Trafficked girl awaits aid after 3yrs

143847968Guwahati Telegraph By Pankaj Sarma

Sept. 9: Almost three years after she was rescued from Haryana, a 20-year-old victim of human trafficking from Assam is still awaiting assistance from the state government for her rehabilitation.
Rekha (name changed), who hails from Hajo in Kamrup district, is now struggling for a livelihood as she is yet to get any form of help from the government despite repeated pleas. “Without any source of income, I have become a burden on my family,” she told The Telegraph.

As a result, she is finding it difficult to arrange even two square meals a day for herself and her two-year-old son. Rekha, who was trafficked to Haryana and forced into marriage, was rescued by Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based anti-trafficking NGO, with the help of Haryana police from Shahpur in Haryana’s Jind district on October 4, 2011.

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini told The Telegraph that she had written many times to the state government seeking help so that she can sustain herself and take care of her child but till date her efforts have yielded no result.

“After prolonged persuasion, joint secretary of the social welfare department M. Baruah wrote an official letter to the director of the department, Dilip Borthakur, on March 5 this year asking him to look into the matter and do the needful,” he said.

“Six months have passed since then, but unfortunately nothing came of it,” Kant rued. When contacted, Borthakur said one of his officers, who is looking into the matter, is currently on leave.
“I would be able to tell you about its present status only after he returns from leave,” he said.

Rishi Kant said Rekha was trafficked when she was 17 with the lure of a job since she was from a very poor family. “After that she was forced to marry a person named Rakesh, who not only sexually abused her but also forced her to do all the household chores,” he said. At the time of her rescue, Rekha was five months pregnant. According to Kant, they reunited Rekha with her family and sent her back home.

“Her family comprises her father, mother and her child, who are now totally dependent on the daily wage earned by her father, which is not enough to make both ends meet,” he said.
“The girl had appeared for the high school examination before tragedy befell her but could not pass. The situation was truly painful,” he said.
“What was even more painful is that while the girl and her family continue to struggle, the administration has turned a blind eye towards them. Rehabilitation as a post-rescue measure seems to be a lost cause, duly ignored by the authorities,” Kant said.

He said the sordid tale of Rekha exposes the true face of the state government, which otherwise claims to be helping trafficking victims. According to him, because of a lack of specific policy of the state government for rehabilitation of trafficking victims, many survivors of trafficking, who are from poverty-stricken and marginalised families, are left with no other option but to take up prostitution to support their families

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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.

Abused domestic help says she is being pressurised

SHAKTI VAHINI

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

The victim, who was rescued from Vasant Kunj, says she was forced to sign documents

Seven months after Phul Murmu (name changed), who used to work as a domestic help at Vasant Kunj, was rescued with signs of torture and physical abuse, she has complaint to the police of being pressured to sign documents against her will by two men. She made the complaint to the district police at Sahibganj in Jharkhand on Friday, where her family lives.

“On Thursday, two men came to my house at Atgama village. I had left with my mother to help in her work, lifting sand. They forced my sister to bring them to the river bed where we were working and asked me to sign documents, which I could not read. When I refused, they offered me money and then threatened me. They forced me to sign them,” Phul Murmu told The Hindu over the phone from Sahibganj, where she has been living in a hostel run by NGO Mahila Samakhya. “The girl made a complaint of being forced to sign documents by two men. We are investigating the matter,” said Sahibganj’s Superintendent of Police A.B. Ram.

NGO Shakti Vahini wrote a letter to Jharkhand’s Director General of Police and the Chief Secretary asking them to take cognisance of the matter. “There have been instances of victims being pressured and coerced to change their statements, and this could be one of them. This must be checked and investigated thoroughly,” said Rishi Kant, activist with Shakti Vahini in Delhi.

Phul Murmu, a minor at the time of her rescue in September 2013, bore injury marks all over her face. Vandana Dheer, her employer, was then working as the head of corporate communications with French multinational Alstom.

Murmu had stated that during the four months she worked at Dheer’s house in posh Vasant Kunj, she had hit her with hot utensils, used a knife to peel her skin, and made her drink urine twice to punish her. Dheer was arrested in October under Sections 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons), 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and got bail two months later.

Dorothy, accused of running a placement agency that trafficked Phul Murmu from Jharkhand, got bail in October 2013. There has been a spate of incidents over the last year of domestic workers fleeing or being rescued from Delhi’s residential colonies and placements agencies after they being beaten, and in several instances sexually assaulted. Murmu’s rescue by the Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini was soon followed by a case in November in which Dhananjay Singh, the then Bahujan Samajwadi Party sitting MP from Jaunpur, U.P., and his wife Jagriti Singh were arrested in connection with the death of Rakhi Bhadra, a 35-year old domestic worker, in their house.

These cases have, however, not deterred abuse of domestic workers. On April 27, a tribal girl in her late teens from Singhbhum in Jharkhand working as a domestic worker in Model Town was found dead with injuries.

Her employer businessman Sachin Jindal and his wife Shilpi Jindal were arrested in connection with the death.

Seven years for woman who forced girl into prostitution

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

The victim, kidnapped from West Bengal, was rescued from G.B. Road during a raid conducted by the police last year

A 26-year-old woman has been put behind bars for seven years by a Delhi court for trafficking a girl from West Bengal. She was forced into prostitution and rescued only after her brother came looking for her.

Shakti Vahini 22The court stopped short of directing closure of the brothel being run by convict Teena since the issue is part of a petition before the Delhi High Court.

It, however, slapped a fine of Rs.15,000 on Teena, which would be paid as compensation to the victim.

Additional Sessions Judge Kaveri Baweja held her guilty of illegally confining the victim and under various provisions of the Immoral Trafficking Act for forcing the girl into prostitution.

The girl was rescued from a brothel at G.B. Road by a Delhi Police raiding party.

The team had swung into action after the Kamla Market police station was informed by an NGO that a boy had approached them looking for her sister.

During the raid, the team reached a brothel where the girl came forward and identified the boy as her brother. She was taken by the police for medical examination and sent to Nari Niketan on the order of a magistrate.

The girl and her family’s ordeal were reported by The Hindu . The Delhi High Court had taken cognisance of the newspaper report.

The girl told the police and the court that in January 2013, while she was roaming outside her house in Bengal, two boys came on a motorcycle and covered her face with a cloth after which she fainted.

She said when she regained consciousness, she found herself at Howrah railway station from where she was brought to Delhi and kept in a room. The boys told her that she will have to work as a prostitute. When she raised a hue and cry, she was beaten up and threatened. Then she was handed over to Teena who took her to the brothel.

At the brothel, she was forced to have physical relations with many customers in a day for Rs.300, the victim told t

Court orders closure of brothel after rescue of minor girl

Shakti Vahini Conviction

By AKANSHA JAIN – PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

10-year jail for two women who forced girl into prostitution

Coming across the case of a minor girl who was sold to a woman running a brothel here for prostitution, a court here has given the Delhi Police seven days to close down the brothel.

Additional Sessions Judge Kaveri Baweja, who presides over the fast track court for trying cases of sexual offences against women, passed the order while handing down a 10-year jail term to two women who had paid Rs.30,000 for the girl and forced her into prostitution at their brothel in G.B. Road.

“I deem it appropriate to exercise my powers under Section 18 of the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (Magistrate’s power to order closure of brothel and eviction of offenders) and direct closure of the said brothel,” the court said.

“SHO of Kamla Market police station shall evict the occupiers of the said brothel within seven days,” the ASJ ordered.

It also directed the two convicts, Sheetal and Rekha, to pay Rs.35,000 each to be paid to the victim as compensation.

The Delhi Legal Services Authority was also directed to recommend suitable compensation to the victim.

The girl was rescued from the brothel on February 28, 2012, by the staff of NGO Shakti Vahini and the police. A raiding party reached the brothel where the victim came forward and recorded her statement. She said she is a native of West Bengal where her father works as a contractor for building bus stands.

The girl said she had studied up to Class IX. She developed friendship with a boy, Raju, who made a false promise of marriage.

Raju introduced her to a woman who brought her to Delhi and made her stay at Majnu Ka Tila for a week. Raju had promised to join her in Delhi in three days but never turned up. The woman then took her to G.B. Road and sold her off to Sheetal for Rs.30,000. The girl said she was beaten up by Sheetal and Rekha to establish physical relations with customers.

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.

Faridabad maid’s death: One held, second autopsy likely

Image (737)
NEW DELHI: Six days after a tribal girl from Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal was found dead in mysterious circumstances at the residence of her employers in sector 49, the Faridabad police arrested the owner of a Delhi-based placement agency, Rafiq, on Saturday. He had been booked on the basis of an FIR on a complaint of the deceased domestic worker’s mother. With a second postmortem to establish the cause of death expected only by Monday, the girl’s decomposing body, for now protected by ice bars, lies in an ill-equipped and mice-infested “dead house” in Faridabad.

The police personnel of Dabua Chowki, under Saran police station, arrested Rafiq, who owns Laxmi Placement Agency in Tughlaqabad. He had allegedly brought the girl from her village after taking the consent of a relative, according to the mother, who was unaware of her daughter’s presence in the city.

The police will also be investigating the role of the affluent family that hired the girl for house work in March allegedly for a meagre Rs 3500 despite the fact that she appeared to be a minor. The police have registered a case against both the placement agency owner and her employers under sections related to kidnapping, trafficking, child labour, abetment to suicide and Juvenile Justice Act applicable to minors. The mother also wants a case to be registered under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

The mother, herself a domestic worker employed in Janakpuri, has alleged that her daughter was only 13 and a very strong person who could not have committed suicide. She has claimed that the child, who was going to school in her village, was brought to Delhi without informing her husband who was taking care of the children while she worked in the capital.

The mother has, meanwhile, expressed shock to learn that a postmortem had already been conducted without her permission and the report declared it to be an ordinary death due to hanging, making it a case of suicide. She has now sought a fresh post-mortem.

Compounding the tragedy is the growing concern over the decomposing body and desperate search for space for burial. Social workers from NGO Shakti Vahini were seen frantically reaching out to different Christian institutions as they tried to seek space in a cemetery. “We were shocked when confronted by the demand for a certificate to show that she was a Catholic Christian before she could get burial space. When we told them that we did not have any such document and explained the situation, we were turned away,” said Rishikant of the NGO.

Similar resistance to burying a minor domestic worker from Jharkhand was witnessed last year and had led the NCPCR to issue directions wherein a list of churches and pastors in Delhi was drawn up for such cases. On Saturday too former NCPCR member Vinod Tikoo reached out to YMCA to intervene in the matter and resolve the crisis.