Wednesday, March 14, 2007

AP trafficking victims will be paid to testify

Many cases against traffickers in humans in Andhra Pradesh fall apart because the witnesses, usually the victims themselves, don’t want to testify. And it’s mainly because they do not have the money to appear at hearings.
So for the first time in the country, the Andhra police are heading a UN agency plan to compensate witnesses for coming to testify. They will get fare to and from their village to the court, said P Umapathi, inspector general of Women’s Protection Cell. “We also propose to give them daily minimum wages for the period that they are in court. They will get some money for child maintenance, too,” he said.
The court currently pays witnesses only Rs 8 for food. The money for the new initiative is coming from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The agency will give each of the five worst-hit districts Rs 5 lakh for a year. “While it will be funded by UNODC to start with, the state will eventually take over the programme,” said Umapathi.
He said the aim is to introduce the compensation scheme to all 23 districts. The payment scheme will also cover men who appear as witnesses.
Karn Kowshik
Posted online: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 0000 hrs

Andhra has the highest number of cases of trafficking in women in the country. Records show that last year, 1,431 arrests were made in 458 cases under the Immoral Trafficking Act by the Andhra police across the country.
While the police are still compiling figures on those rescued, an official here said that in the last three months, they have had 300 rescues and a similar number of arrests. About a quarter of those saved are minors.
The police here say victims of trafficking often shun the courts because they are unsure about what the police are doing for them. In many case they want to go back to the brothel or the pimp who they were with, for reasons ranging from financial security to fear of being ostracized at home. But the main reason, said a senior Women’s Cell official, is that victims lose their daily wages when they come to court to testify. “They have to spend money on transport and food, as well as food for their children,” he said.


In child smuggler’s words, villagers called him ‘God’

KOLKATA, March 13 : Police ki ankhon me mein child smuggler, lekin gaonwale mujhe bhagwan samajthe the. Dada, mein bacche smuggle karta tha, ismein bahut paisa hai (Police may call me a trafficker, but I was god to the villagers. I used to traffick children. It gives good money),” says Tushar Bashar (name changed), once a child trafficker in Sandeshkhali, South 24 Parganas.

According to locals and police, he smuggled at least 50 children out of the villages in Sandeshkhali. Business was good for Tushar, a well-built man with thin moustache, till he sold one of his own relatives to the child trafficking racket and later came to know that the girl had landed into a brothel
in Delhi.
“I was full of remorse. I was repentant. I had brought the girl from my poor maternal uncle’s home with the promise that she would find a good house and paid a decent salary in Delhi. But once out of Kolkata, the agents who had taken her away could not provide any information about the girl for months and not a penny reached my uncle. Finally, I learnt that she was in a brothel. I had to leave my house as my uncle and other relatives kept visiting me and insisted on getting the girl back. This is my new address that my relatives do not know. They have lost track of me. I have also changed track to settle for other things,” says Bashar. He now works as a security guard with a well-known group in Kolkata.
Talking to The Indian Express, he narrated how the racket works at the grassroot level in villages like Sandeshkhali.
“I could speak well and convince people. Once you earn the confidence of a couple of homes in a particular village, the urge to send children to places like Delhi and Mumbai is like a tide,”
he says.
“There are so many children and so many mouths to feed. We were hailed as gods by the villagers, as they thought we could provide their children with jobs. Parents depend on the income of their children. It used this to our benefit. We told them that the children would find work as domestic helps in good households of Delhi and Mumbai.
They will earn substantial money. But they were sold,” says Bashar, sitting with his wife in the lawn of his house, in Sandeshkhali village.
According to Bashar, the agents in the districts and in Kolkata have people in villages who work for them.
They often also have tie-ups with agencies in Delhi, Mumbai and other big cities which provide domestic help services.
The children are moved to railway stations and transit lodges in Kolkata in groups of 10 and 20. They are taken to bigger cities by the agents through trains and buses, tells Bashar.
Once in Delhi or Mumbai, they are sorted according to their age and looks. The good-looking and young children are sold into sex trade. The others are sent to brothels or to households.
“A good-looking young girl fetched me anything between Rs 4000 to Rs 6000,” says Bashar. The chain upwards is intricate and is not disclosed to those below, Bashar adds.
“The parents are promised Rs 1000 to 1500 per month, but in most cases the payment is only for the first or second month. The standard story then is that the child has escaped from where he was employed and hence could not be contacted.” There were over 70 such agents in Sandeshkhali block when he was into the racket about a year ago, Bashar says.
He also ackowledges the involvement of both local police and local politicians. “Regular share was given to the police as well as the local village panchayat members of political parties. I used to work as a trafficker under a former village panchayat vice-chairman who belongs to the CPI(M). A good network in the villages and the financial condition of the families in the neighbouring villages was essential to run the racket,” says Bashar.
Members of an NGO, Save the Children, which is working for rehabilitation of the rescued trafficked children say that at least nine traffickers have been persuaded to get back to the mainstream in the past two years in Sandeshkhali.


Low on police priority, missing cases on a high

Ravik Bhattacharya
Posted online: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 0000 hrs

Kolkata, march 12 : If the report by Kolkata police’s Missing Persons Squad is any indication, an abnormally high number of children disappear every year from city homes. Out of about 40,000 people gone missing from the city between 1996 and 2005 (as per the latest figures available with the Kolkata police), the number of children is significantly high. Over 15,600 children have disappeared during this period from the city.

Meanwhile, for a small fragment of those who make it back home, the return is often due to providential escape. Take the case of Sudha. The 14-year-old girl of a split family moved several hands on the promise of job and safe upkeep. “At one house, the day I landed, the drivers downstairs targeted me. I was sexually exploited for nearly a year in that multi-storeyed house,” she said. One day, Sudha managed to call the STD booth near her house and pass on the address she was staying at. She was rescued by the people of her locality with police help.
Detective Department chief Gyanwant Singh traces a pattern in the missing links. Data analysis shows, those in the age-group of five to six years are mostly lost and found cases and are mostly reported from slums of the city. A small number account for “kidnapping” cases, engineered mostly by their near and dear ones. Bad school results and family atrocity account for a large number of cases in the age-group of 10-15 years, Singh says.
A new trend, he says, is homosexuality, the expression of which is said to be forcing some, though a small fraction, to flee homes. For example, two Class IX girls of a reputed Kolkata school fled to Siliguri in 2006. Traced to a hotel, the girls reportedly confessed their plans to marry and live together.
A study, sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission, on trafficking of women and children in the city reflects the shocking state of affairs. It says: “It is alarming and it is true... Kolkata seems to be most unsafe for children among all the cities in the country.” The study, in collaboration with the Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences, over a six-year period from 1996 to 2001, found a whopping 133 per cent rise in the number of children gone missing in Kolkata.
The response of the police missing squads is abysmal. There are two separate units in the state to deal with such cases — the Kolkata police, having jurisdiction over the municipal area of the city, and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that looks after the cases in the districts.
“It is true that such cases are dealt as general diary cases in local police stations because missing children cannot be related to any crime. It is also true that apart from recording the diary and occasionally visiting the victim's house, little else is done,” said Banibrata Basu, an inspector general of police, who has served as the head of both the Detective Department of the Kolkata police as well as the Missing Persons Squad of the CID. Basu acknowledges that the problem in Bengal is inextricably linked to human trafficking and, therefore, needs a co-ordinated approach of the police, the panchayats and the NGOs.
But both the units are restricted by shortage of manpower, funds and resources. At times, the cops agree to undertake the journey only if the victim’s party is willing to bear the costs. But that often is an unofficial arrangement and the poor can hardly afford to foot such bills.
Moreover, the missing cases are given the lowest priority since they are not considered crime until linked to kidnapping, trafficking or smuggling. The Missing Persons Squad of the Kolkata police, at present, comprises barely 12 persons, including two inspectors, five sub-inspectors, three assistant sub-inspectors and two constables. Their job is restricted to recording the cases and arranging for publication or flashing of the missing persons’ photographs in newspapers or television channels.
The CID Missing Persons Squad, too, has around 14 members, headed by an inspector and a deputy superintendent of police.
“We have to deal with a tremendous volume of cases. Everyday, at least 20 people come to us. What can we do? The officers are busy recording the statements and talking to the victim’s relatives. Let alone taking up investigations and search operations, the process of maintaining the records and publication of the victim’s details in the media are in themselves difficult to handle,” said an officer, in charge of the department. Then, the officials get a meager travelling allowance for the job.
“We are trying to tackle the issue by way of inter-linking police stations with the CID missing persons' squad to speed up the process. In 2007, we are targeting human trafficking as the thrust area,” said Sanjay Mukherjee, DIG CID (Special), who also holds charge of the Missing Persons Squad. Biswanath Chowdhury, state Minister for Social Welfare and Jails, said, “It is a serious crisis. A state-wide survey is underway with the help of three universities to find out details of missing and trafficked children and women.”


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

India facing shortage of women

By Julia DuinThe Washington Times

"Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor's garden." -- Punjabi saying

PAONTA SAHIB, India -- By early afternoon, wedding festivities were well under way for Gagandeep Singh, 29, and Taranjeet Kaur, 26, in this touristy town in the Himalayan foothills of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Mr. Singh, the groom, works at an American Express office near New Delhi. He is seated cross-legged in a large, gracious white Sikh temple overlooking the Nagar River. His ceremonial finery includes a dagger and ornate turban. Beside him is his bride, her hands heavily hennaed with designs befitting a newly married woman. She is dressed in a magenta-colored gown and spends much of the ceremony gazing down at the floor. Nestled beside her like a flock of bright birds are female relatives dressed in brilliant jewel-colored tunics known as salwar kameez. In front of the couple are Sikh priests. They alternately pray, sprinkle holy water on the crowd and instruct the couple to circle around a low-lying altar as a trio of musicians tap out rhythms on tabla drums and a harmonium. Later, back at the wedding hall, the bride's father, Amarjit Singh, reveals he has given a refrigerator, TV, washing machine, clothes and a DVD player to the family of the groom. "This is not dowry," he protests, "these are just gifts the father likes to give for his daughter." Miss Kaur is his only daughter and later that evening, she sits in her family's living room as guest after guest shoves stacks of rupees into her purse. Eventually, a car pulls up containing the groom's family. Wailing and clutching her parents for the last time, she slowly marches toward the waiting car that will bear her 30 miles southward to Yamunanagar, the city where her new husband's family lives. "Indian brides handle these partings with great theatrics, often wailing uncontrollably," observed American journalist Elisabeth Bumiller in her 1990 book on the trials of Indian women, "May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons." "I decided this was the only rational response, given what was in store for many of them," she said. More boys than girls India is facing a shortage of women like Miss Kaur. In most places in the world, a mother can find out the sex of her unborn child, but in India, it's illegal to do so. That is because if she's a female, there is a good chance she will never be born. Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 -- or 10 million over the past two decades -- creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world's largest democracy. Ratios of men to women are being altered at an unprecedented rate in India and neighboring China, two countries which account for 40 percent of the world's population. According to UNICEF, India produces 25 million babies a year. China produces 17 million. Together, these are one-third of the world's babies, so how their women choose to regulate births affects the globe. Female infanticide -- whereby tiny girls were either poisoned, buried alive or strangled -- has existed for thousands of years in India. But its boy-to-girl ratio didn't begin to widen precipitously until the advent of the ultrasound, or sonogram, machine in the 1970s, enabling a woman to tell the sex of her child by the fourth month of her pregnancy. That coupled with the legalization of abortion in 1971 made it possible to dispose of an unwanted girl without the neighbors even knowing the mother was pregnant. In 2001, 927 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, significantly below the natural birth rate of about 952 girls for every 1,000 boys. In many regions, however, this imbalance has reached alarming levels and it continues to grow. In 2004, the New Delhi-based magazine Outlook reported, sex ratios in the capital had plummeted to 818 girls for every 1,000 boys, and in 2005 they had slipped to 814. The issue is highly sensitive for the Indian government, which had given the nation's sex imbalance scant attention until this month. "It is a matter of international and national shame for us that India, with [economic] growth of 9 percent still kills its daughters," Renuka Chowdhury, the Cabinet-level minister of state for women and child development told the Press Trust of India news agency in an interview that was widely published in the national press. Mrs. Chowdhury announced plans to set up a nationwide network of orphanages where women can drop off unwanted daughters with no questions asked. "We will bring up the children. But don't kill them because there really is a crisis situation," she says. Yet the practice of "female feticide" is so widespread and deeply ingrained in the nation's psyche, scholars and activists fear that even the most vigorous attempts to combat it would require a lifetime or longer to restore nature's balance. "There has always been a deficit of women: Infanticide, neglect or they're left to die if they are sick, but technology has accentuated it," says Prem Chowdhry, a New Delhi-based scholar and specialist on male-female relations in India. "The volume has grown. Culturally, these things are not new, but now they're taking a new shape." Early this year, the British medical journal Lancet estimated the male-female gap at 43 million. Worldwide, Lancet said, there are 100 million "missing girls" who should have been born but were not. Fifty million of them would have been Chinese and 43 million would have been Indian. The rest would have been born in Afghanistan, South Korea, Pakistan and Nepal. China gave an even bleaker assessment last month, with the government saying that its men will outnumber women in the year 2020 by 300 million. One Geneva-based research center, in a 2005 update on the phenomenon, termed it "the slaughter of Eve." "What we're seeing now is genocide," says Sabu George, a New Delhi-based activist. "We will soon exceed China in losing 1 million girls a year." The date may already be here. In a report released Dec. 12, UNICEF said India is "missing" 7,000 girls a day or 2.5 million a year. Although India has passed laws forbidding sex-specific abortions, legions of compliant doctors and lax government officials involved in India's $100 million sex-selection industry have made sure they are rarely enforced. Several companies, notably General Electric Corp., have profited hugely from India's love affair with the ultrasound machine. As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country. As sex-specific abortions increase, the destabilizing effects on Indian society are bound to greatly impact a country with expanding economic and strategic ties to the United States. India's estimated $23 billion defense budget relies on military hardware from U.S. corporations, and the U.S. Congress voted in November to permit the sale of nuclear technology to the country. In September, The Washington Times sent a reporter and photographer to spend three weeks in different parts of India chronicling this problem. They asked: What are the cultural reasons for this genocide? Why is the government allowing it? Who is fighting against it and what steps can be taken to stop it?

Labels: ,

Four Andhra girls rescued from brothels in Delhi

Published: 01/03/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)
New Delhi: Police have rescued four girls from Andhra Pradesh and two minors from brothels in the capital.
The girls were rescued from the brothels in the city's red light area on Monday night after a special Andhra Pradesh police team conducted a raid with the help of the local police of the Kamla Market police station.
"In response to five cases of trafficking registered in Andhra Pradesh, a police team from the state arrived in the city and conducted the raid with our help and rescued the four girls," said Rakesh Giri, Station House Officer of the Kamla Market police station, without disclosing the names of the girls.
While the victims were counselled and interrogated, the Andhra Pradesh police also managed to arrest four of the traffickers.
Giri said that apart from rescuing the four girls from the southern state, they also rescued two minor girls from the brothel.
"We rescued two minors during the raid as well. They have been sent to Nari Niketan, a government-run counselling home," Giri said.
According to the United Nations (UN), Andhra Pradesh records the highest number of human trafficking cases in India.
In an effort to prevent the trade and exploitation of human beings in the country, an Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was established in Andhra Pradesh last month in partnership with the US Government and the United Nations.
The US Government provided $2.5 million (Dh9.1 million) for this project, the largest single anti-trafficking project ever funded in the world.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime implements the project, and the Indian Government chairs the meetings to help guide the planning and implementation.
Apart from Andhra Pradesh, the project also targets four other states - Bihar, Goa, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The Andhra Pradesh police team that rescued the girls here is a part of the same project.


Parlours selling sex may be treated as brothels

Dhananjay Mahapatra & Himanshi Dhawan[ 2 Mar, 2007 0039hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK

NEW DELHI: Government proposes to broaden the definition of ‘‘brothel’’ to include those massage and beauty parlours as well as dance bars where prostitution takes place in various guises — a move which could lead to harassment of a wide range of establishments. Working on suggestions of an NGO, Shakti Vahini, government has modified the definition of brothel in the modified Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2006. This was stated by advocate Rajiv Datta after the hearing in Supreme Court on Shakti Vahini’s PIL on trafficking of women. A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices D K Jain and V S Sirpurkar expressed anguish at the slow pace in which the government was working on the suggestions of the petitioner and asked Datta to inform the court about the status of the Bill during the next hearing. Datta said the government has incorporated the changes suggested by the petitioner to make the punishment for offences more stringent and modify the definition of 'brothel' to include "parlours, bars and such places being used for prostitution to bring them under the ambit of the law", he said. These are part of the amendments under consideration by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) and include a more stringent definition of "trafficking in persons" on the lines of International Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and "enhancing the punishment for a person who keeps or manages or acts or assists in keeping or management of a brothel".


US finds 'numerous serious' human right problems in India

Indo-Asian News ServiceWashington, March 7, 2007

The United States says the Indian government generally respected the rights of its citizens but still faced "numerous serious problems" like extra-judicial killings of persons in custody, disappearances, torture and rape by police and security forces. It also acknowledged lapses in its own handling of terror suspects.
"While the civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were frequent instances in which some elements acted independently of government authority," said the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released here on Tuesday.
Unusually, the Congressionally mandated annual report card of 196 countries acknowledged that the United States, too, had fallen short of international standards in its handling of terrorist suspects. "Our democratic system of government is not infallible, but it is accountable," it said.
Barry Lowenkron, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour matters, admitted "that we are issuing this report at a time when our own record, and actions we have taken to respond to the terrorist attacks against us, have been questioned. We will continue to respond to the concerns of others."
Amnesty International welcomed Washington's new candour, but its executive director for US, Larry Cox, said that, "until the United States changes its own policies of holding detainees indefinitely, in secret prisons and without basic rights, it cannot credibly be viewed as a world human rights leader."
Suggesting that US Foreign policy hinders human rights work around the world, he said that if the Bush administration persists in allowing other considerations to trump human rights concerns, the real-world impact of these reports will be greatly diminished."
"There are many countries listed in these reports that have questionable human rights records, including Turkey, India, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia," said Cox.
With the release of this year's reports, Americans are "recommitting ourselves to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights," Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said.
"And we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush's words, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity," she said.
In the case of India, the State Department report noted that it is a longstanding and stable multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament and a population of approximately 1.1 billion. Manmohan Singh, it noted was named prime minister following his Congress Party-led coalition's victory in the 2004 general elections, which were considered free and fair, despite scattered episodes of violence.
But, the report said serious internal conflicts affected the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as several states in the northeast. The Naxalite conflict affected Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and eastern Maharashtra.
The lack of accountability permeated the government and security forces, creating an atmosphere in which human rights violations often went unpunished. Although the country has numerous laws protecting human rights, enforcement was lax and convictions were rare, it said.
Poor prison conditions, lengthy pre-trial detention without charge, and prolonged detentions while undergoing trial remained significant problems.
Government officials used special antiterrorism legislation to justify the excessive use of force while combating terrorism and active, violent insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and several northeastern states, the report said.
Security force officials who committed human rights abuses generally enjoyed de facto impunity, although there were investigations into individual abuse cases as well as punishment of some perpetrators by the court system.
Corruption was endemic in the government and police forces, and the government made little attempt to combat the problem, except for a few instances highlighted by the media, it said.
The government continued to apply restrictions to the travel and activities of visiting experts and scholars, the report said.
Attacks against religious minorities and the promulgation of antireligious conversion laws were concerns. Social acceptance of caste-based discrimination remained a problem, and for many, validated human rights violations against persons belonging to lower castes.
Domestic violence and abuses against women such as dowry-related deaths, honour crimes, female infanticide and feticide, and trafficking in persons remained significant problems. Exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child labour were ongoing problems.
Separatist guerrillas and terrorists in Kashmir, the northeast, and the Naxalite belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, judges, and civilians.
Insurgents also engaged in widespread torture, rape, and other forms of violence, including beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion.
In June 2005 the government passed the Right to Information Act (RTI), mandating stringent penalties for failure to provide information or affecting its flow, and requiring agencies to self-reveal sensitive information. The implementation of the act marked a departure from the culture of secrecy that traditionally surrounded the government's rule making, the report said.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Using minors in prostitution is a billion dollar industry in the city

Haima Desshpande Friday, March 09, 2007 20:46 IST

For most, Mumbai remains a city of dreams. But, for some, it has become a place full of nightmares.In recent years, the financial capital of the country has emerged as one of the leading markets for trafficked minors who engage in prostitution or, in other words, the commercial sexual abuse of a minor. According to estimates released by international agencies, trafficking of minor girls is a $1-billion-a-year industry, and it is thriving due to increased sex tourism in Mumbai, Goa and adjoining coastal areas. Edging past North-Eastern states, poverty-stricken rural areas of Maharashtra — Beed, Latur, Solapur, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Nandurbar, Chandrapur, Washim, Akola, Buldhana, Dhule and the Konkan region — have emerged as one of the biggest suppliers of minors.States such as Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have also opened up as the new supply markets, says a Mumbai police source.As instances of HIV and AIDS reach alarming proportions, demand for younger, pre-puberty girls has hit an all-time high. Girls as little as seven and eight-years-old are being forced into prostitution, both in the red-light areas and as “professional” call girls (always accompanied by an adult), according to a DNA investigation.Affluent businessmen, some members of the film and advertising industries, diamond merchants and politicians form the “select” clientele who source minors.“Trafficking in minor girls has seen an estimated 30 per cent increase from previous years,” says a social activist working at Kamatipura — the city’s most notorious red-light district.“Poverty due to prolonged drought, mounting farm debts, unemployment and lack of livelihood are the triggering factors, which are forcing parents to send their daughters out of town for employment.”Though migration is also emerging as an important aspect in the minor flesh trade, numbers entering the flesh trade through this route are considerably smaller, explains the activist.“Even when girls are rescued, families are unwilling to take them back,” says the police source. “This has become a common story in the rural areas.” According to conservative estimates released by NGOs, the flesh trade in Mumbai “employs” about four lakh individuals. “Nearly 45 per cent — 1.8 lakh — are minors,” says Triveni Acharya, Founder-President of the Rescue Foundation, an organisation working with commercial sex workers. Nepal and Bangladesh are the biggest exporters of trafficked minors and women in South Asia. Though the police estimate there are about 35,000 Nepalese nationals in Mumbai’s red-light areas, social activists insist the number is closer to one lakh. A majority of them are minors.As per UNICEF estimates, about 12 lakh children are trafficked across international borders each year. Save The Children (India) states that clients today prefer girls as young as 10 years.“The victims are subjected to the worst form of torture if they do not ‘perform’ with the clients,” says another social activist. “Most are denied food, water and toilet facilities, and regular beatings are an ‘integral’ part of their lives.”Every minor girl is subjected to a probation period of three years. During this time, she is not allowed to meet or interact with others in the brothel, and kept in a locked room. The probation period is the gestation time for the brothel keeper to rake in the money.Shockingly, the same people who are supposed to uphold the laws of the country are the ones involved in the trade, says a social activist. “How else do some rescued minors find their way back to the same brothel?” she says. “This trade cannot survive without patrons in the Mumbai police. This is the main reason why the police are incapable of handling child prostitution.”And, it is all about the profits in this business. A fair minor fetches between Rs1-1.5 lakh for a night, and a dusky one is sold for between Rs75,000-1.25 lakh. An adult always accompanies the child to the rendez-vous point, and the clandestine destination is subject to several changes to throw off decoy agents. Though several NGOs are actively involved in rescuing minors, the magnitude of the problem keeps growing. Since 1986, the age of girls entering prostitution has gradually declined. In 1998, the average age of girls was 18 years. By 2000, it was 15. In 2003, minors as young as 12 were freely available.Now, the police source says clients have been asking for minors as young as 8 years old. In 1998, NGO Prerna brought together a consortium of like-minded organisations to address the issue of trafficking of minors.The group formed the Network Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking, to begin a dialogue with women working in the red-light areas. Today, the organisation has about 250 members spread across the state. Most work in the districts from where girls are trafficked.The Rescue Foundation had till December 2006 organised 50 rescue operations. Over 700 people — about 60 per cent were minors — were rescued from the red-light areas of Mumbai and Pune.“The fear of HIV has increased demand for minors,” says Acharya. “However, it is not easy for clients to get them. They are only sourced to a select clientele known to the brothel keepers. Fearing torture, minors do not dare to venture out of the locked rooms.”Though RR Patil, Deputy Chief Minister and in-charge of Home Department, mooted the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) to include brothel owners, pimps and others found guilty of trafficking women and children, it has yet to be implemented. During 2004 and 2005, the police sealed 21 brothels for housing minors soliciting clients on their premises. Currently, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and provisions of the Indian Penal Code punishes offenders. If a minor girl is found on the premises of a dubious establishment, the said premise is sealed for a maximum period of three years, and the accused can be punished for a minimum period of 10 years. The Mumbai police recently launched a special juvenile aid police unit (JAPU) to tackle the menace. The unit has been staffed with trained personnel.(Inputs by Dayanand Kamath)
For sale
Fair minor: Between Rs1-1.5 lakh for a nightDusky minor: Between Rs75,000-1.25 lakh for a nightAge profile
1998: Girls as young as 18 years2000: Girls as young as 15 years2003: Girls as young as 12 years
Today: Girls as young as 8 years
The horrors of the trade Client listAffluent businessmen, members of film and advertising industries, diamond merchants and politicians form the “select” clientele.Shocking riseTrafficking in minor girls has seen an estimated 30 per cent increase from previous years. The dark sideVictims are subjected to the worst form of torture if they do not ‘perform’ with the clients. Most are denied food, water and toilet facilities. Regular beatings are an ‘integral’ part of their lives.


‘Seeing her die would’ve been better’

Johnson T A
Posted online: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 at 0000 hrs

Bangalore, March 6: • If she had taken ill before my eyes it would still have been okay. Even if she had died before my eyes it would not have hurt so much. Now, I don’t know what my little daughter is going through. She must be helpless,” says 11-year-old Shilpa Dasarath’s mother, Bharati. On the afternoon of November 5, 2006, Bharati sent Shilpa, the eldest of her three children, to the main road in the lower middle class locality of Udayanagar, on the outskirts of Bangalore, to check out if the local barber shop was open. Shilpa never returned from what should have been a five-minute trip. Her classmate reported that she had seen her walking away with a strange man, while a shopkeeper some distance away claimed to have seen a girl matching her description perched on a camel and crying.
• Bangalore-based autorickshaw driver Suresh and his wife Savita have been searching for their younger son Abhishek since December 10, 2006. The five-year-old child went missing from a locality on the outskirts of Bangalore. With no money to put up even an advertisement, Suresh and his wife have been combing the city streets hoping to find their kid. “I never had the money to buy my son any of the things he liked. I thought I would do it when I have the money. I hope I can at least see him again,” Suresh says.
Between January 1, 2005, and January 30, 2007, 4,568 children below the age of 18 were reported missing in Bangalore city alone. According to the data available with the Missing Persons Bureau (MPB), as many as 1,434 remain untraced to date. The total number of those reported missing in the state between January 2005 and October 2006 was 14,773, with 12,441 remaining untraced (State Crime Records Bureau data).
However, policemen in-charge of both the MPB and the SCRB admit the data is skewed. Like in the rest of the country, police register FIRs in case of missing people rather reluctantly. “When a person goes missing, there is no law saying a case has to be registered, unless a crime is involved. A large number of cases are being registered in Karnataka because it was decided many years ago that this would provide accountability in case it is later discovered that a crime was also involved,” says K Srinivasan, Additional Director General of Police, SCRB.
The role of the police, however, tends to end with the registration of FIR, and investigations are usually cursory. There is no dedicated team to investigate cases and even the MPB is currently a one-man unit engaged in data processing. “Investigation of cases of missing children requires a dedicated team, working on a daily basis. At most police stations, serious crimes and law and order issues engage the resources, so cases of missing children are pursued only if complainants are persistent,” says Alok Kumar, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bangalore (South).
Incidentally, the highest number of missing cases come from the outlying areas of Bangalore, which have a concentration of migrant labourers, daily wage earners and factory workers. The majority of these families are poor and ill-educated and the parents rarely have the time, money or resources to pursue their cases.
Parents of both Shilpa and Abhishek say police registered a complaint only after they dug in their heels. The local police first told Shilpa’s father Dasarath that she would return after four-five days. It was only when the havaldar in the Army’s Madras Engineering Group and a former Services boxer brought some pressure on the police through a local councillor that they registered a complaint.
In the hope of finding their child, the family follows every small lead about their missing child. Over the past three months they have travelled across the state distributing pamphlets and posters of Shilpa. They have consulted psychics, astrologers, fortune-tellers and soothsayers.
“We have run out of money now. We want to sell a small piece of land we own and continue our search. There have been so many horror stories about children since Shilpa went missing. We have to find her,” says Bharati.
According to police, a majority of cases involving children relate to runaways and only occasionally to kidnapping or child trafficking (mostly from northern districts of Karnataka). “Most children who go missing are runaway kids. They come from impoverished homes where there is little care for them ,” says a police inspector at the Subramanyapura police station, which had solved 145 of the 214 missing children cases in 2005 and 2006.
“Missing children are invariably from marginalised homes, especially the smaller ones. There are also a large number of mentally unstable children. The older boys tend to be runaways,” says Nina Nayak, Chairperson of the Karnataka Child Welfare Committee.
What makes tracing of missing kids more difficult is the system itself. With multiple agencies gathering data, there is no collation, networking or a systematic reporting procedure. The State Crime Record Bureau merely classifies missing cases under the broad head “Man Missing” and has no system to break the data down on age, sex or other criterion.
“The data we provide is very crude. There is gross under-reporting of both missing cases and the case resolution. Every district does not send reports when people go missing or when they are traced,” says ADGP, State Crime Records Bureau, Srinivasan.
The two-year-old Missing Persons Bureau, using more sophisticated but privately donated software to log missing people cases, tends to provide more rigorous data on missing kids, he said. The SCRB, however, issues a crude monthly gazette for police circulation in Karnataka and the rest of the country, containing pictures and names of missing persons and unclaimed bodies.
In December 2006, R Srikumar, Director General of Police, in a report filed before the Karnataka High Court on improving the process of handling cases of missing persons recommended registration of all missing cases; a special squad to investigate them; supervision by designated senior officers; and a centralised police information network —- linked to a national grid as well, for quick, easy and all-round dissemination of information. The report also recommended empowerment of beat policemen with modern communication systems, the creation of a missing persons public web portal and setting up of facilitie s to collect forensic evidence to establish identities. “We need a system where as many eyes as possible are looking for a missing child. Every minute is important, every day is important,” says Srikumar.


In UP, nobody ever kept records of missing kids

Express News Service
Posted online: Friday, March 02, 2007 at 0000 hrs

After a High Court order, the government asked police stations to set up missing children cells

LUCKNOW/ KANPUR/ FAIZABAD, March 1 : It wasn’t Nithari but an Allahabad High Court directive on the call of a harried father searching for his 14-year-old son for the last two years that forced the Uttar Pradesh government to ask all police stations to constitute special missing children cells and compile figures.
It was finally on February 6, thanks to the court orders, that the government completed compilation of the figures of missing children for UP for the year 2006 and submitted to the court. As many as 3,649 children went missing in the State last year, 3016 of whom were between the age of 10 years and 18 years. (See Box).
All this has been known because of one man’s search. Vishnu Dayal Sharma, a retired postal department employee living in Agra’s Mohan Girara village, has been looking for his son Krishna Gopal since February 22, 2005, when he left for his maternal uncle Banwari Lal’s place in Jagdishpura, 4 km away from where he went to school, never to return.
Between the day he lodged a police report on February 24, 2005, and the day the High Court asked the police to act on January 3, 2007, Sharma had done the entire ladder from the local police station to the IGP but to no avail. “I felt they were not interested in tracing my son and so I moved the court,” he said.
While Jagdishpura police did start work on the court’s order, it only surprised Sharma further. The police called him and told him that Krishna’s uncle Banwari Lal had been detained because his was the last destination the boy had gone to. Sharma said, “I have no reason to suspect Banwari. The police just want to dispose of the case somehow.”
SO of Jagdishpura RK Sharma disagrees. “The maternal uncle is not a nice person and wishes to confiscate Sharma’s land and so must have prompted the boy to run away. The boy himself was not popular in his locality,” he said. Besides Banwari, the police have lodged an FIR against another boy Pradip, with whom Krishna had a tiff some 10 months ago. Asked when would be the child found, Sharma said, “Very soon.”
Sharma’s is in no way an isolated case. The Indian Express reporters in Uttar Pradesh have found at least 15 cases of children missing from one month to two years in Lucknow, Kanpur, Faizabad and many other districts — everywhere, the police were found casual and sluggish.
Take Anshuman Yadav, 17, whose father has met all the top police officers, including DGP Bua Singh, former I-G Lucknow Zone AK Gupta and former I-G Special Task Force Jagmohan Yadav. “We are planning to meet the DGP again to request his personal intervention,” Anshuman’s father Brijendra Prasad Yadav, an assistant engineer with the Housing and Development Board, said.
Ever since he went missing in May 2006, his family is scared, more so after they received a ransom letter a month after he disappeared, asking for Rs 10 lakh. The letter asked them to draw a circle on the first compartment of the Chhapra Express when it halts at Lucknow railway station the very day if they agreed to pay and they would be contacted 10 days later. That was June but the family is yet to hear again from them.
“Once, a relative received an SMS stating “Anshuman Yadav” . The sender switched off the cellphone immediately. A few days later, it was on but was quickly put off,” Brijendra Prasad said.
Investigating Officer Ishad Ali said, “This case is different from routine abductions because the kidnappers never contacted the family.” If the government took any initiative post-Nithari, it was an instruction from Principal Secretary (Home) to Director-General of Police to ask police stations to treat all kidnappings as “special report” cases wherein the Circle Officer has to visit the spot within 24 hours and the progress of the investigation is monitored up to the level of the Inspector General of Police of the zone. Inspector General (I-G) level officers have been made the in-charge of these committees.
The catch is that there is nothing new in this directive. Uttar Pradesh Police Regulations already require officers to treat disappearance of children as special crime. Former Director-Generals of Police Shri Ram Arun and MC Dwivedi both said there was nothing new in the directive. “The problem in Uttar Pradesh,” says Arun, “is the growing tendency of policemen to conceal if a missing child is suspected to be kidnapped, just to show the crime as lower.”
A Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court, comprising Justice Amar Saran and RN Mishra, also made a similar observation, referring to Nithari: “The police were either engaged in other important work or did not want to inflate the crime record.”
Police officers and NGO workers say there are broadly three trends of children’s disappearance in UP: kidnapping for ransom; children running away on their own because the family is too poor; and abduction for revenge against parents. The court has also sought to address the lack of seriousness among policemen by saying, “There should be no attempt to not file FIRs on flimsy grounds that the boy or girl has eloped. All information related to missing children should be collated.” Nothing explains the situation better than the fact that Childline, the child helpline service initiated by the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development, restored as many as 54 children to their homes out of 61 whose parents reported missing between April and December 2006 from across the state. The Lucknow district police found 300 out of 1,047 missing report cases in 2006.


They left these villages for jobs, never to return

Ravik Bhattacharya,Indian Express, March 12,2007

KOLKATA, MARCH 11: Over the past five years, Sandeshkhali in South 24 Parganas has reported hundreds of missing boys and girls. With an inactive administration responding inadequately to the problem, the numbers only keep rising. Most affected families have not registered cases, as they feel the police will not be of much help. Many bank on the hope that their children will return someday and it’s better not to involve the police.

Shankar Sardar of Baro Asgara village hasn’t heard from his 14-year-old son Sambhu for the past 16 months. When his neighbour Kamala Kanta offered Sambhu a job at a monthly salary of Rs 1,500, he could hardly resist. With one less mouth to feed plus the additional income, the deal wasn’t bad for Shankar either.

But not a penny has reached Shankar till now. Neither does he know the whereabouts of his son. An agricultural labourer, Shankar neither had the courage nor the resources to visit the police station—15 km away with a couple of rivers to cross—to lodge a complaint. “Whenever I ask about my son, Kamala Kanta replies that he has escaped from the address where he was employed and is now untraceable,” says Shankar about his neighbour, who is now somewhere in UP’s Faizabad.

Every other household in the village has a similar tale to narrate. About 2 km from Shankar’s village is Bhatidaha, where Taccho Sheikh’s 16-year-old daughter Jabeda Khatun has been missing for over two years now. “Jabeda was fair and looked like a memsahib,” says the father. She was working in a brick-kiln till one fine morning two local youths told Taccho that she had been married off to a good family in Haryana. When Taccho and his wife Sabita Bibi insisted on Jabeda’s new address, the youths just said: “Good family, good house”. More pressure yielded a piece of paper with directions on how to reach her in-laws: “Husband: Ishak Sheikh, Witness: Nasiruddin Jakir. Get down at New Delhi, board bus No 77 to New Bazar and get an auto from there to Kaligaon at Rs 5.”

Instead of trying out the address in an unknown land, Taccho made it to Sandeshkhali police station and fell at the feet of the officer-in-charge. After several visits and desperate pleas, the OC agreed to make a diary entry and promised to book the youths. However, no police action followed. The youths have meanwhile left following pressure from the villagers.

On the other hand, there are scores of households where children have returned. Many narrate how they were tortured and sexually exploited in brothels and households.

In Malancha Rajbari, a 15-year-old girl managed to return after a year in a Delhi brothel. The teenager used to work at a brick-kiln in Basirhat, about 70 km from Kolkata, before she was lured with the promise of a good marriage.

“Once in Delhi, they put me in a brothel where I was tortured and sexually abused. It continued for about a year before I ran away one morning.”

The walls of the one-room office of Save the Children—an NGO which has started work in the area recently—is cluttered with charts and maps, all pointing to the magnitude of the problem here. One such statistics shows that between April 2004 and June 2006, as many as 540 missing children have returned to their homes in 18 villages.

But figures at the local police station show just a fraction of the problem. Its database reveals that between 2003 and 2006 at least 218 male children have been recorded as missing, of which 14 were traced. The number of missing girls during this period is 455, of whom 29 have returned, says the police. “We are so busy with crimes like murder, rioting and dacoity that we hardly have any time for missing children,” says the duty officer.

However, Sandeshkhali is only symbolic of a growing tide of missing children in West Bengal. Districts like Murshidabad, Malda, Nadia, North and South Jalpaiguri as well as Uttar and Dakshin Dinajpur too have similar stories to tell. There is no singular pattern of missing children in West Bengal, though trafficking is inalienable in most such cases.

But there are often common features associated with missing children in certain districts.

For instance in different villages of North 24 Parganas, groups of young boys and girls are employed in Nautanki groups that visit rural Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Many of them never return home. For instance, at least seven children from Diyaldaha in Bagda of North 24 parganas, who went to Bihar for a performance, have been missing since. The police here however are reluctant to book such cases as the incident pertains to another state.

Supriyo Chowdhury, an NGO consultant and project worker for Action Research on Trafficking in Women and Children, a study published by NHRC, says “young girls and effeminate boys are chosen to perform lewd dances in Bihar. Most of these children are sexually abused after being abducted”.

“Many cases are never reported. Most of these children are trafficked to Mumbai, Delhi, Allahabad and even West Asia. Girls are sexually exploited, boys made to beg or work in West Asian countries. Parents report the cases as missing, but in reality they are trafficked out of the country,” says Chowdhury.

Many boys from Murshidabad are sent to the Middle East to be trained as camel jockeys. Many of them are killed or maimed for life. Others are trafficked to Gulf countries for begging.

The Dubai Police has often deported children working for begging rackets in the emirate. In fact, the study details specific case studies of victims and traffickers operating for begging rackets in the Gulf as well as the metroes.

(To be continued tomorrow)


Delhi: Domestic help undergoes ordeal

Sakshi TalwarSunday, March 11, 2007 (New Delhi) NDTV:

It's all very well to mark International Women's Day with fanfare every year on March 8 but a large number of India's girl children are very far away from any dreams of freedom and emancipation.Manju was recruited as a domestic help at the age of 15 by a placement agency in Delhi.Her first assignment was in Mohali in Punjab and the agency told her she would be paid Rs 1500 a month.But Manju didn't see a penny. She couldn't complain to anyone since the family she worked for wouldn't let her make any phone calls. "I wasn't allowed to talk on the phone. I was told I will get Rs 1500 rupees but I got nothing," said Manju.After five months in Mohali, Manju's agency transferred her to a job in Dehradun, and again she was not paid a single rupee. NCW intervenesMeanwhile, Manju's family was desperate for news of her but the agency refused to share even the most basic information like her address. Finally, Manju's sister Elizabeth, who works in Mumbai, asked her employer to help out. Together, they contacted a Delhi-based NGO who tracked Manju down in Dehradun. Both the families who Manju worked for claim they paid the employment agency directly. The police refused to file an FIR against the owner of the agency."It took eight hours for police to file the complaint. (The) girl got no salary for working for 11 months and police said to go to court for compensation," said Rishikant, social activist.NDTV went to the placement agency's office in south Delhi only to find it shut. The police claim it will track down the owner of the placement agency eventually. And now the National Commission for Women is fighting for Manju's rights."There are so many acts involved in the case – slavery, child labour, illegal confinement etc. We'll make sure action is taken," said Girija Vyas, Chairperson, NCW.According to the NHRC report, at least 45 thousand children go missing each year - all victims to the child trafficking trade.Manju was amongst the few to be rescued and reunited with her family but what about the rest.



Vidarbha girls forced to take-up prostitution

Joydeep RayMonday, March 12, 2007 (Vadodara, Mumbai)NDTV :

Organised gangs of middlemen, traffickers, and pimps that operate across the state borders are picking up women from pockets of rural distress and selling them into sex trade markets in newly affluent urban India.The cash rich Gujarat has become the nearest and biggest magnet for the daughters of suicide country. The cotton fields of Vidharbha seem very far away for Seema. She was the eldest daughter of a cotton farmer. But this season her father's crop failed and it was not for the first time. He tried to commit suicide not for the first time. This is when a girl in her village told her if she came to Gujarat she would be able to earn a lot more. The Gitanjali Express from Nagpur brought her to Vadodara to the horror of a brothel. "My father is a farmer. But there is not enough income. That's why I am doing this work," Seema said. On the surface there is a new affluence. In just in two months she has been able to send over Rs 30,000 rupees to her family. But she wants to return soon. "I want to be just a common, homely girl, in a family. I want to get out as soon as possible. I have already been here two months," said Seema. That may be a distant dream. Girls like Seema from the crisis-hit regions of Maharashtra have crossed the border into the cash rich towns of Gujarat. The gang of pimps and traffickers ensure that very few make it back. Armed with a hidden camera, the NDTV team met Hamidbhai Mansoori at Mumbai's domestic airport. Mansoori, in his 40s, is from Bihar. He is the pimp Seema now works for in Vadodara. Poverty and distressAs we get talking Hamidbhai tells us that his agents pick up girls from poor villages in Maharashtra, especially Vidarbha, and sends them to the sex trade in Mumbai and cities of Gujarat. His entire trade is fuelled on rural poverty and distress. But halfway through the conversation Hamidbhai realises we are journalists."I spoke to you frankly. Don't create trouble for me," he said. NDTV's team leave's the airport to pursue the leads of Hamidbhai's hubs in Mumbai. That brought the team to a seedy hotel in Chembur where they find two girls working for Hamidbhai. Sonia's family in Satara in Western Maharashtra thinks she is a sales girl in a cosmetic shop. Her father who worked for a pesticide company has been sacked. Now she is the only support for a family of eight. Traveling back and forth from the housing society she lives in, she hides behind a burkha and is scared everyday that somebody will get to know. Sonia said that she will continue this work as she had to help her sister and brother get married.

Debt and distress: Rural women in prostitution

Yogesh Pawar / Supriya SharmaMonday, March 12, 2007 (Mumbai) NDTV:

Most of Maharashtra's rural women sold into sex trade belong to Marathwada region, an NDTV investigation has found. Most of them are landless poor but due to failing crops even women from families that own land are not spared. Kamathipur, the city's infamous red light district has women from all parts of the country. But most of them are women from landless families of drought-hit Marathwada, Maharashtra's poorest belt that has traditionally fed the state's brothels. "Our villages are hit by drought," said one woman. Another said crops and rains have failed. A third woman explains, "our lands yield nothing and wages for working on others' lands is not enough".Prostitution has hit even those with land. Mangla from Beed is the daughter of a farmer and dowry could not be arranged.Debt pressureA year ago a pregnant Mangala was sent back home by her husband and she found her way to the brothel.Mangala said her sister is also into prostitution and the money she earns she takes with her when she goes home.She says her parents know that they are engaged in prostitution. In another brothel 21-year-old Chhaya reveals her debt-ridden father committed suicide and she needs to support her mother and a younger brother.She earns between Rs 100 - 200 and sometimes she does not earn, Chaya said. She admits it is not possible to live a normal live after being a prostitute. Shantibai, the oldest prostitute in Latur dose not minces her words. "They are young children. If the father takes a loan and dies, then that's his headache. Why should these girls come here to repay those debt," she says. The entry of women from the families of the landed has created a strange tension within the flesh trade. The traditional communities associated with prostitution resent the presence of women like Managala and Chhaya.