Saturday, February 03, 2007

In Nithari light, rescued kids, parents seek child rights protection

Express News Service

Kolkata, February 1: For the last seven months Maksuda Bibi of Kakdwip is doing the rounds of Kakdwip Police Station, Lalbazar and Bhawani Bhavan. She has also run errands to different parts of the state capital, looking for her 16-year old daughter Majeda, who went missing a year back.
Walking along with hundreds of children and mothers like her in today’s rally for child protection, Maksuda seemed to be still searching frantically for her daughter.
The rally was organised by a group of NGOs, led by Hope Foundation. It had rescued children, parents of lost children and NGO members walking from Subodh Mullick Square to College Square, demanding protection of children in the aftermath of the Nithari killings.
“My neighbours said Majeda is in Kolkata, so whenever I get a chance to come here, I search for her,” Maksuda said. “I hope to meet her somewhere in the streets here. A man from a neighbouring village took her to Kolkata last year after assuring us that she would find a source of living here.
“But there is no news of her. I went to Kakdwip Police Station, and officials there sent me to Bhawani Bhawan and Lalbazar. But my daughter has not returned still.”
“Didi,” she said, pointing towards her sister Meheran Bibi, “said I had to join a rally so that no other child goes missing.” Maksuda said there are many in her village who share the same fate.
Sarbani Das Roy of Hope Foundation questioned the media’s lack of interest in highlighting the plight of the economically deprived. “When the son of Adobe chief was kidnapped (from Noida) two months back the media and police swung into action,” she said. “But did we take the same interest about the forty missing children from Nithari?”
Roy pointed out that most Nithari villagers had migrated from West Bengal and Bihar, and that the situation is not much better even in this state. “There are no proper records, and child trafficking is rising.”
The NGOs taking part in today’s rally pressed for a charter of demands, including registration of all children below 18 at the ward- and panchayat-level. They also sought regular update of such records.
Meanwhile, the NGOs have also launched a campaign for protection of child rights. The first stage of the campaign has been conducted in various schools and colleges from January 17 to 19.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Special: Child trafficking is increasing in India

By Joseph Gathia

As India completes 58 years of republic on January 26, 2007, it is right time to take stock of children’s situation in the upcoming economic power.

Now stock market is rising, companies are showing profits but the recent incident that took place in Nithari, hardly stone throw from capital city of New Delhi has raised several eye browns in human rights circle.Organ trafficking or sexual abuse may account for the disappearance of 38 children from Nithari. Two persons have been arrested for alluring tender age children, sexually abusing them and then murdering them.This case compels all those concerned with social development to rethink about situation of children in India. Dr. John Dayal, the dynamic religious freedom fighter connected with All India Christian Council has issued urgent appeal to review child welfare and protection programme in India.India harbours 19 per cent of world’s child population and almost 42 % of total population (1100 million) are children. And yet total expenditure on children in health, education, development and protection together is only 4.9 % of India’s total budget outlet.The UPA Government under Dr. Man Mohan Singh has no doubt increased this last year yet the share of resources on child protection is 0.034 per cent as per Department of Women & Child Development. The Church in India has expressed concern over growing child trafficking in South Asia. Nepal and Bangladesh have been identified as “sending” countries or countries of region in the region web of trafficking. India and Pakistan are referred to as countries of “transit “ or “destination.” The problem is particularly acute in Nepal where ninety percent of its 21 million inhabitants rely on continuation agriculture.According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) there is a large child labour force in India than anywhere else in the world. Official Indian statistics put the total number of child workers at 11 million full times and 10 million part times. Unofficial figures vary between 55 million to 90 million. A Child Labour Act was introduced in 1986, which bans children less than 14 years of age from being hired for any labour.However, several million children slog for their survival and it is estimated that children below 15 years constitute nearly 35 % of India’s labour force. They are force to do hard work, are often deprived of food and rest and work conditions are often unhealthy and unsafe. Push factors include acute poverty among Dalits and tribals, societal view of down looking their children, lack of schools, infrastructure, absence of teachers and above all no law enforcement. The worst sufferer among working children are those who are employed for household work and commonly referred as child domestic workers (CDWs). For a long time the official agencies responsible for protection of children denied their existence. But due to constant campaign by the NGOs supported by international agencies (such as Misereor, Bread for the World, Christian Aid, Oxfam, CIDA, Novib, Caritas, CRS, DANIDA etc.) now the Government has banned employment of children below 14 years as domestic help from 10 th October 2006.It is said that in Metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkatta, Delhi and Chennai majority of domestic help are children particularly girls below 14 years.Child trafficking is increasing in India. Though there is an Immoral Traffic Prevention Act it only refers to trafficking for prostitution hence does not provide comprehensive protection for children. Nor does the Act provide clear definition of “trafficking”.In international circle commonly followed definition is that of United Nations Commission on Human Rights which says “ Trafficking in persons means the recruitment, transportation, purchase sale, transfer, harbouring or receipt of person by threat or use of violence, abduction, force deception or coercion (including the abuse of authority) or debt bondage, for the purpose of placing or holding such person, whether for pay or not, in forced labour or slavery like practices, in a community other than the one in which such person lived at the time of original act described.” India has also not ratified The Palemo Protocol, which provides protection to children against trafficking. It is estimated that 200,000 persons are trafficked in India every year. Only 10 % of human trafficking in India is international, while almost 90 % is interstate. Nearly 40,000 children are abducted every year of which 11000 remain untraced according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India.In India children’s vulnerability and exposure to violations of their rights remains widespread and multiple in nature. But the real cause of worry is UNIFEM’s report which says s that 40 % of India’s police officer are unaware of child trafficking problem.Joseph Gathia is senior journalist and human rights activists and is fonder of Centre of Concern for Child Labour.


Nithari’s Auschwitz

Nithari’s Auschwitz
Akash Bisht Noida

This is not any ordinary crime story; it’s a story of how the poor and the marginalised are given second -class treatment by the people in power in this country. It’s a story of the struggle of the powerless against the powerful. It’s a story of how helpless the poor are and how flawed the criminal justice system is. It’s about how more than 30 innocent children belonging to migrant workers in Nithari village of Noida were brutally butchered, sodomised, raped and chopped up for reasons that still remain clouded in perverse mystery.


CBI arrests its own official for 'human trafficking'

New Delhi, Feb. 1 (PTI): The CBI has arrested one of its sub-inspectors along with another person for allegedly indulging in human trafficking by cheating people with the promise of sending them abroad for employment.

The two -- CBI Sub-Inspector Lilu Ram and Shyam Mohan -- were arrested on Tuesday and have been remanded to judicial custody, a CBI spokesman said today.

The agency arrested the duo after registering a case against Ram, Mohan and Rakesh Sharma (employees of a travel agency) and V P Arora (a tour operator) under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC and Section 13(2) (criminal misconduct), 13(1)(d) (obtaining valuable things or pecuniary advantage by corrupt or illegal means) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Sharma and Arora are untraceable and the CBI is looking for them.

The modus operandi of the accused was to allure unemployed people with the promise of decent jobs in foreign countries against the payment of a huge amount. After arranging travel documents, visas and tickets, the unemployed persons were sent abroad, where other members of the gang would take over.

The passports of victims would be taken away and they would be taken from one place to another before the gang's members vanished.

One such victim returned to India and, after failing to get a refund from the accused, approached the CBI.

During its probe, six premises belonging to or linked to the accused were searched. Over 150 passports were recovered from one of these premises, CBI officials said.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Four held for human trafficking; three girls rescued

PTI Tuesday, January 30, 2007 21:33 IST

VIJAYAWADA: Three young women aged 18 to 20 years were rescued from being trafficked and four persons arrested in this connection here on Tuesday, police said. The girls belonging to Vijayawada city were lured on the promise of jobs in Hyderabad.
Addressing a press conference, Police Commissioner CV Anand said human trafficking has assumed serious proportion and a special unit was being set up to deal with the menace effectively.
He said in the last one-and-a-half-months, nine persons were arrested for human trafficking and 13 girls rescued from their clutches.
The state and Central governments were also worried over the situation. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was opening three centres - one each at Ananatapuram, Hyderabad and Eluru - to help in tackling the menace, the Commissioner said.


Missing children figures in Delhi rising each year’

Express News Service

New Delhi, January 24: Child rights activists and NGOs today held a consultation on “Missing Children of India’’ at the Centre For Social Research (CSR).

Activists at the forum said that it is not just about Nithari, but most of the cases of missing children in India go unreported. “The killings at Nithari provide grim evidence of a sickness in the system. The most disturbing allegations arising from the murky drains of Nithari are those of defaults in how the state deals with unimportant people,’’ said Razia Ismail Abbasi, co-convenor of the India Alliance for Child Rights.

The consultation had Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Kiran Walia, IPS officer Anju Gupta, lawyer Aatreyee Sen, Sankar Sen from the Indian Institute of Social Sciences and Dr Ranjana Kumari, director of the CSR among the panelists.

The participants discussed the prevention and protection strategies that need to be adopted to reduce the rate of missing children’s cases in India. Activists at the meet suggested child helplines should be universalised besides having a website of missing children to track the cases.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crime against children is enlisted under different heads like procurement of minor girls, kidnapping for abduction ranging from exporting to ransom and about 15,000 cases were reported in 2005 as against 14,423 in 2003.

“The number of cases has been increasing over the years. According to the National Human Rights Commission’s report on trafficking of women and children, in Delhi alone, an average of 6,227 children go missing every year,’’ said Dr Ranjana Kumari.

“Proper implementation of existing laws would be enough if they are systemically correct. A child welfare committee is supposed to be there in each district of police but in Delhi itself, there are only four committees while there are nine districts,’’ said Kiran Walia.

Pointing to the laxity of police, Sankar Sen said “political pressure on police forces is also a cause of inaction”. “Most of the cases are not lodged only because of pressure and that is also the reason for manipulation of figures. States are opposing police reforms only because it will take control out of their hands,’’ he said.


Reality check on women's rights

in New York Volume 24 - Issue 02 :: Jan. 27-Feb. 09, 2007

The Indian delegation faces tough questions on discrimination against women at a U.N. committee.

THE Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, at its 37th Session in New York between January 15 and February 2, faced the reality that reconciling domestic laws of different countries with the principles it has outlined is not going to be easy. That seemed to be the thrust of most of the government delegations; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) highlighted violence against women and the lack of reform in marriage and family laws.

The committee, which is constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), is mandated to hear out reports from member-states on their compliance with CEDAW articles. While some countries had set up progressive institutions and framed women-friendly policies, some others took discrimination to new heights, as the CEDAW committee found out. For instance, in the Maldives women are banned from holding top political and judicial offices as well as the posts of President and Vice-President.
The 23-member committee considered reports from Peru, Namibia, the Maldives, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Greece, Vietnam, Ajerbaijan, Colombia, the Netherlands, Suriname and Austria, besides India. Each country is supposed to send a report in the first year following its ratification of the Convention and subsequently every four years. Though India ratified the CEDAW in 1993, it has submitted only its second and third reports so far. The committee had a separate session with NGOs as well, which included presentations from NGO representatives from these countries.
The Indian NGO delegation, led by Dalit activist and Right Livelihood Award winner Ruth Manorama, highlighted issues such as the rehabilitation of and justice to victims of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat, internal conflict and its impact on women, rural poverty, and poor access to health care and education for Dalit and tribal women. It also raised specific issues pertaining to the rehabilitation of women in disaster situations, witch-hunting, protective labour laws for the unorganised sector and trafficking. All these issues were located in the context of globalisation and neo-economic liberalisation.
While most of the concerns of the Indian NGO delegation were reflected in the questions put by the CEDAW committee, the role of women as producers and the conditions in which they work did not feature substantially. India's macro-economic policies, where they pertain to women, were also not questioned rigorously, unlike in the case of Nicaragua, whose government delegation was grilled on the situation of women workers in the maquilas or free-trade zones.
The NGO concerns were raised in connection with the responses of the Indian government to questions posed by the committee. The CEDAW committee had observed in August 2006 that the Government of India's second and third periodic reports did not provide the requested information on the events in Gujarat and their impact on women, on the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in military operations and conflict areas, and on the strategies and time frame to amend laws that were discriminatory against women. The committee recommended a review of the prevention of terrorism legislation and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in consultation with other bodies.
There were also questions on how the government planned to implement land reform legislation and increase women's access to land, on sex-disaggregated data and on affirmative action, cultural stereotypes, educational enrolment status and the current position on implementing the constitutional provision for free and compulsory education.
The committee put 29 questions in the context of the second and third periodic reports. However, the government's response, a detailed one, was made available to the CEDAW committee only a day before India's reports were taken up. Some experts, such as Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling of Germany, expressed their displeasure at the delay in the discussion of the second and third periodic reports and the government's delayed response to the committee's queries.
India had ratified the CEDAW with two reservations - on Articles 5(a), 16(1) and 16(2). Article 5 concerns sex role stereotyping and prejudice, while Article 16 deals with the issues of marriage and family life. The government made a declaration that it would abide by Article 5(a) and 16(i) in conformity with its policy of non-interference in the personal affairs of a community without its initiative and consent.
An aberration
The head of the Indian delegation, Deepa Jain Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, reiterated India's position on Article 5(a) to the committee. About the Gujarat riots of 2002, she said in her introductory remarks that they were an aberration that should never have happened. The Solicitor-General, G.E. Vahnavati, echoed similar sentiments.
On its reservations about Article 21(a), which allows for a dispute between states to be submitted to arbitration, and in case of failure to the International Court of Justice, the government stuck to its stand. On the Optional Protocol, too, the delegation held its ground. The protocol, which the Government of India has not ratified, allows the committee to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups.
While Deepa Jain Singh pointed out that the protocol was optional, Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling clarified that it was not an attack on the independence of the judiciary but an additional monitoring mechanism to assist a country in implementing the Convention better. When Cornelius Flinterman from the Netherlands inquired about a timeframe for signing the Optional Protocol, the delegation expressed its inability to give one.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 and their aftermath evoked many questions, particularly on the total number of people killed. Committee members expressed doubts over the figures given by the government, as they were far lower than those given by NGOs. The members also wanted gender-disaggregated data on the victims of violence and expressed disappointment that they had not been provided despite repeated requests.
The government responded by highlighting the proactive judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, which had directed the reopening of 2,000 cases and ordered the transfer of the cases outside Gujarat. When the committee persisted with its demand, a Joint-Secretary in the Home Ministry, who was part of the delegation, replied that 67 of the 4,000 cases registered involved violence against women. He did not specify the nature of the violence.
Replying to a question on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Deepa Jain Singh reiterated the government's position and said that there was no situation of armed conflict in India and that steps had been taken to sensitise and inform the military and police forces on the dos and don'ts when on duty. The armed forces, she said, had an excellent track record, overall. She said the committee that worked on the issue (without naming the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee) had given its recommendations, which were not in the public domain. The gender dimension of conflict, if any, was sidelined completely.
Education goals
On the issue of the attainment of education goals, Vrinda Saroop, Joint-Secretary in the Department of Elementary Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, quoting an anonymous independent survey, said 687,000 additional classroom spaces - not schools - had been added. Whether these spaces were part of the formal education system was not clear. Notwithstanding the reports that have criticised the efficacy of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, the official claimed it to be a huge success. She offered no objective analysis on retention and dropout rates.
The delegation faced many questions on the educational status of girls, especially those from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. While detailing figures of high enrolment in primary education, Vrinda Saroop admitted that enrolment in higher education would improve only with greater enrolment at the primary and secondary levels.
On the issue of making free and compulsory education a fundamental right, she said a model Bill had been drafted and circulated to State governments, but would not go into the responses of State governments and persons involved in the right-to-education campaigns.
The government delegation was particularly insensitive on a query relating to manual scavenging. The delegate representing the Labour Ministry said that while rehabilitation and liberation had been attempted through several schemes, "there was a group of people that totally lacked entrepreneurial spirit" and they were not interested in taking up occupations other than what they were doing. Replying to a specific question on the rehabilitation of Dalits and tribal people displaced by mega projects, a government delegate said that while tribal people and minorities were confined to certain areas, Dalits were "everywhere" and were more affected by displacement.
Committee members Shanti Dairiam of Malaysia and Heisoo Shin of South Korea were sceptical about the success of micro-credit schemes. The government delegation, while admitting that the majority of self-help groups (SHGs) did not comprise the poorest among poor women, said they helped women to think and take decisions. Deepa Jain Singh said the twin issues of poverty alleviation and SHGs had to be kept apart. Micro-credit groups sat together and attended meetings, and this helped teach them (the women members) discipline. Needless to say, NGOs were deeply worried over this definition of women's empowerment.
Referring to the impact of globalisation and liberalisation, the delegation made it clear that the economic boom had to be sustained and globalisation would continue. No detailed answers were provided on the impact of macro-economic policies on women though the government agreed that 93 per cent of the working population was in the unorganised sector. It was also indicated that downsizing would continue in the public sector. There was no mention of the impact, if any, this would have on women employees.
Reservation Bill
The women's reservation Bill and the 86th constitutional amendment also came up for discussion. Committee members observed that the government's commitment to allocating 6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to education made at the time of the Beijing Conference in 1995 was yet to be fulfilled. While Deepa Jain Singh assured the committee that the government was committed to reserving for women one-third of the seats in State Assemblies and Parliament, she expressed her inability to cite a time frame by which this would happen.
The government delegation also sought to allay fears regarding the immunity given to government officials in the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill. Deepa Jain Singh said the Bill was still in the draft stage and the government was amenable to suggestions.
Overall, the government's responses had the requisite language and jargon but fell short on commitments. By placing the onus of women's empowerment on an active judiciary, SHGs, micro-credit and a slew of government schemes, the government delegation did not seem to convey the impression that it was interested in a qualitative change in the lives of women in the country.


India 360: Can law stop child trade?

Parents in Andhra Pradesh are selling their own daughters into prostitution. This is not child trafficking carried out by criminal gangs. This is child trafficking carried out by parents themselves. What can the law do when families sell their own children?

A terrible incidence indeed. Couple this with the terrible incidents at Nithari village where children went missing for the last two years, which many have described as a case of child trafficking and India has a big problem at hand as far as the little ones are concerned.
And it's not just Nithari. Every year lakhs of children go missing throughout India. A number of children are lured away from home and suffer abuse and torture. So what innovations are needed to change how we view our little ones?

The question that was being put forward by India 360 was: Can laws prevent child trafficking?
On the panel of experts to try and answer the question were: Head of Policy, Save The Children India, Shireen Miller Wakil; Supreme Court lawyer, Pinky Anand; and former chairperson, National Commission For Women, Vibha Parthasarthy.

Moral Crisis

When parents themselves sell their daughters, it is not juts a collosal failure of law and order, it is also a moral crisis. What innovative measures can be taken to see that this does not happen because the law is clearly not enough?

To this, Vibha Parthasarthy said, "I think we first need to find out why parents are forced into taking this action. Very often, a family will sell a child in order to feed five other children. It's a question on abject poverty. These kind of families go without meals for three days at a stretch and the Rs 300-500 that they get are a sign of meals for them. It's a terrible sacrifice for the family."

So in that situation, isn't it better that the child works rather than the child being sold off for money? "I wish it was such a simple 'either, or' situation. Working where? Who is the child going to work with and what are the kinds of caring and working conditions that one can ensure for the child? These are the questions that need to be answered. For example - the child should not be overworked, should get adequate meals, should get medical attention when he or she is ill and proper living conditions without any abuse," she said.

Minister for Women and Child Development, Renuka Chodhury has said that basically, the ban on child labour, should not be put in place in certain industries. She is of the opinion that children should be allowed to work in certain traditional industries so that they bring in an income else they would be trafficked by their own parents.
Pinky Anand said that she agreed with the minister completely. "This has been my view all along said she. I think what happens all the time is that all of us perpetually try and imitate Western philosophy. In the West, the situation is far more developed and there are welfare policies and children are not starving on the roads. If in such conditions there is a ban on child labour, then it is understandable. But, India is trying to transpose those conditions and saying that children should not work, is not going to work here."


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Indias Shameful Secret

Indias Shameful Secret - A Report by Alex Crawford for SKY News,,30200-1247358,00.html?f=rss


Haryana shelter for women in bad state

Monday, January 15, 2007 (Karnal):

Reports say a state run shelter for women in Haryana has crammed more than 40 girls and women in three rooms in squalid conditions.The shelter called Nari Niketan is located in Karnal where majors, minors and the disabled live together. Up to six girls sleep on a single bed or they sleep on the cold floor and the bathrooms are dirty. There is growing speculation over why state funds allocated for the shelters are not used for them. After reports of poor conditions at the shelter the High Court in October sent advocates to inspect all orphanages and old age homes in Karnal. "There was no light, it was dark, there was no quilt or sheet, the girls were sleeping on the floor," said advocate Raman Malhotra who went to inspect Nari Niketan. Her report shocked the court and the chief judicial magistrate decided to see for himself.Media watchMeanwhile during a sub-divisional magistrate's routine visit to Nari Niketan the local media also discovered the poor conditions at shelter homes.Rattled by newspaper reports and ahead of the CJM's visit, the government suspended the superintendent of the home and rushed in new things. "All new things were brought in during the past two days," the gatekeeper at Nari Niketan said. The Social Welfare Department refused to comment but a local NGO, which works with homeless women in Karnal says the government doesn’t really care."It is the duty of the Social Welfare Ministry to take care of all the homes but they just don’t bother," says Ravi Kant, the director of Shakti Vahini.


When a child goes missing

Nilanjana Sengupta[ 29 Jan, 2007 1458hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

It is not easy to trace a missing child in India. The possibilities are endless — the child may have been kidnapped or may have run away from home. If a girl, she could have been a victim of trafficking. Falling prey to organ transplant rackets or child sacrifices cannot be ruled out either. At times, it takes months, even years, before the parents are re-united with their lost child. Often, the child never returns. In all this, the worst affected are the parents. For them it is a fate worse than death. There is no finality, no closure. Each passing day an ordeal. As parents run from pillar to post, time stands still at the point when they had last seen their missing child. “It was the Sunday after Navratri,” says 38-year-old Kalpana Pashte, who has not slept well since the fateful day in October last year. Her eyes are swollen and have dark circles around them. When she has to weep, she rushes to a corner of her brother’s one-bedroom house in Jogeshwari and remembers her only son Yogesh in silence. The mother and son, who stay in Raigad, were visiting relatives in Mumbai. Yogesh disappeared after he told his mother that he was going down in the building to play. Now, Kalpana says she won’t return to her village until she finds Yogesh. The 12-year-old is just one of the countless children who go missing in this country every year. Like many unimportant things, there is no record of the actual number of missing children. As per a 2004 study on trafficking commissioned by the NHRC, about 44,476 children go missing every year. But experts say that the figure could easily be around 10 lakh. According to the Missing Persons Bureau in Mumbai, seven out of ten missing complaints turn out to be a case of run away. “Parents keep thinking it’s a case of kidnapping, but more often than not the children run away because of study pressure, etc. In two days, after their anger dissipates, they come back,” says a policeman, shrugging. Also, a missing child complaint does not come under cognisable offences. That’s why it is at the lowest of the police’s priority list. The complaint is only important to the person reporting it. In all this, the police oscillate between being helpful and lackadaisical. Sometimes they conduct field enquiries at guest houses, hospitals, railway stations, airport, bus stands, cinema houses, parks and gardens. At other times they hand out emotional ditties to parents who make rounds of the police station for news. “The policeman tells me, ‘Your child is like our child, don’t worry he will come back,’” says Kalpana. While the police treat each missing complaint with clinical precision — note it in their diary and post the photograph of the missing on the online network — every minute is precious for the parent. Post-Nithari, where the remains of about 40 people, most of them children, unearthed a tale of sleaze and horror, the fears of a missing child’s parents have only compounded. Sometimes the ordeal refuses to end even after the parents have found their missing child. Surat’s Vinod Gehlot traced his two-and-a-half-year old daughter who was missing for 18 months, to an orphanage in Trivandrum thanks to a television report. But now he has to undergo a DNA test before he can claim his child. When the hopeful father landed at Trivandrum, he was asked to take court permission where the chief judicial magistrate then ordered him to take the test. “I think my daughter has already been adopted by someone and to prevent complications, the authorities are forcing me to take a DNA test,” says the small-time medical practitioner. Trafficking is one of the possibilities that parents of missing girls have to contemplate. “Some people say that my daughter may have been lured into faltu things. But I don’t think that’s the case. A holy man near Malad told me that she will come back soon,” says Abhimanyu Sahu, a film-set painter and father of a 5-year-old girl who has been missing for the past four months. “If a girl under 18 is reported missing then the chance of her having landed in a brothel is high,” says an official of the Mumbai Missing Persons Bureau. According to a survey conducted by Bhumika Bihar, an NGO in Patna, almost 30% of the children missing from various villages in the state are adolescent girls. Thirteen-year-old Bina Mistry disappeared from her house in Patna over two years ago. Her father Nageshwar believes that she was lured away by somebody. “Initially, the police had even refused to lodge an FIR. We were told not to give birth to children if we could not look after them,” says Nageshwar. For the police to take more interest in the missing, laws have to change. The police are unlikely to act unless the complainant has strong suspicions and ideas about the disappearance. “If there is no offence what will the investigating officer investigate? Most of the time the child runs away to become a film star or for employment,” says a policeman from the UP State Task Force. “The police are more involved in managing crises and VIP bandobasts than in normal policing. We need a systematic change, but nobody is interested in reforms,” says Kiran Bedi. Till then, parents carry on with their efforts. “Someone was telling me there is a children’s home in Bhiwandi. Do you think I should go there and see?”asks Kalpana, with hope in her tired eyes. (Inputs by Hitarth Pandya in Surat and Madhuri Kumar in Patna)


Children at risk

Neelam Raaj[ 14 Jan, 2007 0022hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

The Central Monitoring Commission, which is supposed to monitor crime against children under the Juvenile Justice Act, has not met even once since the Act was amended in 2000.

The sheer scale of Nithari's mass killings is shocking, but almost as chilling as what Noida's sewers turned up are the crime stats of the National Crime Records Bureau: Child rapes went up by a whopping 13.7% in 2005, while crimes against children went up by 3.8%. And that's just those on record. On the streets, at their workplace and even inside their own homes, children though they form 42% of India's population are at risk. Voices that are easily silenced, hands that can be made to work from dawn to dusk for a pittance, they are the invisibles who disappear without causing even a ripple. Nithari's missing children didn't, till their chopped-up bodies turned up. Marginalised migrants What made them especially vulnerable is that they were children of migrant workers, say child rights activists. There has been a 40% increase in intra-state migration in the last 10 years. While migrants do get employment, there is no safety net for their children; they get neither education nor healthcare.

"Single migrant children or children of migrant workers are often not counted anywhere: not in the Census and not in a single government scheme; they are just falling through the net," says Shireen Vakil Miller, head of policy at Save the Children, India. Stop traffic To gauge the magnitude of trafficking, just look at the number of missing children, says P M Nair, project co-ordinator anti-trafficking, for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. "As many as 45,000 kids went missing in 2004 according to our survey; of these, 11,000 were not traced. A majority of these are bound to be in exploitative situations like trafficking," he says. According to a study conducted by NGO Shakti Vahini in 2006, 378 of the 593 districts in India are affected by human trafficking. "Children are easy prey for traffickers who lure them from villages with the promise of employment," says Rishikant of Shakti Vahini. Many are forced into prostitution while countless others work as domestic help or in sweat shops.

On the streets

The countless urchins and beggar waifs that live on city streets have their own tales of horror. Perceived as vagrants by the police and with no legal safeguards to protect then, violence and exploitation are a daily ritual for them. At last count, India had the largest number of street children in the world. In 2001, it was estimated that there are 100,000 to 125,000 street children each in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, with 45,000 in Bangalore. No protection Nithari shows there isn't any protective system, says Shireen Miller: "Or how could so many deaths happen without anyone even noticing?" A national commission for child protection on the lines of the NHRC is scheduled to be set up by month-end but activists say much more needs to be done. Says Rajib K Halder, executive director, Prayas Centre for Juvenile Justice: "There is no dearth of laws, but the problem is with implementation. The Central Monitoring Commission, for example, which is supposed to monitor crime against children under the Juvenile Justice Act has not met even once since the Act was amended in 2000. Again, the Act stated that every police station should have a juvenile police unit, but this is still not being followed. If you don't review implementation, can you expect any action?"

Show me the money

In terms of budget allocation, 4.91% of the Union Budget 2006-07 has been allocated for health, education, development and protection of children. The share of resources for child protection is minuscule 0.034%. Child protection has never figured in any planning ocument so far, adds Halder. Laws aplenty? Be it child marriage or child labour in hazardous industries, the country has seen a spate of laws aimed at protecting children. The Offences against Children Bill (2007), which provides protection against sexual abuse, also awaits Cabinet nod. "The laws are there but where is the accountability?" says Enakshi Ganguly Thukral of Haq: Centre for Child Rights. "The policeman in some remote village of MP or Bihar will be the person registering a case and he will not even be aware of every new legislation. Changes have to be made to the IPC and CrPC," she suggests.

With inputs from Bonita Baruah