to increasingly import brides from poverty-stricken states such as Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. It’s the same story in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where female foeticide is high and the sex ratio skewed. According to the 2013 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, 24,749 children and women between the ages of 15 and 30 were kidnapped and sold into marriage across the country.

Hundreds of girls and young women are sold into forced marriages in northern India, finds a report by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Shakti Vahini. “They are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity, and exploited under conditions that amount to a modern form of slavery,” the report states. A field study on the impact of the sex ratio on marriage by NGO Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra that covered over 10,000 households in Haryana found that over 9,000 married women were bought from other states. The study, which covered 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonepat and Mewat districts, said that most people accepted this as a common practice, even though they personally denied having purchased a bride in their family.

With its blend of poverty, illiteracy, naiveté, trust and betrayal, the story of this family in North Bengal is being repeated in countless villages across India. An old, ailing mother, an estranged son, a 23-year-old illiterate, unmarried daughter, another daughter, and a deaf and mute son—the family’s sole breadwinner making no more than Rs.80 a day by working in a tea plantation.

Most households in the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars-Terai region located in the foothills of the Himalayas depend on the 300-odd plantations located here. In the late 1990s, when tea leaf prices dropped, many owners cut wages and, in some cases, abandoned their plantations altogether. By 2003-04, many tea estates had shut down. Newspapers reported starvation deaths; according to The Times of India, nearly 100 people have died of starvation and acute malnutrition in the five gardens closed in the Dooars since January last year. Five died in June alone. Tall with sharp features and long hair, the 23-year-old lives in a village in Banarhat, nearly 95km from Siliguri. She walks with difficulty and complains of soreness and a constant stomach ache. The weakness caused by malnutrition is evident. Those who could afford to migrate did. But for this family with its physically disabled son, migration was not an option and so they stayed on, even though there were days when the chulha (cook stove) could not be lit. The so-called mausa, Rajendra Pal, lived next door. Originally from Haryana, he had married the teenager’s neighbour by hiding the fact of his previous marriages. It was Rajendra Pal who suggested the family make a trip to Haryana to see a famous godman who, he claimed, would cure them of their chronic problems. He even offered to pay for their travel. The girl was reluctant. “I kept saying I am a woman. They wouldn’t do anything to my mother. They couldn’t have taken anything from my brother. But I am a woman. They can do anything they want to with me, and I will be ruined for life,” she says she told her mother. But Rajendra Pal persisted. She was like his daughter, he said. Just stepping into the godman’s ashram would cure her problems. Why, the godman had even healed mausa’s leg after an accident, he said. The family relented. “The problem with us poor people is that we trust very easily, and we trust everyone,” says the 23-year-old’s elder sister. Three days after they reached Haryana, mausa locked the girl’s mother and brother in a room and raped the 23-year-old. “Mausi was watching and kept asking me not to cry. Let him do what he wants. He is your mausa,” the girl says. Two days later, Pal sold her to a 45-year-old resident of Kheri Mansingh village in Karnal district of Haryana and married the two off in his lawn. He told the girl he would kill her if she tried to run away. There was nowhere to run to. Once, she said, she hid in a maize field for close to 24 hours, hungry and thirsty and soaked in sludge till her waist. She thought she had escaped till they found her again. “I had to do all the household chores—cleaning the house, cooking, rearing the cattle and a horse—and still they kept complaining,” she says.

Brides for sale Large-scale bride trafficking has been taking place in Haryana, Punjab and other low-sex-ratio states for over two decades, say NGOs. Even if the Haryana government ensures that not a single sex-determination test or sex-selective abortion takes place, demographers believe it will take 50 years for the population to stabilize and return to its natural ratio. The challenge before not just Haryana but also western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan is to ensure that bride demand is not catered through human trafficking. “The governments in these regions should ensure legislations which protect the rights of women and children,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s anti-trafficking report released in 2013 states.

Many men in Haryana, however, claim that the shortage of brides is not caused by the skewed sex ratio as much as the rising levels in women’s education.“Women here study much more than men do. And she obviously will want to marry a man who has studied at least as much as she has, if not more. This is making it increasingly difficult for lesser educated men to find brides,” says Vinod Bala Dhankar, a social activist and woman khap leader based in Jhajjar district of Haryana. Moreover, bringing in a molki, or purchased bride, actually works out cheaper. “Even if you are poor, you would give a bride from Haryana gold worth at least Rs.1.5 lakh plus clothes and other gifts. But for a molki you only pay for a mangalsutra and a gold ring,” says Dhankar. Strict caste and marriage rules among the Jats of Haryana also place restrictions on marriages between two people from within the same gotra, same village or even adjoining villages. This, too, limits the options before the state’s marriageable men. Faced with these limitations, organized groups of unmarried youth have sprung up in the state with famous slogans such as bahu-dilao-vote-lo (brides-for-votes).

The Kunwara Union (Unmarried Youth Organization) was founded five years ago by social activist Pawan Kumar. A similar outfit, Avivahit Purush Sangthan (Unmarried Union), was set up by Bibipoor village panchayat head Sunil Jaglan to look into the issue of gender imbalance caused by female foeticide. Dhakla village in Haryana’s Jhajjar district has a population of nearly 4,000 people. A narrow, dusty, single lane leads to Rekha’s house. She has tied a dupatta around her head in the form of a bandana, and speaks Haryanavi as fluently and with as much confidence as the locals. In 2007, she came to Sonepat from North Bengal, after her cousin invited her to visit. The day she arrived, she was sold off for Rs.50,000. But Rekha bursts into laughter at the suggestion that she was sold. “I don’t want to think of what happened. Probably I wouldn’t have had such a happy life if I was still with my family. We were very poor,” she says.

Just half a mile from Rekha’s house lives another woman, nearly 30 years old. Five years ago, her sister sold her off to a man who had two brothers, one older and one younger. The two brothers have decided not to marry. The woman, who does not want to be named, says her husband beats her up almost every night and has asked her more than once to leave. Worse, within a month of her marriage, the elder brother tried to rape her. Just last month, he sexually assaulted her again, she says. Even the younger brother has assaulted her twice.

“The scarcity of women has been there for long. But earlier, if a family had four brothers, they would just get one woman and she would take care of everyone and everything,” says Om Parkash Dhankar, Sarv Khap Panchayat coordinator in Haryana. Since the women are “purchased”, men think they can do whatever they want to with them. “In the beginning, brides were imported from adjoining regions like Ganganagar and Rajasthan’s Alwar area, but slowly women were brought from West Bengal, Assam and such states,” says Rakesh Senger from NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan. “These women do not go back to their native places and so their husbands do not feel accountable to anyone. They think they can do anything with them and no one will question them. Because they have purchased them, these women serve both as sex slaves as well as labour slaves for these men.”

Recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Kisan Morcha president O.P. Dhankar stoked a controversy by saying his party would get girls from Bihar for the unmarried young men of Haryana. More than a month after his controversial statement, Dhankar says: “We cannot stop migration. What we should look for is ways to legalize this process. I think both the source and the destination states should make it mandatory to register these inter-state marriages.”

On September 16 last year, when the 23-year-old was working in the kitchen, she heard someone shout her name. It was her sister accompanied by Haryana Police and NGO Shakti Vahini. When the villagers learned about the joint rescue operation, a huge crowd gathered around her house with knives and sticks, shouting that they wouldn’t let anyone take their bride away as they had paid for her and she was their property. Under police protection, the 23-year-old was brought to the local thana. “Finally I was free. It felt like nothing worse could happen to me any more,” she says. And then a pregnancy test confirmed that she was pregnant. The child, she says, is Pal’s, who is now out on bail. Even though nothing legally stops an investigating officer from conducting an investigation anywhere in the country, Pal has relocated to West Bengal, out of the reach of Haryana Police. “They forced us to withdraw the case against Pal’s wife by emotionally blackmailing us, saying she has a small child,” the 23-year-old’s elder sister says. “But my sister’s life is ruined. Nothing happened to the people who did this to her. When an item in the market is damaged or has some flaw, no one wants it…there are no buyers.”

Trafficked tribal girl returns home with employer’s help

Pahariya Girl TraffickingPUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

A minor Pahariya tribal girl, identified as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribe, from Jharkhand who was trafficked to Delhi from Agra to work as a domestic worker was rescued after her employer’s relative, who is an Inspector with the Delhi Police, informed public authorities and NGO Shakti Vahini. The girl’s family and panchayat head reached Delhi to accompany her back to her Jharkhand village.

“A few years ago, an older girl in my village asked me to go away from the village. I had never left home before and realised later that they had brought me to Agra,” recounted Sonali, in her late teens.

“The employer in Agra beat me regularly almost every day. Then after a year, Pinky brought me to Delhi,” she said.

The Delhi employer’s relative, Rajiv Ratan, informed the Child Welfare Committee and Shakti Vahini that the tribal girl appeared to be a minor and trafficked.

‘Scared and confused’

“She appeared scared and it seemed she had been trafficked. I tried to track her local police station, but she could not recall her village name, or even the State she belonged to at first. Then I informed the NGO members.

They traced her village to Pakur in Jharkhand and then we contacted officials at the Jharkhand Bhawan,” said Mr. Ratan.

Shakti Vahini’s Rishi Kant said the organisation had rescued more than 70 girls from Jharkhand since January.

“The girl’s father reached Delhi three days ago. Unfortunately, he gave the girl a sad news about brother’s death. The family was distraught. Tribal children are particularly vulnerable and we need to have more concerted efforts to prevent trafficking from home States and support the children once they reach Delhi,” said Mr Rishi Kant.

Mukhiya Narayan Mahto who accompanied the girl’s family said several children from the village left their homes for Delhi and Mumbai to work and had lose contact with their families.

Shakti Vahini has rescued more than 70 girls from Jharkhand since January

Girl’s rescue in Delhi exposes trafficking racket in Bengal

Human Trafficking of Children and women is Rampant in West Bengal. Girls in Rural areas are vulnerable to these organised gangs
Human Trafficking of Children and women is Rampant in West Bengal. Girls in Rural areas are vulnerable to these organised gangs

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

The rescue of the 16-year-old girl, haling from Haroa in North 24 Parganas, from a red light area in Delhi last week, seems to have busted a trafficking racket.

North 24 Parganas police have arrested Sk Sabir alias Rohit, the main accused, who kidnapped and trafficked the girl.

“The investigation has revealed that the accused is a habitual offender and we are probing whether he has trafficked other girls out of the State,” Bhaskar Mukherjee, Additional Superintendent of Police, North 24 Parganas, told The Hindu on Monday.

Mr. Mukherjee said that another woman Tanjina Khatum, an accomplice of the main accused, who used to befriend young girls, has also been detained.

The police said they have rescued another minor from the custody of Khatum. Meanwhile, the police have learnt that Sabir was in touch with two more young girls and was trying to lay a trap for them. It has also been learnt that the main accused is a resident of Purba Medinipur and operated in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts. Sabir was arrested on August 9.

During a joint raid by representatives of a non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, West Bengal police, and the Delhi police, a 16-year-old student of class X was rescued earlier this month. The girl was abducted in June and her brother and other relatives went to Delhi to rescue her. A trafficker identified as Roshni, and hailing from the State was arrested in Delhi and brought to the State.

Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini, said the development points to a trafficking racket operating out of the State. “Since the source trafficker has been arrested he believed that he is involved in other cases of trafficking and it requires attention of a special agency,” he said, adding that the organisation will be writing to the State Criminal Investigation Department to take over the case. The activist added that there is a need to expand the ambit of investigation and bring those operating in Delhi in the purview of investigation.

Jharkhand haats, melas hotbeds of traffickers

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA – BY AMBIKA PANDIT

RANCHI: Wading past the surging devotees, Poonam Devi makes a desperate bid to reach a man walking a few metres ahead of her. Her struggle ends in vain as he disappears in the crowd out to witness the “rath yatra” that attracts thousands to the Jagannath temple every year in June-July. Tired and breathless, she stops to explain that he is the man who took her 14-year-old daughter away to Delhi without her knowledge. It has been a year and she has not heard from her.

The lone breadwinner for her seven children, Poonam is a widow who makes her living as a daily wage labourer. She came to the 300-year-old mela, which attracts both tribals and non-tribals, hoping to find the man who took her daughter away. Most traffickers are known to families one way or other. They either live in the same community or neighbouring villages. Often they operate through intermediaries in the villages. Oblivious to the evils of the larger world, gullible tribals are the softest targets.

Tribal youths dancing during a political rally in Jharkhand. (Getty Images photo) Over the years haats (weekly markets) and melas, such as the Jagannath chariot festival, have become hotbed of intermediaries and traffickers to track potential candidates. These huge gatherings are social platforms where boys and girls mingle. Targeted young girls are often lured with the promise of marriage and taken outside Jharkhand.

The presence of sleuths of the anti-human trafficking unit from Khunti district at the Jagannath mela further underlines the dangers confronting the youth from poverty-stricken villages of this region. Aradhna Singh, inspector, AHTU, Khunti said that the number of minors reported missing often increases after melas and haats.

Poonam said that the man who lured her daughter away had earlier taken her sons too. When the boys contacted her from Delhi she learnt that they were working as domestic helps. Estimates put domestic workers in India at 50 million. Delhi alone has an estimated 10 lakh workers. Most are migrants. There’s no law to regulate domestic work and placement agencies at the Central or state level.

The boys were not happy with the work condition and wanted to return. When she asked the trafficker to bring them back he was non-committal. Finally, she went to Delhi to bail them out of the mess. Before life could normalise, her daughter vanished from the house. It turned out, after a frenetic search that the same man had taken away her daughter too. Poonam now wants the Jharkhand police to catch the trafficker and punish him.

Tribal women selling vegetables and other things at a weekly market. (Getty Images photo)
Tribal women selling vegetables and other things at a weekly market. (Getty Images photo)

Walking past the stalls in the mela, even a mention of “Delhi” or a casual reference to trafficking invites angry stares from bystanders. A woman is overheard telling another fellow villager to be cautious and not to engage in any discussion with strangers on Delhi and domestic work.

At the sprawling mela, stalls peddle bows and arrows, iron utensils, fishing nets and bird cages made of bamboo. Villager Dileep Kumar, who makes a livelihood selling fishing nets, hesitantly shares his ordeal. He murmurs that his daughter too was taken to Delhi for work about a year ago and he has not heard from her since. Stark poverty drove her to seek work outside, he says. Worried to the bone, he seeks help to bring his daughter back.

Baidnath Kumar from NGO Diya Seva Sansthan admits that the problem is acute and emphasises on the need to create a state-police and NGO coordination mechanism. To that effect, a missing child helpline was set-up in October 2013. The NGO closely involved in rescue and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking is manning the helpline set-up by CID, Jharkhand. Based on calls received 128 cases of missing children have been registered since October last year. Most victims are girls. As many as 78 children were recovered following up complaints made on the helpline.

Kumar said that in 98% cases, the girls and boys are taken to Delhi followed by Mumbai, Pune and Goa. “Girls from this belt are also being pushed into prostitution by traffickers,” Kumar added.

Tribal painting on a wall of a house in a Jharkhand village. (Getty Images photo)
Tribal painting on a wall of a house in a Jharkhand village. (Getty Images photo)

Rishi kant from NGO Shakti Vahini who has been part of the teams that have rescued many tribal girls from Jharkhand in Delhi, particularly over the last two years, warns that more and more women and minor girls are being brought to Delhi for work by traffickers.

“Due to uneven development in states with substantial tribal population such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Assam and Orissa, such migration of women and minor girls is on the rise,” he said. “The migration happens through unregulated placement agencies that often indulge in human trafficking,” he says.

NGOs working with domestic workers say trafficking in Delhi/NCR has grown over 10 years. “Many girls end up in exploitative circumstances and are treated as slaves. Placement agencies make huge profits and the victims never get salaries for their backbreaking work,” Rishi kant says.

Jharkhand teen leads cops to job agency

SHAKTI VAHINI    12J

By AMBIKA PANDIT IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: All of 17 years old, a tribal girl from Jharkhand’s Khunti district—a belt affected by Maoist violence—led Delhi Police and an anti-human trafficking team from her home state to the placement agency in Taimoor Nagar in south Delhi on Friday.

A victim of bonded labour, she was not just denied her wages but the owners of the placement agency also took away her certificates documenting her educational growth. Another girl, who is 14 and from the same district, was rescued on May 5 by volunteers of NGO Shakti Vahini from Kashmere Gate ISBT. She had been beaten by her employers in Chandigarh.

The two girls are examples of a worrying trend. More and more girls are being lured in by traffickers from areas suffering Maoist violence to Delhi and other metros by the promise of a better life. These two girls will, however, leave for their native state on Monday.

“I came to Delhi with a few girls who already worked here hoping to get work based on basis of my Class X result and the short course I had done in the hospitality sector. I was shocked when the man tried to place me in a job as a domestic worker. He took away my documents and, when I refused to take this job, hired me to work in his office. He never paid me the promised salary of Rs 7,000. I finally fled to my village in February and filed a case against him with the labour department,” she told TOI.

Aradhana Singh, the police officer in charge of AHTU in Khunti district and here to take the girls home, said most people don’t complain when girls go missing because they fear attacks from the Maoists who may see them as police informers. Social activists from NGO Diya Sewa Sansthan from Jharkhand said in 13 years just about 360 FIRs have been registered in trafficking cases and only in one case a trafficker has been sentenced to a jail term.

Delhi has no rules in place to care for trafficked victims

SHAKTI VAHINI

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

Last November, the Delhi Government had submitted before the Delhi High Court that within eight weeks it would notify minimum standards of care and protection for trafficked victims. Nearly six months have gone by and despite many such cases being reported since, the notification is yet to see the light of the day.

Prior to this, expressing its displeasure over a Nepalese girl being forced to go back to the place from where she was rescued, the High Court had sent a notice to the State government asking for suggestions in this regard.

The notice was one in a series of many issued by the court, which took a suo motu of a report published in The Hindu in May 2013 about a girl trafficked from West Bengal and pushed into prostitution in the Capital. The Nepalese girl, too, was rescued around the same time and by the same NGO Shakti Vahini. She was later set free by a Delhi court, but went back to the brothel “because she had nowhere else to go and there was no institutional mechanism in place to take care of her”.

Since Delhi does not have any guidelines on the care and protection of victims, especially post their rescue, the court directed that it should adopt the ones framed by the Andhra Pradesh Government a few years ago. The Andhra Pradesh guidelines deal extensively with all aspects of standards of care be it accountability, legal aid, monitoring, benefits provided, restoration, diet and even infrastructure facilities available at care homes.

It was on November 27 that the Standing Counsel for the State Government Zubeda Begum informed the court about the eight-week deadline for taking into account the guidelines issued by the Southern State. She added that Delhi would also incorporate some additional features.

Six months on, the guidelines have not been notified. In response to The Hindu ’s question about the current status of the notification, a senior Delhi Government official said the draft has been prepared. On the delay, she said conditions in Andhra Pradesh were different from those in the Capital and hence they have made some changes.

The official, however, did not divulge what those changes were and what additional measures are there in the proposed Delhi guidelines.

Furthermore, the official said they were still in the process of building consensus on the draft. A meeting between all those providing institutional services is scheduled later this month. “Once notified, it becomes very difficult to make amendments. That is why we are taking our time,” she said.

Freed from brothel, girls want to ink new chapter

Image (741)

AMBIKA PANDIT IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Rescued from a wooden box at a brothel in GB Road on April 26, 17-year-old Neeru (name changed), who had been kidnapped from West Bengal’s 24 Parganas and dumped in Delhi, has been reunited with her family. The girl had appeared for her Class X exams back home. She returned to her village determined to pursue her education. Her father, who appeared relieved to have found his daughter safe, demanded speedy justice and punishment for the guilty.

The girl’s father, a daily wage earner, works as a labourer in farms. He had lodged a missing person report with the local police when his daughter had not returned from school. Neeru is his eldest child. The fact that his daughter was found at GB Road did not deter him from taking her back home.

According to social workers from NGO Shakti Vahini, who were tipped-off about the girl’s presence at GB Road by the father, this case is an example of how family can help in rehabilitation of a survivor from red-light area.

As she waited to board a train to Kolkata at the New Delhi Railway station on Saturday, Neeru narrated how she was befriended by an unknown boy who would give her missed calls on her mobile phone. One day, when she was going to the bank from school, the boy met her and asked her to accompany him. When she felt suspicious and tried to return, he forced her to board a train and she ended up at GB Road. There were many intermediaries in the chain, thrown in to prevent identification of the traffickers.

Tenacious Neeru managed to inform her father about her whereabouts using the phone of a customer. “When we got a tip-off from the father, we informed the police and a raid was organized on April 17. However, we did not find the girl. Later, a decoy customer found a 20-year-old girl from Midnapore district who was sitting depressed in a corner and it turned out that she, too, had been trafficked by a youth who had promised to marry her. She said the girl was hidden in a wooden box here. A second raid was organized on April 26 and both the girls and six other women were rescued from the box,” said Rishi kant from Shakti Vahini.

On Saturday, the 20-year-old girl from Midnapore also returned home with her father. She, too, plans to pursue her education now.

The brothel owner, Padma, had been arrested under sections of abduction, rape, illegal confinement and criminal conspiracy. Sections under POCSO, juvenile justice and immoral trafficking were also added. More arrests are likely.

In the last four years, Shakti Vahini has helped rescue 670 victims of human trafficking, including those trafficked for prostitution, forced marriage, domestic slavery, child labour, bonded labour and adoption. Around 75 victims have been rescued from GB Road.