Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sreelatha Menon: Don`t ban labour, give them schools

Sreelatha Menon: Don`t ban labour, give them schools
Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi August 14, 2006
Extending the ban on child labour is aimed at protecting the government, not the children.

Last week, when the Union labour ministry issued a notification under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, to ban children under the age of 14 from working in residences and in the hospitality sector, it seemed to raise more questions than it succeeded in providing a solution to.

The ban, while much awaited, is being looked at with cynicism as many believe that the addition of two more kinds of work to the list of hazardous work that already stands banned under the law is not the same as banning child labour. The reason is simple: the new categories constitute a mere 5 per cent of the 70-million child workforce of in the country. The majority of children, 85 per cent, are in agricultural labour, which is allowed.

Again, the addition of two more kinds of work does not necessarily mean that the ban on those would be enforced any better than the rest of the Act has been.

The ban alone will also not ensure well-being of the child. What about his rehabilitation, education and so on?

The notification has not been accompanied by any measures to strengthen the enforcement system or the existing rehabilitation system — the National Child Labour Project — to generate optimism. The fact that the whole range of children-related issues is linked to at least six ministries also makes it a complex matter that cannot be solved by the labour ministry alone.

In fact, child right activists say that the whole Child Labour Act, 1986, is fallacious and correction is urgently needed at the level of the law itself. Pradeep Narayanan of Child Relief and You, who hails the new ban, says,

“The notification is as unenforceable as the law itself. Both suffer from ambiguity.’’

“The law which bans child labour in hazardous activities, fails to define ‘hazardous’ in terms of the child. The term is defined in terms of an adult Act, that is, the Factories Act. Besides, it takes months of judicial work to establish whether a hazardous work has been involved in an offence,” says Narayanan. The notification also leaves out household manufacturing industries, he adds.

Commenting on the implementation, he says the inspectors for enforcing the Child Labour Act are the same as that for the Factories Act or Minimum Wage Act or 15 other labour Acts.

Inakshi Ganguli of the NGO Haq believes that the addition of the domestic labour and hotel industry does not solve the problem of child labour. The basic flaw is with the law which needs to be redrafted, she says. Haq has gone to the Supreme Court with this very demand.

The notification brings with it no guarantee of rehabilitation. Worse, there is no guarantee that the children removed from houses and dhabas will go back to schools.

In fact, according to the 1999 Public Report on Basic Education survey of 188 villages in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh by researchers led by economist Jean Dreze, it is not child labour but bad schools which keep away children. Banning child labour cannot ensure zero dropout rates.

The PROBE report also showed that out-of-school children only perform two hours of extra work per day, compared with school-going children.

It is ironic that the UPA government’s sudden realisation of the hazards involved in household chores and hotel industry work for children has come at a time it has washed its hands off having a Central legislation on free and compulsory education and passed the buck to states. A Central law would have meant an annual bill of Rs 40,000 crore for the UPA government.

The notification also comes when it is expecting a rap on its knuckles from the Supreme Court on a petition pleading for ban on child labour to make the right to education a reality.

MV Foundation and Haq have filed the petition in the Supreme Court and a hearing is expected this month.

And the notification rather than protecting the children, will serve to protect the government. Ingrid Srinath, CRY’s CEO of puts it bluntly: "Without strengthening both enforcement mechanisms and provisions for rehabilitation, this step has little meaning."

Grim stories a constant in EEOC caseload

Grim stories a constant in EEOC caseload

By Dianne Solis
The Dallas Morning News
Tucson, Arizona Published: 08.14.2006
wage at the John Pickle Co. in Oklahoma. The award: $1.24 million.
In March, a court heard the case of a black man who was harassed by fellow workers and restrained as they tightened a noose around his neck at Commercial Coating Service Inc. in Texas. The award: $1 million.
Horror stories like these are "a wake-up call to remind everyone that we have to remain vigilant, that these issues are not behind us," said Cari M. Dominguez, chief executive and chairwoman of the nation's job police, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"We are going to make sure that the full effect and full force of the law will be put down on these people. We don't want to see these types of cases ever again."
The EEOC, which litigated the Oklahoma and Texas cases, goes after some of the worst violators and says it prevails more than 90 percent of the time through court orders, settlement agreements and consent decrees.
The agency litigated more than 400 cases nationally in 2005, about the same as in recent years. But it handled 75,428 charges from workers alleging discrimination on the job, down from the 81,000 average of the previous five years and a steep drop from the 91,000 cases in fiscal 1994.
Violations of all kinds still occur, and some of the most shocking cases of late have come out of the EEOC's Texas region offices.
"One of the most egregious"
Dominguez said the case against the John Pickle Co., a Tulsa-based oil industry parts manufacturer, reminded her of the abuses she saw in so many sweatshop investigations during her years as an assistant secretary in the Labor Department.
"That was one of the most egregious cases in a long, long time," the EEOC chief said. "It wasn't just about employment violations, but human rights violations."
Eventually, the Indian plaintiffs received special T visas, authorized under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.
The harsh circumstances of the victims' lives drew the attention of the religious community as the group of Hindu, Muslim, Catholic and other Christian workers tried to attend churches and mosques and fought restrictions.
When one plaintiff, for example, asked to go to church, company owner John Pickle told him to stay in the dorm and watch the Playboy channel, according to the 71-page written opinion of U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan.
When Jagdish Prajapati and the other Indians arrived in Tulsa in 2001, their passports, visas and return-trip airline tickets were confiscated, court documents show.
The Indians were kept at a company dorm described by some plaintiffs as a "refugee camp" and by U.S. workers at the plant as the "Cram-a-lot Inn."
They were told that, if they left, they might be harmed by Americans angered by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and, further, that "black residents of the surrounding area were dangerous and could shoot them," according to the judge's written opinion.
Eventually, an armed guard was hired to prevent "unauthorized departures" from the facility, and two plaintiffs testified that on one occasion, the dorm door was chained shut during the night.
In one of the many allegations of verbal abuse, Prajapati testified that Pickle said out loud, "These are my Indian animals I brought from India to work."
Not eligible for U.S. wages
John Pickle Co. argued that the plaintiffs were not eligible to be employed for U.S. wages because of the type of visas they held.
The court, however, determined that they were employees and entitled to the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour and overtime pay. It is undisputed that the company didn't pay the plaintiffs the legal rate, the judge's final order read.
As the Latino population has grown, the EEOC has dealt with more national-origin issues such as Spanish use in the workplace.
In such cases, the EEOC uses national origin protections in the Civil Rights Act. Domin-guez said workplace treatment, rather than immigration status, is the focus of the EEOC's work.
National origin cases make up about 10 percent of all charges filed at the EEOC, and half of those cases come from Hispanics, EEOC statistics show.

Nepal, India urged to fight trafficking in women
Tue Aug 15, 2006 9:34 AM BST
By Gopal Sharma Reuters UK

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal and India need to step up efforts to fight trafficking of Nepali women and children for sex and include the crime in a future extradition pact, a top United Nations envoy said on Tuesday.

Thousands of poor and illiterate Nepali women, who are increasingly lured by pimps with false promises of finding jobs in India, are forced to work as sex workers there.

"Nepal should work with India to include trafficking as one of the offences in their extradition treaty," said Sigma Huda, special rapporteur of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a visit to the Himalayan nation.

"Trafficking is definitely a big worry for Nepal and for the (South Asia) region," she said in an interview with Reuters.

Both countries are debating a new extradition treaty in a bid to control cross-border crimes.

Nepal, one of the world's 10 poorest nations, and India share 1,750 km (1,090 miles) open border and thousands of Nepalis cross over to economically-stronger India to find work.

Nepalis do not need passports or work permits for employment in India. Both countries share close economic, diplomatic, cultural and religious ties.

Activists say up to 7,000 jobless young Nepali women were trafficked to India annually. About 200,000 women from Nepal are estimated to be already working as prostitutes in India, Asia's fourth largest economy.

"It is a big crime. It is selling a human being just like a commodity," Huda said. "Women who are trafficked for sexual purposes are often affected by HIV/AIDS.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved. Learn more about Reuters

India's Constantly Moving Sex Workers Are Spreading HIV Faster

India's Constantly Moving Sex Workers Are Spreading HIV FasterAugust 14, 2006 3:59 p.m. EST
Komfie Manalo - All Headline News Foreign Correspondent
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - A study made by the World Bank (WB) identifies India's transient sex workers as one of the biggest threats in the spread of HIV/AIDS. A repost says authorities are finding it difficult to track down the movement of both sex workers and their customers.
The report, which was prepared for the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada said, "A high proportion of female sex workers in India move, often as frequently as every two weeks."
It adds, "Clients of female sex workers are also highly mobile ... increasing the pace at which high-risk networks are linked, and this pattern can amplify local epidemics."
Statistics from the UNAIDS 2004, a global report on the AIDS epidemic, says India accounts for about 40 percent of Asia's total population; home to over 60 percent of the continent's estimated HIV carriers.
The WB said the constant movement is one of the major reasons for the transmission of HIV particularly among drug users in northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. These countries lie between the Gold Crescent and Golden Triangle opium poppy growing regions, the report said.
In South Asia, the Bank says an estimated 5.5 million people were infected with HIV. But recent study found the number of HIV affliction is declining in southern Indian states. They believe sex workers in the area have begun using condoms.
The report adds, "Programming for mobile sex workers presents tactical challenges, given the difficulty of maintaining continuous outreach and peer education and condom supplies."
The same study found that Nepalese women who migrate or were trafficked to work in India's sex trade, were found to have a high potential for creating a "substantial epidemic" among high-risk groups.
Nepalese women who were engaged in sex trade and who returned to their country from Mumbai in India, have a much higher HIV prevalence. These women are also threatening to spread the virus to their male customers at home.
Mariam Claeson, who co-authors the report said, "Preventing HIV infection among sex workers in Nepal would certainly be more effective if they were coordinated with efforts in India focusing on migration and sex worker trafficking, especially in Mumbai."

Child trafficking prevalent in Jharkhand

Bishwesh Arya


Tuesday, August 15, 2006 (Ranchi district, Jharkhand):

Nearly every third house in the poorest districts in Jharkhand has a child who has left home in search of food and work. Now they are missing from their families and public consciousness too.

Sunita Oraon has spent over a year looking for her eldest daughter Raodi. Poverty drove 12-year-old Raodi to leave her home in Gurgujari village near Ranchi.

But no one knows where she has gone and her family fears she has become a victim of traffickers who lure poor children from these backward areas and take them to big cities.

A majority of the children were later found in Delhi, working in roadside dhabas, wholesale markets and at homes.

Sunita went thrice to Delhi. She had no address, no information, just a hope that she would trace her daughter somehow. Though she spent most of her earnings, it was all in vain.

"It's been a year. But there is no trace of her," said Sunita Oraon, a resident of Gurgujari Village.

Trafficking of children common

In adjoining karak village, Sumari Lohar's eight-year-old nephew Rajesh has not come home for four years now. Sumari contacted the woman who took Rajesh to the city.

Though the woman broker has agreed to help Sumari trace Rajesh, she wants Rs 3,000 rupees. Sumari does not have the money.

"I dint know where he is. His mother is also no more. Where can we look for her," asks Sumari Lohar, a resident of Karak Village.

The irony is that though trafficking of children is common in more than 11 districts of Jharkhand, few cases are registered at police stations.

"I am really scared of the police. They ask for money, which I don't have. I don't know what to do, I am all alone," said Ranjana Lohar, a resident of Karak Village

As a result, a large number of the vulnerable groups of working children are missing. A survey carried out by the state labour department has found that as many as 45,000 children in these 11 districts had left their homes in search of work.

Nearly 80 per cent of these children belong to tribal families.

Poverty drives 20-year-old Indian to wed octogenarian Saudi

Bangalore - In an oft seen story of the compulsions of poverty and a society that looks past gender exploitation, an 80-year-old Arab sheikh has married the 20-year-old daughter of a cycle mechanic here. And the police can do nothing.
Bangalore bride Asma Begum married Mujib Al-Sunafiam Al-Dosari from Saudi Arabia, who is 60 years older than her and could well be her grandfather, on Tuesday.
‘Yes, we have learnt about the nikaah between the couple, solemnised by a local priest under the Shariat law on Tuesday, a day after the octogenarian arrived in the city from Riyadh with one of his sons — Abdullah Al-Dosari, a police constable, and his family,’ said a senior police official.
‘Since the bride made a confessional statement that she had consented to the marriage with the blessings of her poverty-stricken parents — Mohammed Arif, a cycle mechanic, and Shaihda Begum — we had no case to book,’ he admitted.
Police learnt about the marriage through a tip-off that some Saudi men and burqa-clad women were staying in a city lodge and their unusual movements were causing suspicion.
As part of Independence Day security measures and preventive checks, police raided the lodge only to discover Mujib spending the first night with his bride in the room, while his son Abdullah was relaxing in an adjacent room with his wife and children.
On interrogation, Asma’s parents told the police that the wedding was arranged by Mujib’s sister-in-law Fathima Yousuf because his first wife had passed away last year and there was no one to look after him in old age.
According to police, Mujib is an affluent businessman from Riyadh, who deals in buying and selling goats, sheep and camels. He also runs a tyre retreading shop. He asked Fathima to find a suitable bride to marry and take care of him as he was living alone.
In an endless circle of exploitation, Fathima, who also belongs to Bangalore, married Mujib’s 60-year-old brother some years ago to bail out her parents from poverty.
And when she made the offer to Asma’s parents a week ago, they succumbed to promises that their daughter would send funds from Saudi Arabia every month and ease the burden of looking after a large family.
Asma and Fathima are just tips of the iceberg.
Said a senior official investigating the case: ‘Though we could not register a case against Mujib or Asma’s parents as the marriage was found to be tenable and legal under Muslim law, we are collecting information to find out whether young girls like Asma are taken to Saudi in the guise of a bride or wife but made to do menial jobs as maids.’
Some years ago in the early 1990s, a young Hyderabad girl Amina who was just 14 at the time was spotted crying by an alert air hostess on the Hyderabad-Delhi flight. Amina had been married off to an Arab in his 60s and was on her way to Saudi Arabia. She was saved because she was a minor.
Asma is not underage. But that hasn’t made her less of a victim of the Lolita syndrome.

Human dignity up on sale

Human dignity up on saleMANU AIYAPPA[ 16 Aug, 2006 2243hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

HUBLI: Sangeetha (name changed) remembers vividly her ordeal at the hands of a human trafficker, when she was desperate to secure a better life for herself and her family. Three months ago, a man she didn't know met her and casually inquired about her life. Unwary, the 18-year-old told him that it was a hard life, and she did not have enough money to buy medicines for her ailing parents. Realising her desires, he told her about a wealthy man in Gujarat who was keen to marry a village girl. He promised to take her there if she was interested. Sangeetha believed him and decided to go, in the hope of securing a new lease of life. "First, my parents were reluctant to send me. But they agreed when I convinced them," she said, even as tears rolled down her cheeks.

When she insisted on taking her parents with her, the middleman promised that she would be able to return home after just two weeks, and with huge amount of money. But obviously it was not the case to be. "When we went to Gujarat, he took whatever money I had and sent me with a rich man, saying that he was her husband," she says.

"I spent two months with him after a marriage which was conducted in a hush-hush manner. It was a terrible time after that, as everyday I was sexually exploited and never allowed to go outside." Finally, she couldn't bear it any longer, and decided to return. "I had only Rs 200 which I had stolen, and it was difficult to escape, but finally I managed to do so."

Sangeetha is not alone. Although there are no hard accurate numbers, in the past five years, trafficking of women and children in North Karnataka for sexual exploitation has victimised over 3 lakh people.
Their destination is mainly Gujarat and Rajasthan, but some are taken to Mumbai, Bangalore and Goa, where the flesh trade flourishes...

There are reports that some have also been shifted abroad. While some are 'sold', others are 'married off ' for a consideration ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000. According to a police inspector who was instrumental in unearthing such a racket in Hubli recently, the victims usually come from poor families, and are lured by promises of a better life for themselves and their families. Some are offered a job or an education, while others are kidnapped and sold by friends and family members for profit. "It is a ruthless business where money overpowers basic human rights," he asserted. Traffickers often use local people (sub-agents) in a community or village to find young women and children, and target families who are poor and vulnerable. In some situations, family members sell children to middlemen or traffickers. The parents are deceived into believing their children will get a good job or an education. However, most of the time they end up in a brothel or other businesses where they are forced to have sex with the clientele. Until recently, police authorities here largely ignored the issue. But they now admit the existence of the problem and are trying to unravel it. "One of the major problems with making arrests is that people do not want to be used as witnesses against the agents or gangs involved in trafficking," another officer explained. "It is difficult to help women who have already fallen victim to traffickers, but preventing further such incidents is crucial," said Subhas Jamadar, belonging to an NGO associated with the Human Rights Commission Cell. He suggested maximum cooperation between the government and non-government organisations for the eradication of the problem.

Child labour: Government scheme fails in Firozabad

Child labour: Government scheme fails in Firozabad

Sutapa Deb NDTV 24X7

Saturday, August 19, 2006 (Firozabad):

It is nearly two decades since the Centre banned child labour in Firozabad's bangle and glassware industry. It went beyond framing a law by intervening when it launched an ambitious national child labour project. The idea was to rehabilitate the thousands of children who had now been plucked out of factories. But when NDTV revisited the working class neighbourhoods we found a wide gap between the way the scheme was conceived and the way it was managed. round 114 special child labour schools were set up under the national child labour project in the bangle making district 18 years ago. The schools for 50 students each were meant to meet the special needs of the working children, offering non formal education till class V, stipends, midday meals, free books, and pre-vocational training.

Utter mismanagement

But nearly two decades later the schools are special only in name. Set up in dreary quarters, there is only a single room to accommodate 50 children who are at different levels.

There is no furniture, no modern teaching materials and purposeful prevocational training. And though the children are required to pack in five years of education in three years, there is no intensive coaching.

The management says the schools are unable to attract good teachers because the salaries for teachers are fixed at 1,500 rupees a month three years ago.

"We were not taught the basics. Instead of learning alphabets we were asked to tackle words and meanings," said Asif, a child labour.

Some families are opting for private schools even though they pay for education there.

There are also complaints that the Rs 100 a month stipend scheme is being mismanaged. The payments are random and irregular.

The national child labour project has also failed to promote income generation for parents of child labour. In Bhim Nagar we meet Rajju, who after her husband's death, barely manages to earn Rs 60 a day with the help of her two children.

"I am in distress. With great difficulty I manage to get food to eat. If I get work I do it, otherwise I just sit. I have to marry off my girl also," said Rajju.

Children continue to work

A few houses away is 12-year-old Sonu who has a dysfunctional family. Sonu is paid Rs 3 for joining 300 bangles.

So low are the piece rates set by factory owners that only when two adults and two children work that the family manages Rs 3,000 a month.

The irony is that almost each child at these child labour schools continues to work.

These schools are run with crores of funds given by India's ministry of labour and the US dept of labour.

It is just one of the many schemes launched by different government departments like health, women and child development, social welfare and tribal welfare.

The neglect of this important child labour project shows that no sincere attempt has been made to either integrate all the schemes or provide quality.

It is disturbing that not a single child labour school can be considered as successful on all parameters.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Govt push to drive against human trafficking

Express News Service

Mumbai, August 12: A total of 8900 cases of trafficking were registered in 2004-2005. 13,300 persons were arrested, 93% of them women and minors. 85% of them were convicted, IPS officer P Nair, currently on deputation to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), quotes these figures to illustrate how the justice system is criminalising victims, but not traffickers.

It is this disturbing abberation that the UN and the Central government is now seeking to attack, by training the people at the forefront of the anti-trafficking effort: India’s police investigators and public prosecutors.

The first such programme in Maharashtra, organised by the UNDOC, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the state government began on Saturday. The two-day session was attended by prosecutors from across the state and Goa.

Bombay High Court Judge Ranjana Desai, a former public prosecutor, told the lawyers that they needed to be up to date with the law since there were a host of legal provisions to combat trafficking which were not being used while filing chargesheets.

Desai exhorted the prosecutors to work in close co-ordination with the investigating officers and avoid delays in the procedure:‘‘The greater the delays, the lower the prospects of conviction,’’ she pointed out.

Walter Vaz, doctor at the King Edward Memorial Hospital said the ‘ossification test’ to verify the age of the victim- to determine whether the victim was a minor-was erratic and flawed. ‘‘Prosecutors need to push for a uniform age estimation process. Physical characteristics like teeth can be examined for a fairly accurate estimation of the victim’s age.’’

Vaz also candidly stated that government doctors were often in league with the traffickers so that children’s ages could be successfully rigged to alter charges and the possibilities of conviction.

Senior police officials, mental health experts and child rehabilitation workers will speak to the lawyers on Sunday. Asha Bajpai from TISS said, ‘‘We want to expose the prosecutors to as many diverse perspectives as possible, with the best professionals from every field.’’

Nair explained, ‘‘We are essentially creating resource persons, and will ensure sustained monthly follow-ups. The idea is that these prosecutors go back to their respective districts and hold similar programmes for their fellow lawyers.’’