Wednesday, June 27, 2007

India defends trafficking record

The Indian government has defended its efforts in tackling the problem of human trafficking a day after a US report criticised its record.
India was designated as a "Tier 2 watch list" country: it did not fully comply with minimum standards but was making significant efforts to do so.
The government says a lot is being done to tackle the problem, although more needs to be done.
It says efforts are underway to rescue and rehabilitate trafficking victims.
Sanctions possibility
"The world's largest democracy has the world's largest problem of human trafficking," said the US state department's specialist on trafficking issue, Mark Lagon.
The department has warned India would be downgraded to a "Tier 3" category unless it improved its track record.
That would mean that the US would withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign aidCorrespondents say that "Tier 3" countries are also denied access to educational and cultural exchange programmes.
The state department estimates that around 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and that 80% of them are females used in the sex trade.
The annual report places India as a "Tier two" country for the fourth year in a row.
An official in India's Women and Child Development ministry, however, defended her department's efforts in tackling the problem.
"We are doing our bit, but more needs to be done," said Deepa Jain Singh, secretary for the Women and Children's Development Ministry.
Non governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the area have supported the government's efforts.
"We don't agree that nothing has changed. Legislation has come in place to deal with the issue. It is a clear indication that the pressure on the government is working," Rishi Kant, from the anti-trafficking group, Shakti Vahini, told the BBC News website.
Other women's groups argued that it was unfair that India was being put on the US watch list over the issue, and not Bangladesh or Nepal.
Aid agencies estimate that around 5,000 to 7,000 women and girls are trafficked to India from Nepal and around 10,000 to 20,000 women and children from Bangladesh.
"Nepal, Bangladesh and India need to work together to stop such trafficking," United Nations Development Programme spokeswoman Archana Tamang told the BBC.
"Women and children are not being brought into India only, there is a lot of reverse trafficking taking place as well.
"It is really important for all the three nations to work together as a sub-regional group to remedy the situation," she said.


Cell set up to check child labour

Express News Service

Chandigarh, June 22: The state government has set up a child labour cell in the Labour Department with a Deputy Labour Commissioner as nodal officer of the cell for monitoring law enforcement and coordination on the subject with the Central government, said Birender Singh, Finance Minister, Haryana.
The Minister said the Central government also sanctioned three National Child Labour Projects for Panipat, Faridabad and Gurgaon districts. He said consent had also been given for National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) in Jhajjar, Hisar and Yamunanagar. Birender Singh said the Advisory Board on Women and Child Labour, along with Department of Women and Child Development, had brought out a state action plan for children that consisted of a detailed chapter on child labour.
He said the Haryana government had prepared a plan to totally eliminate the pernicious practice in hazardous as well as in non-hazardous employment. Various authorities and specialised structure was created in the state to fight the problem of child labour, he added.
Three prolonged approaches were being adopted to eliminate the problem which included identification release and rehabilitation of child labour and their families with the help of NCLP projects and employment for the family through Jawahar Rozgar Yojna for their socio-economic rehabilitation, stress on education by providing non-formal education for all children of society, including child labour, under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and to create deterrent pressure against child labour by increasing strictness and action by the enforcement machinery for implementing laws relating to child labour, the minister added.
A new concept of 'Bhatta Pathshalas' has been initiated in Jhajjar in which 1,200 children of brick kiln labourers were being imparted basic educational course affiliated to the CBSE through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, he said.


Sex slavery a crisis within India too

Anti-trafficking efforts focus on those taken abroad. But the problem also persists at home.

From the Associated Press3:03 PM PDT, June 23, 2007

NEW DELHI -- Meena discovered she had been sold while riding in an auto-rickshaw headed to New Delhi's red-light district.The 12-year-old was working as a servant in Calcutta when the homeowner told her of a good-paying job at his sister's house in India's capital. But instead, she was sold to a brothel owner and forced into prostitution for little more than a place to sleep and the occasional meal.Her ordeal lasted four years and Meena, now 21, says it left her "a very angry person.""The anger comes suddenly," says Meena, who asked that her full name not be used because of the social stigma.Beneath the surface of India's rapid economic development lies a problem rooted in the persistent poverty of hundreds of millions of Indians. Rights activists say thousands of poor women and girls are forced into prostitution every year after being lured from villages on false promises.Much of the attention on human trafficking focuses on the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people — about 80% of them women or girls — who are trafficked across national borders every year, and, in many cases, forced to work as prostitutes or virtual slaves.But those numbers don't include victims trafficked within countries — a problem that has long plagued India, a country so large and diverse that victims taken hundreds of miles away where a different language is spoken have little chance of finding their way home."This is a challenge to India's contention that it is both democratic and modern," said Ruchira Gupta, founder of the anti-trafficking group Apne Aap Women Worldwide. "In this day and age, when democracy is supposed to exist in India ... we have so many slaves."It is difficult to track the illicit trade, and the estimates for the number of victims each year vary.But this much is known: By official estimates, there are 3 million sex workers in India, at least 40% of them children. And thousands are believed to have been unwittingly lured into the work by traffickers, activists say.Most of the girls come from India's poorer states. A relative or friend approaches the girl's parents about a well-paying job in the city or a chance for marriage requiring little or no dowry.In some cases, it's the parents who sell the girls. Prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.Traffickers are rarely caught. The U.S. State Department said in an annual report on human trafficking last year that India's response to the problem was weak and prosecutions rare.In Mumbai, which has the highest concentration of sex workers, only 13 traffickers were arrested in 2005, and none was convicted, according to the State Department. The situation was similar in other cities."One of the best ways to prevent trafficking is to increase convictions of trafficking — and this is not happening," said Gupta. "Women are being rounded up.... but there are very few arrests of men who are running the whole trade."Deepa Jain Singh, of Ministry of Women and Child Development, said the government was "trying to do more" about the problem of sex trafficking, but she declined to give details.What becomes of the victims? There are many pitfalls. HIV infections among sex workers are widespread in a country with an estimated 5.7 million people infected with the disease.Those who escape are often rejected by their families.Meena was rescued by STOP, an anti-trafficking group, and lives in their New Delhi shelter.The shelter's goal is to make the girls and women in the house function "like a normal family.""We want them to go from victim to survivor to activist. It's a long journey," said Roma Debabrata, STOP's founder.


Trafficking Of Tribal Girls Unabated In Chhattisgarh


Sunday 24th of June 2007 Come to one of India's most impoverished tribal areas in the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh and take away minor tribal girls for just Rs 500-Rs 2,000.This has been the tale of hundreds of tribal girls from the Sitapur assembly segment in northern Chhattisgarh for years. Locals say that for more than a decade 'agents' and 'suppliers' here have been taking advantage of the region's backwardness, offering a mere Rs 500-Rs 2,000 as advance to the poor tribal girls' parents in return for employment as maid servants in the country's metros and other major cities.'They (agents) tell poor parents that their girls will contribute towards the family income by making career in places like Delhi and Mumbai, but it's a lie. They supply our girls purely for sexual exploitation and it's been happening for more than a decade,' Mangroo Mandawi, a resident of the Manjhi tribe dominated Kamleshwar village, told IANS.A local police officer told this correspondent during a recent visit to the Sitapur assembly segment, 'Everyone except the poor parents here know that the girls are going to metros for sexual exploitation in name of domestic help. This year alone we have registered dozens of cases of human trafficking in Kamleshwar, Narmadapur and adjoining areas.' 'Parents who believe their girls are earning money and making a career in metros are often in for a rude shock when the girls return after months, and sometimes even years, to narrate the tales of sexual exploitation,' the policeman said on condition of anonymity, adding: 'Several local agents who were engaged in this racket were arrested in raids during the past one year but the supply is still unabated.' 'Police here rarely take action as the agents give them a share of their earnings. The supply racket has become a thriving business here for the many agents in contact with the Manjhi, Manjwar and Urao tribes of some 30-odd village panchayats, including 18 situated on the top of the Mainpat hills,' 45-year-old Gaya Ram of Narmadapur village told IANS.When contacted, Sitapur legislator Amarjeet Bhagat of the state opposition Congress party, said on phone: 'Yes, I admit human trafficking and supply of girls as maid servants to metros is going on in certain areas. I raised the issue in the state assembly too and police detected several cases.' Surguja district superintendent of police S.K.Rathor said: 'Girls migrate to bigger cities in search of employment voluntarily. It's not the job of the police to keep track of every families' girls.'