Archive | September, 2009

Secure their childhood

26 Sep


Are we failing in our duty to provide our children a secure environment?

Righting these wrongs is not only the government’s responsibility but that of every self-respecting citizen.

Bitter are the tears of a child; sweeten them

Deep are the thoughts of a child; quiet them

Sharp is the grief of a child; take it from him

Soft is the heart of a child; do not harden it.

Pamela Glennwarner

A girl said to be 14 but appearing younger, jumps off the balcony to escape from her employer in Mangalore. Pelvic bone dislocated, severely traumatised. Brought against her wishes from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district to work as a housemaid in Manga lore. She was locked at home with the owners’ children to look after them in the parents’ absence. Shows lack of concern of the employers not only for her but their own children too.Mother’s blind belief kills three-year-old in a village in Mysore district. Child suffering from advanced bone disease. Child Development Project Officer/ anganwadi worker repeatedly request mother to take child to hospital. Belief in powers of tribal priest in neighbouring village led to late admission in hospital.

Stray dogs maul 18-month-old Rehana. Parents of children forced to accompany children out at all times because complaints of stray dog menace have fallen on deaf ears. (All from The Hindu dated August 29.)

An 11-yr-old girl who allegedly posed for obscene photos at a studio in their absence is chained at home by parents in Patna.

An 18-month-old girl is critically ill after being raped by the boy next door.

A tribal girl is attacked at a girls’ hostel in Murshidabad. (All from The Times of India dated August 29.)

A news channel comes up next with the shocking reports of a nine-year old stripped and paraded in a Faridabad school allegedly for not paying her fees and a school principal arrested in Jaipur for repeatedly raping a 14-year-old student .

Inadequate security

Grave vulnerabilities are created by the inadequacies of all those whose duty it is to ensure the security of young wards. Keeping children safe is ensuring the well-being of tomorrow’s doers and decision-makers. Not doing so is not only harmful but a national shame. The 1989 UN Charter guarantees every child rights of empowerment like health services, education, nutrition, name and nationality, and rights of protection and participation like a hopeful existence free of exploitation, violence, neglect, and extreme poverty. India, as a signatory to the Charter and by the provisions of her own Constitution, owes her children consistent support systems to experience childhood in an enabling, secure environment conducive to their fullest development. The lack of mechanisms to provide security is a shocking aberration in a country aiming for super power status in the near future.

Staggering numbersA 1997 RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest) study in Delhi of 1,000 respondents revealed 76 per cent had been abused as children. Sixty-three per cent of girls surveyed by Sakshi Violence Intervention Centre in Mumbai, said they had been abused by family members. Fifty-eight out of 150 minor-age girls in a study conducted (1994-5) by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences revealed that they had been sexually abused before they turned 10. In Bangalore, Samvada’s 1996 study of high school students showed 47 per cent were victims of abuse. (Source: isa_stats.html.)

What is a young, hurt, bewildered child to do when parents/ teachers/ guardians let ignorance and superstition and worse not only make them neglect their duties towards their wards but actively connive at causing them distress as in the news items cited? Or when they have the misfortune to attend schools where physical violence, humiliation and rape are probable dangers? What use pretty words and prettier treaties when the rights they guarantee are never realised?

Chaitanya, a firm engaged in people-oriented policy analysis, recommends bringing this into the security agenda to gain better leverage in media and policy circles. Activists would find that the “security” tag goes further than the “social welfare” tag, they feel and add that “A security policy agenda that also considers issues critical to the survival of children, suggests an accurate forecasting of tomorrow’s risks. In democratic societies where the demographic balance is tilting in favour of youth, threats faced by the fastest growing population segment are, or ought to be, the most pressing security concerns”.

Righting these wrongs is not only the government’s responsibility but that of every self-respecting citizen. Hearts and minds need to open up, vigil stepped up, perpetrators of crime against children booked and severely punished, and awareness raised. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “the child’s sob curses deeper in the silence than the strong man in his wrath”, but in their smile-less sobbing existence, the victims of this article seem to incite neither righteous anger nor trigger dormant consciences to action.


Dr. Haim Ginott, teacher, child psychologist and therapist makes illuminating observations about the teacher’s role in the young child’s life: “I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I’m the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.” The unchecked excesses of the system today are humiliating: they are not only dehumanising the children but shaming every adult.


Kids go to serve sex in Dubai

21 Sep

By: J Dey

Hundreds of minors flown out to Gulf to dance in bars, provide sex, as Ramzan month of abstinence ends

For three days now, 2,000 girls, almost all minors, have left for the Middle East, particularly Dubai, to feed the needs of a population starved of entertainment and sex post the rigours of Ramzan.
The girls have been told they are being taken to dance in bars, but it is implicit that they will double up as prostitutes for well-paying clients. Another 1,000 will leave by tomorrow.
Sources say there has been an approximate 20 per cent rise in the trafficking of minors over the last year.
And it’s remarkably easy. Chennai and New Delhi were used as gateways instead of Mumbai where checks are more stringent.

Sources added that all the minors were travelling on forged documents that show them as adults.
A senior officer from Special Branch 1 said the girls were travelling on a tourist visa and their stated purpose was ‘to visit relatives in the Gulf’.
“We know they are going for immoral purposes. We have been looking to see how we can check their exit,” remarked the officer.

‘Rise in trafficking’
Vikrant Raghuvanshi, lawyer and president of the NGO Akshaywat, which works with child trafficking, said, “Yes, there has been a substantial rise in the trafficking of minors, but it was never really controlled.
The government has to take strong initiatives rid the country of this menace.”

In an earlier newspaper report, Subhash Chakma, director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, had said the government was not serious about checking human trafficking in the country.
“We have enough laws to deal with the problem but lack the will to enforce them.”
Ashraf Khan, an agent, said he had been scouting for girls for the past five months. “I make around Rs 40,000 per girl if the deal goes through.
The recruitment process begins about three months before the migration to Gulf begins post Ramzan,” said Khan.
In the Gulf, dance bars are shut during Ramzan and the licenses are revoked. All the girls working there are sent home. The exodus to the Gulf therefore begins post Ramzan.
“An average girl gets paid approximately Rs 1 lakh for a three month contract, while an experienced dancer gets around Rs 3 lakh for the same period,” he added. In addition, experienced dancers get 50 per cent of the tips.
In Mumbai, possibly the best paymaster, the girls make around Rs 10,000 a month, which explains the Gulf rush.
On contract
Khan admitted that 70 per cent of the girls on the three-month contract are below 18 years and the papers are forged to show them as 21 years and above.
“I am going for the first time. My friends told me that the scene is good in Dubai and I will three times what I would earn in Mumbai,” remarked Chandni.
Confirming the exodus, Ramesh Shetty (name changed), a bar owner from Kashimira said, “Five girls from my bar left for Dubai yesterday. We now have a shortfall of dancers, but they have promised to return after three months.”
Once there, the girls are completely at the mercy of the operators as their passports are taken away so that they cannot escape.
Rakesh Pandey of Rakesh Tours admitted there had been a significant rise of passengers travelling economy class to New Delhi and Chennai in the past few days, of which a large number were female.
The Other Side
Said DCP Brijesh Singh, “We cannot stop them if they are travelling on proper documents. But I am looking into the matter.”
Girl Spotting
> Agents spot the girls at beauty parlors or malls.
> The girls are interviewed and if willing, contracts are signed.
> Rs 30,000, what they would make in a month in the Gulf is paid as advance.
> Most of the girls are 16 and belong to the Bhedia tribe from Rajasthan, famous for their Kalbelia dance.
> The other girls are from Central India and the rest are Mumbai bar girls.
12 lakh
Children are believed to be  involved in prostitution in India twice the population of Nerul
1 crore
People involved in human trafficking in India. The population of Mumbai is 1.5 crore
10 %
Of human trafficking in  India is across borders


20 Sep

The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Ajay Maken today said that the Government of India in close co-ordination with the various State and UT Governments had intensified measures against Human Trafficking and Crime against women. Shri Maken also informed that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) along with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will be organizing a workshop for training of trainers of all stake holders against Human Trafficking by the end of this year. The Conference will be inaugurated by the Home Minister, Shri P Chidambaram, he said. After this workshop, the MHA also intends to organize similar workshops for stake holders from SAARC countries in line with Government of India’s offer of conducting training programmes for Capacity building for implementation of the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children, he elaborated.

In this regard the Ministry had convened a meeting of the Nodal Officers for Human Trafficking of various States and UTs on August 28, 2009 and had pushed forward the agenda of co-ordinated and intensive efforts against trafficking, Shri Maken informed.

While the meeting resolved to strengthen the respective Nodal Officers and Offices at the Centre and in the States, it also deliberated upon certain common operating procedures and practices, following which MHA has issued the following two advisories to the State Governments and UT administrations to issue suitable directions to all concerned to check crime against women and Human Trafficking;

Advisory regarding Measures needed to curb Crime against Women issued on September 4, 2009.

Advisory on Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking in India issued on September 9, 2009.

Main Points of advisory on checking crime against women

The advisory  has detailed measures that are needed to curb crime against this vulnerable section of the society.  The States and UTs have also been asked to convey the status on the measures to the Centre within a month. The Government of India have been advising the State Governments from time to time regarding the steps that need to be taken to afford a greater measure of protection to the women and in particular to prevent incidence of crimes against them.  Through the advisories, the State Governments were also requested to undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the machinery in tackling the problem of women and to take appropriate measures aimed at increasing the responsiveness of the law and order machinery.

Some State Governments, no doubt, have taken some measures in this regard. However, the inputs regarding crime against women available with this Ministry indicate that these measures need to be strengthened further. Despite several steps being taken by the State Governments, picture still is very grim and disappointing. Complaints are still being received regarding non-registration of FIRs and unsympathetic attitude of police personnel towards rape victims and victims of violence.

The National Commission for Women has been undertaking visits to various States to review the status of women and has been making available findings of their inquiry to the concerned State Governments as well as to the MHA.  The reports of the inquiries conducted by the Commission in specific incidents indicate that the level of sensitiveness and care with which crime against women should be handled is not up to the desired level.

The Government of India is deeply concerned with these trends and ground situation and has re-emphasized that urgent action should be taken on the following:-

  • Vigorously enforce the existing legislation relating to Crime against Women and Children, i.e.,  Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 and Violence against Women (Prevention) Act, 2005, Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000, the display of lascivious photographs/films on computer through internet, etc.
  • Government must ensure proper enforcement of law and convictions in women related crimes.  Enforcement agencies should be instructed in unambiguous terms that enforcement of the rights of the weaker and vulnerable sections including women and children should not be downplayed for fear of further disturbances or retribution and adequate preparation should be made to face any such eventuality.
  • The administration and police should play a more proactive role in detection and investigation of crime against women and ensuring that there is no under reporting.
  • Increasing the overall representation of women in police forces.  The representation of women in police at all levels should be increased through affirmative action so that they constitute about 33% of the police.
  • Sensitizing the law enforcement machinery towards crime against women by way of well structured training programmes, meetings and seminars etc., for police personnel at all levels as well as other functionaries of the criminal justice system.
  • Government must take concrete steps to increase awareness in the administration and among the police in particular, regarding crime against women, and take steps not only to tackle such crimes but also deal sensitively with the ensuing trauma.

For improving general awareness on legislations, mechanisms in place for safety and protection of women, the concerned department of the State Government must, inter-alia, take following steps:

  1. Create awareness through print and electronic media;
  2. Develop a community monitoring system to check cases of violence, abuse and exploitation and take necessary steps to curb the same;
  3. Involving the Community at large in creating and spreading such awareness; and
  4. Organize legal literacy and legal awareness camps.
  5. Explore the possibility of associating NGOs working in the area of combating crime against women. Citizens groups and NGOs should be encouraged to increase awareness about gender issues in society and help bring to light violence against women and also assist the police in the investigation of crime against women.  Close coordination between the police and the NGOs dealing with the interests of women may be ensured.
  6. There should be no delay whatsoever in registration of FIR in all cases of crime against women.
  7. All out efforts should be made to apprehend all the accused named in the FIR   immediately so as to generate confidence in the victims and their family members;
  8. Cases should be thoroughly investigated and charge sheets against the accused persons should be filed within three months from the date of occurrence, without compromising on the quality of investigation.   Speedy investigation should be conducted in heinous crimes like rape. The medical examination of rape victims should be conducted without delay.
  9. Ensure proper supervisions at appropriate level of cases of crime against women from the recording of FIR to the disposal of the case by the competent court.
  10. Help-line numbers of the crime against women cells – should be exhibited prominently in hospitals/schools/colleges premises, and in other suitable places.
  11. Set up exclusive ‘Crime Against Women and Children’ desk in each police station and the Special Women police cells in the police stations and all women police thana as needed.
  12. Concerned departments of the State Governments could handle rape victims at all stages from filing a complaint in a police station to undergoing forensic examination and in providing all possible assistance including counseling, legal assistance and rehabilitation.  Preferably these victims may be handled by women so as to provide a certain comfort level to the rape victims.
  13. The specialized Sexual Assault Treatment Units could be developed in government hospitals having a large maternity section.
  14. The Health department of the State Govts., should set up ‘Rape Crisis Centres’  (RCCs) and specialized ‘Sexual Assault Treatment Units’ (SATUs), at appropriate places. RCCs could act as an interface between the victims and other agencies involved.
  15. The administration should also focus on rehabilitation of the victims and provide all required support.  The police should consider empanelling professional counselors and the counseling should not be done by the police.
  16. For improving the safety conditions on road, the concerned departments of the State Government must take suitable steps to:
  17. Increase the number of  beat constables, especially on the sensitive roads;
  18. Increase the number of police help booth/kiosks, especially in remote and lonely stretches;
  19. Increase police patrolling, especially during the night;
  20. Increase the number of women police officers in the mobile police vans;
  21. Set-up telephone booths for easy access to police;
  22. Install people friendly street lights on all roads, lonely stretches and alleys; and
  23. Ensure street lights are properly and efficiently working on all roads, lonely stretches and alleys.
  24. The local police should arrange for patrolling in the affected areas and more especially in the locality of the weaker sections of the society.  Periodic visits by DM & SP will create a sense of safety and security among these sections of the people.
  25. Special steps to be taken for security of women working in night shifts of call centers.
  26. Crime prone areas should be identified and a mechanism be put in place to monitor infractions in schools/colleges for ensuring safety and security of female students. Women police officers in adequate number fully equipped with policing infrastructure may be posted in such areas.
  27. Action should be taken at the State level to set up of Fast Track Courts and Family Courts.
  28. Dowry related cases must be adjudicated expeditiously to avoid further harassment of the women.
  29. Appointment Dowry Prohibition Officers and notify the Rules under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
  30. All police stations may be advised to display the name and other details of Protection Officers of the area appointed under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
  31. Police personnel should be trained adequately in special laws dealing with atrocities against women. Enforcement aspect should be emphasized adequately so as to streamline it.
  32. Special steps may also be taken by the police in collaboration with the Health and Family Welfare Department of the State to prevent female foeticide.
  33. Special steps should also be taken to curb the ‘Violation of Women’s Rights by so called Honour Killings, to prevent forced marriage in some northern States, and other forms of Violence’.
  34. Ensure follow up of reports of cases of atrocities against women received from various sources, including NCW & SCW, with concerned authorities in the State Governments.

The advisories issued by MHA, inter-alia, include gender sensitization of the police personnel, adopting appropriate measures for swift and salutary punishment to public servants found guilty of custodial violence against women, minimizing delays in investigations of murder, rape and torture of women and improving its quality, setting up a ‘crime against women cell’ in districts where they do not exist, providing adequate counseling centers and shelter homes for women who have been victimized etc.

Main points of advisory on preventing and combating human trafficking in India

The key points include implementation of legal provisions in the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956; Juvenile Justice Act 2000; Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006; capacity building of the State machinery; prevention of trafficking; investigation and prosecution and rescue and rehabilitation measures. The states and UTs have also been asked to convey to the Centre the present status within one month. The key points have been worked out in collaboration with the related Ministries of Women & Child Development, Labour & Employment and Health & Family Welfare.

To facilitate matters in this regard, MHA has already established an Anti Trafficking Cell (ATC) which deals with the following major subject matters:

  • All matters pertaining to the criminal aspect of trafficking in human beings especially of women and children, which is the fastest growing organized crime and an area of concern.
  • To act as the Nodal cell for dealing with the criminal aspect of Human Trafficking in India, hold regular meetings of all States and UTs, communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments.
  • To interface with other Ministries like Women & Child Development, Social Justice &Empowerment, External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs, Labour & Employment, Law, and NCRB regarding the criminal aspect of human trafficking.

The Anti Trafficking Nodal Cell of MHA has developed an MIS proforma for the monitoring of the action taken by various State Governments regarding the criminal aspect of human trafficking as well as crime against women.  The State Governments are required to send quarterly information.

Girls rescued from the hand of flesh trader in Sikkim

16 Sep

16 Sep 2009:

Voice of Sikkim:

Man named Vidur Rai who was possessing the girls was arrested here at Gangtok as said by SP East Mr. Tuli. Human Trafficking in North East is increasing day by day in lieu offering teens handsome amount of Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000. The traders usually give a promise to deploy victim in a good salaried job at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore like other cities but they finally push innocents into a flesh trade business.

The shocking incident occured when a seven girls were rescued from Syari and Tadong at capital from hand of such intruder.  However some more rackets can be exposed if Sikkim Police takes the Human Trafficking matter seriously and perfoms some sting operations in the capital town Gangtok, local people says.




Orissa: Death dances in valley of neglect, apathy

16 Sep

Akshaya Kumar Sahoo in THE ASIAN AGE

Ghasian Majhi, 20, a resident of Miangpadar in the poverty-stricken Kal-ahandi district, looks desperately for someone who can help her to protect her two little daughters — Sumita Majhi and Sumitra Majhi. The one-year-old Sumita and Sumitra, 3, are undernourished and are at present fighting malnutrition.

Ghasian’s neighbour, 20-year-old Laxmi Majhi, died of cholera on September 2, leaving behind her three-month old baby Shanti in the custody of her grandfather Ghasiram Majhi.

At least 10 children in their locality have died in the last four weeks in cholera. A lot many children are at present down with the dreaded disease. Not only children, 50 adults, both male and female, have perished of cholera in the last one month.

Over 5,000 others in 13 panchayats under Lanjigarh and Bhawanipatna blocks, who are cholera-affected, are waging a battle between life and death.

The disease, which is seen more as a fallout of the state government’s alleged failure to provide basic healthcare facilities and civic amenities to the people living in forest areas of the district, appears all set to spread further into the neighbouring villages because of continuous awareness drive either by the state government officials or non-governmental agencies to persuade the affected people to take medicines and pure drinking water. Add to this, the absence of good road communication network to the affected pockets has stood in the way of timely intervention by the health officials.

Miangpadar is a small tribal hamlet located under the foothill of Kirangaghati hills, just 25 km from Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters of Kalahandi district. It is one of several villages where cholera has unleashed its spell of destruction. Villages like Jamchua, Panchbahili, Rukuni Badel, Tenganabahili Bandelguda, Ghatikunduru, Talbora, Tarngel, Bondkali, Jalkrida, Dominijholia, Kenduguda, Chachagoan, Barguda, Pedimguda, Chatabanduguda, Kedndupith, Borpadar, Borakhoje and Merkul are now under the grips of the disease, nakedly exposing the lapses of the state administration in taking precautionary and preventive steps.

Kalahandi Lok Sabha member Bhakta Charan Das, who actually first brought to light the outbreak of the disease in the area, says, contrary to the claim of the state government of providing quality life to the tribals, people in the district are living in abject poverty and deprivation.

“The affected pockets, which come under Lanjigarh constituency, were represented by a ruling BJD member for over 20 years. But it still remains in underdeveloped. Basic healthcare, education and minimum civic amenities are still distant dreams for people living in those villages. Majority of the people do not have purchasing power; they do not get 35 kg rice as entitled under Annapurna Antodoya Yojana. The Union government’s flagship programme — National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme — is also not properly implemented in the area,” alleges Mr Das.

Purna Majhi, a resident of Miangpadar, says although he had worked for few days in an NRGS work last year, he has not yet received his remuneration.

One can find people in the area are still surviving on traditional, unhygienic mushrooms and Karida (bamboo-roots), thus exposing themselves to food poisoning. Bulging bellies of children adequately makes a statement of undernourishment and malnutrition. Infants are fed with water-rice and forest produces.

“We do not have money to buy cows nor can we afford for milk as we do not have regular income,” says 35-year-old Lalu Majhi, father of four children. The poor condition of the villagers were explicitly visible at Malati Majhi’s house. Her four year daughter Basanti was seen just managing without any clothes while the seven-year-old Shanti was trying to cover her body with torn saree.

According to Bharat Bhusan Bemal, a social worker and former local legislator, the disease broke out because of the carelessness of the authorities.

“Most of the villages do not have tube-wells. People are forced to drink contaminated waters of streams, rivers and rivulets. Although there are some tube-wells and dug wells in the affected villages, they were lying defunct and disinfected. Only after loss of some many lives, the government woke up and repaired them,” adds Mr Bemal.

Niranjan Pradhan, ex-chairman Bhawanipatna Municipality, blames the state administration for not taking preventive steps to check the spread of the disease.

“Much before the present catastrophe, the state administration knew well the wretched condition of the people. But, never did it created infrastructure such as bridges and roads to make the area accessible for mobilisation of doctors and para-medics,” says Mr Pradhan. Mr Pradhan, however, praises district administration headed by collector R. Santhangopalan for his efforts to reach out to the people distress.

“The collector is camping day and night in the affected pockets and trying his best to mobilise medical teams to the affected pockets.

“Things are now under control. At the peak time, we had engaged 30 medical teams and but now the number has been reduced 10. I hope within a very short time, we will get rid over the situation,” informs the collector. The collector puts the death figure at 27.,-apathy.aspx

Sikkim teenager rescued, 1 held

16 Sep

Ambika Pandit, TNN 16 September 2009, 09:26am IST

NEW DELHI: Shikha (name changed) is barely 13, but her experiences over the last fortnight have added years to her age. The Sikkim teenager, a victim of trafficking, was rescued from a street off G B Road on Monday. The authorities in Sikkim, meanwhile, were quick to apprehend the alleged trafficker from New Jalpaiguri station in West Bengal.

Shikhas ordeal began when her parents agreed to send her to the capital with one Chandra Maya Rai who allegedly assured them that the child would find employment as a domestic help.

The young girl was allegedly brought to Delhi on September 7 and was provided employment through a placement agency in a house near Munirka.

A week later, Shikha was spotted by a beat constable on a road leading to Delhis largest red light area. He became suspicious when he found the girl weeping as she crouched in a corner with her belongings . Shikha was taken to the Kamla Market police station and inquiries revealed that the child was working as a domestic help in a house in Munirka where she was made to clean the house and wash utensils. The girl revealed that she was also slapped by her employers, revealed Rishikant from NGO Shakti Vahini, which is handling the case.

Speaking to Times City, Shikha said she did not like the place where she was made to work and asked Rai to take her back home. At this Rai threatened to sell her off for Rs 25 lakh, Shikha alleged. The traumatised teenager claimed that on Monday when the lady who she worked for went to take a bath, she escaped and took a bus to the station. However, it was not clear how she landed near G B Road.

Rishikant said senior officials swung into action as soon as the incident was reported. It was around 11.30pm that the matter came to light. The girl was shifted to Sikkim House and authorities in Sikkim were intimated. The parents of the girl were located and it came to light that Rai was on her way by train to Sikkim, senior officials said. She was apprehended by the authorities soon after the train reached New Jalpaiguri.

Meanwhile, Shikha was produced before the Child Welfare Committee in Mayur Vihar and handed over to the Sikkim authorities. The child will now be sent back to her parents. To ensure that Shikha does not find herself again in a trafficking chain, the CWC issued directions to the state authorities to keep a vigil for one year on the childs movements.

Press should treat abducted girls as rape victims: Hadley Freeman

3 Sep

Hadley Freeman

When a slavering press brands kidnap victims such as Jaycee Lee Dugard ‘sex slaves,’ it shames them.

How should newspapers refer to a victim of kidnap? Heaven knows in these modern days the question of appropriate nomenclature seems to get more complicated — and my hat is tipped to the female actor v actress debate that so exercised Guardian readers recently — but the aversion some newspapers have towards the term “kidnap victim,” or even just “victim,” when reporting the discovery of Jaycee Lee Dugard last week was n otable. Even more surprising was the term that is apparently more acceptable, more au courant: sex slave.

Last week the London tabloid Daily Mail and, less predictably, the Times used this term in their headlines about the case, while other tabloids, of course, pledged their support to the term, too. London’s Evening Standard slapped it on their familiar billboards all over town, which managed almost to neuter the term through prosaic repetition. But then, “kidnap victim” does lack an illicit erotic kick, don’t you find?

One tabloid made a horror-struck comment about how kidnapper Phillip Garrido (“the new Fritzl/Charles Manson, etc, etc” — U.K. press) “satisfied his sick sexual urges” with Dugard, when, at that moment, it sounded like the only people being satisfied were the tabloids’ readers. There have been unconfirmed tales from a neighbour about the “orgies” Garrido may or may not have held in his backyard involving “eight to 10 men, mostly Mexican.” True? Possibly not: “I just hope that sicko wasn’t pimping out Jaycee or those children. The thought makes me sick,” the neighbour said, but not so sick he couldn’t share his supposition with the slavering press.

U.K. treatment

The coverage of Dugard reflects the strangely voyeuristic way the British press covers kidnappings of young girls. It would take a highly patriotic American to claim that their country’s media doesn’t succumb to tasteless voyeurism from time to time, but it was striking how, last Friday, when this American story was breaking, it was the headline on all U.K. newspaper websites. Over at the New York Times and Washington Post, however, it got only small paragraph mentions on the front page; instead the unashamedly tabloid (and Murdochian) New York Post gave it what shall now be known as the U.K. treatment.

Now, you could say that this was a sad reflection of America’s outdated obsession with the Kennedy family that an ageing politician’s funeral, which was happening that day, took precedence. But, my God, the U.K. press does love a “house of horror” story hence the detailed photos of Dugard’s prison backyard in several U.K. papers by the weekend. Moreover, the interest in the fate of kidnapped girls has arguably escalated in this country after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. But one wonders how Kate and Gerry McCann feel when they read all the (hypothetical, unconfirmed) graphic details of what Dugard has been through for the past 18 years.

The coverage of other recent cases involving rediscovered kidnapped girls — Elisabeth Fritzl and Natascha Kampusch — have eased the slimy way for the sweaty-palmed coverage of Dugard. Fritzl and Kampusch were both referred to as “sex slaves” occasionally, but with nowhere near the frequency and abandon as Dugard.

New kind of shame

The sexual abuse is an important part of all these cases and, in the case of Dugard, who left her prison with two children she did not have when she went in, an unavoidable part. But describing her as a “sex slave” not only puts the emphasis on her, as opposed to her captor, but suggests the sexual abuse element was the only damaging part, as opposed to the imprisonment, the loss of contact with her family and the possible brain-washing. No doubt the tabloids would claim that Garrido is merely getting the pillorying he deserves. But to use concern for Dugard as an excuse to pull back her bedclothes seems but a whisper away from claiming, as Garrido did, to be the voice of God in order to have control over your captive. It’s hard not to feel that Dugard has just escaped 18 years of sexual abuse, only to walk out into the blinding light of a whole new kind of shame. Her disappearance may have been public knowledge, but now that her fate is known, why doesn’t she get the same protection as other rape victims?

Speaking of Kennedy, now we come to an inevitable tale of our times. 2009 is shaping up nicely to be the Year of the Dead Famous People. Which is great if you’re a celebrity obituarist but a nightmare if you’re a famous person in poor health as your risk of being overshadowed in death is even higher this year. And then your life will have been for naught. Well, if you’re the family of writer Dominick Dunne, who died last week right in the middle of Kennedy coverage, you know what to do.

It’s apt that Dunne, the modern-day Truman Capote (if not in novel-writing) and a man who knew that not all Bold-Faced Names (American slang for celebrities) are created equal, should be the one to confront this problem where Mother Teresa (clashed with Diana) and Farrah Fawcett (like you need to ask) failed. According to the New York Times obituary, “The spokesman had initially declined to confirm the death, saying the family had hoped to wait a day before making an announcement so that Mr. Dunne’s obituary would not be obscured by the coverage of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s death.” Yeah, shove over, Teddy!

But how long should one’s family wait? And what if there was a backlog? Formaldehyded corpses stinking up parlours from Beverly Hills to Manhattan seem to be the inevitable future. Hey, has anyone seen Elizabeth Taylor recently? — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

Thirty-four months with no income

2 Sep

P. Sainath in THE HINDU dated 1.09.2009

For the poor and landless, NREGS is clearly the lifeline. But many shopowners and rain-fed farmers in Anantapur, Kurnool and Mahbubnagar have also sought work under it.



“You’re looking at a people whose next income — if they’re lucky — will materialise in January or February 2011,” says Y.V. Malla Reddy in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. He is a 35-year veteran of NGO activism in this district, which till last week had seen perhaps the worst rainfall of the season anywhere in the country. The “next income” is always a fragile process in this single-crop district heavily focussed on groundnut, but 16 months away?

“The kharif is gone,” say farmers in village after village. “The late rains will help us with some fodder and maybe we can sow a few short-duration crops. But the groundnut [the main crop] is gone.”

Had the kharif been all right, says Mr. Malla Reddy, “they would have harvested it in November and December. It would have been sold in January-February 2010, five months from now. With that gone, the next sowing will be in July 2010. If that crop succeeds — it is always an ‘if’ over here — they will harvest it four months later and earn from it only when they sell in January-February 2011.”

Mr. Reddy, who heads the Ecology Centre, Anantapur, also points out: “It’s not 16 months without an income, it’s 34. Last year, excess rains wrecked the groundnut crop; so many [farmers] drew a blank in January-February 2009. Which means their last income came in 2008 February. The next is due in January 2011.”

How, then, are people surviving at all right now? “Of the 175 families here,” says P. Challaiah, a farmer in Palavai village, “all but half a dozen are sending members to NREGS sites. In fact, 200 people go from this village for that. Take that away and we’re dead.” Migration has plummeted in this village which once saw a hundred people moving out in search of work each year. “But,” says farmer and activist Maruti, “we wish they’d run the programme for at least 200 days a year. If there’re three of us in a family, those ‘100 days’ are gone in 30.”

These feelings are echoed in Palacherla village of the same Rapthadu mandal. It has 350 families — and 400 people reporting for work at the NREGS sites. Here, too, migrations have fallen sharply in the past two years. “Even [rain-fed] farmers owning 20-25 acres are seeking NREGS work,” laughs Prakash Reddy, a farmer here. “We need it. Not only because of the higher wage. The landowners might pay the same as they have to compete with it. But how many days will they give — five or ten, at this time?”

It is the same picture across the Rayalaseema and Telangana regions. The poor in Andhra Pradesh have three things going for them: The NREGS, rice at Rs.2 a kg and pensions for the aged and women. At this point, the dependence on nooru rojula panni (hundred days’ work), as the NREGS is known here, is total.

In Anantapur, where it has performed robustly, Collector B. Janardhan Reddy and Project Director P. Murali confirm the explosion in demand. There were roughly 97,000 wage-seekers in July 2008. This July that number was over 2,20,000, an increase of over 126 per cent. In August last year, wage-seekers totalled 57,000 for that month. This year, in just the first 15 days of August, they numbered 1,46,000. That is an increase of over 156 per cent — with just half the month counted.

For the poor and landless it is clearly the lifeline. But many little (and sometimes not so little) shopowners in Anantapur, Kurnool and Mahbubnagar have also sought work in the NREGS. In the arid zones, rain-fed farmers with up to 30 acres have reported for work. In Nalgonda district, skilled stone-cutters, facing the collapse of their trade, are eager to come use it. The drought comes atop a crippling price rise and the “economic slowdown.” A time when many have suffered great loss of income.

So much so that Ganesh pandals across these districts look forlorn. “There’s no chanda [contributions] this year,” say people in Pothireddypally in Mahbubnagar. In Nalgonda, the political parties have stepped in — competitively — to put up the pandals as ordinary folk are broke. “We have a Congress Ganesh, a TDP one, a PRP rival, a TRS contender and even a Communist Ganesh,” laughs a local activist.

Why does Anantapur have this prolonged no-income cycle? Isn’t any other crop possible? Why think of short-duration crops only when groundnut sinks? “There has never really been a rabi crop in Anantapur where over two-thirds of the cultivable area is under shallow, gravel-like red soil.” says Mr. Malla Reddy. “Just 10 per cent of the cultivated area is black cotton soil. And a second crop on this has been rare to non-existent.”

This is also a district where irrigation actually declined from a peak of 17 per cent in the late 1980s to just about 11 per cent by the middle of this decade. “Besides,” says Mr. Malla Reddy, “the rainy season is between June and October. To attempt another crop you must sow by September. But the groundnut crop cycle lasts 110-115 days, all the way into October. Harvesting begins in November if you’ve sown in July. So the best you can do is to have a contingency crop when groundnut cannot be sown. The question of a regular second crop does not arise on 90 per cent of the land.”

There is a brief lull in Anantapur’s NREGS activity as late rains have arrived and farmers are scrambling to sow something. “You said the late rains will give a very limited yield, if any at all,” I ask. “Then why are you sowing now, especially groundnut, which will not succeed at this point?”

There are sheepish grins all around. Last year’s groundnut crop in Anantapur, destroyed by excess rain, was covered by nearly Rs.600-crore worth of insurance. The varying amounts they get from this will be their only, if limited, cushion for now.

For a people with no income from crops to speak of for 34 months (and with a limited number of days in the NREGS) this is a straw to clutch at. In effect, they are sowing a crop called Insurance 2009. In a terrible period, it just might give them some respite. At least until — and if — the kharif of 2010 brings them an income in January 2011.

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