Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bihar gaining notoriety

Dipak Mishra[ 22 Aug, 2006 0258hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

PATNA: Prayas Bharati, a voluntary organisation, has rescued over 90 girls from being trafficked in Patna Junction alone during the past one year. On August 15 last year, the NGO opened a Women Line, a 24-hour helpline on platform no. 1 to rescue trafficked women. "The age of the victims appear to be getting younger and younger thanks to the increasing awareness on HIV and AIDS. There is a demand for younger girls in brothels across the country by customers," said Hitesh Kumar, a volunteer of the NGO.

He recalled that earlier this year three sisters hailing from Jalpaiguri in West Bengal were rescued while being taken Delhi in the pretext of giving them jobs. Over 350 kms away another NGO Bhoomika Vihar has been operating from Jogbani and adjoining areas. "During the last four years we have been able to rescue 300 Nepali girls being trafficked to Delhi and abroad. There was one case in which six girls were being trafficked to Kuwait," said Arun Kumar of the NGO insisting that trafficking of women both from within Bihar and from Nepal has been increasing. "All the conditions needed for human trafficking like gender discrimination, poverty and illiteracy are present in the region," said Arun. The number of NGOs working against trafficking has risen.

All of them point out that Bihar is a source, transit point and destination for trafficked victims. "Inside the country the most favoured destinations is Delhi and Mumbai. Inside Bihar it is Muzaffarpur — where the brokers get the highest price for trafficked girls," said another volunteer. However, despite funds being made available to NGOs by donor agencies, they complain that there is very little support from law enforcing agencies. "Even though para-military forces like SSB and the local police help us in saving trafficked victims, it is not in their priority list and there appears to be very little awareness about the implications of trafficking," Arun said. Even volunteers of Prayas Bharati say though the GRP hand over victims to them for rehabilitation, the trafficker is never caught or any case is registered against them. "Human trafficking in Bihar is the third largest trade after arms and drugs," said Prayas Bharati Trust founder and social activist Suman Lal. She said the government wasn't serious on this issue yet.

"The state government formed a state-level task force last year to combat trafficking. The forum has not held a single meeting till date," she said insisting that the law to tackle trafficking needed to be rectified. She pointed out that there have been cases in Bihar in which the trafficked victim has been made accused in police cases.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court notice to seven states, including Bihar, seeking a report on the status of trafficking appears to have stirred the government machinery. A meeting with NGOs and government officials on the subject is to be held soon.


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