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‘No point in sensationalising’

10 Mar

HINDUSTAN TIMES

Crime PatrolDastak, that airs twice a week in a late night slot, has not only completed over 52 weeks in the top 10 chart, but has also become the No 1 show this week. According to the ratings issued by TAM India, the official record keeper for TV viewing in the country, the two-part  episode aired on last Friday and Saturday on Sony Entertainment, showcasing the recent ‘Baby Falak’ case in Delhi and the associated human trafficking issue, scored 6.8 points, leaving popular dailies behind.

Host Anoop Soni gives credit to the show’s director Subramaniam and to the creative and research team that consciously cut down the graphic representation of crimes. “The ratings are overwhelming. But they also point out that we have an ever-increasing audience base, and have to be more cautious about the way we discuss a case study,” he says, adding, “There’s no point in sensationalising. The idea is to narrate a story in a humane manner and understand what leads to a particular crime and how it could have been averted.”

Anoop, who only shoots anchor links for the show, prefers to read the entire screenplay to connect with a story. He also reads newspapers and magazines thoroughly and passes on cases to the show’s two-member research team for consideration. “We can’t end crimes, but circumstances that lead to punishable offences can be changed,” says the actor-anchor, who remembers receiving great feedback for a series on female foeticide cases in India.   “There are thousands of cases we’d like to highlight alongside the role that cops play in cracking them. And trust me, there’s a large chunk of the audience that’s not tuning in for voyeuristic pleasure.”

Crime Patrol’s first season aired from May 2003 to March 2006, followed by season two that ran from January 2010 to June 2010. The third season started in September 2010 and ended in December 2010. The current season flagged off on April 29, 2011. Director Subramaniam, the brain and creative force behind the show, doesn’t know if this season will ever end.

“We’re trying to keep the show newsy. At the same time, we’re trying to keep the grossness levels low because we don’t want to show gruesome crimes too graphically,” he reasons. “We had thought we’d get a little break between these cases. But the good feedback won’t let us do that anytime soon.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Television/No-point-in-sensationalising/Article1-823269.aspx

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India seeks to clear child labour charges in textile sector

18 Jun

18 Jun 2010, 0402 hrs IST,Shramana Ganguly Mehta, ECONOMIC TIMES

AHMEDABAD: Haunted by charges of use of child labour in the textile sector, India is pulling up its socks ahead of a review by the United States of America scheduled later this year.

Apart from already having begun a process for lobbying for itself through law firm Sidley Austin LLP in the US, India is expected to engage US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, during her visit in near future, to present a case for exclusion of India from the list. Though isolated, instances of use of child labour in Indian garmenting industry has not gone down well with the US that accounts for 30% of India’s total apparel exports worth $10 billion. In September 2009, US Department of Labour listed Indian garments under the Executive Order 13126 List (EOL) and Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation (TVPRA) list. These are perceived trade barriers that could emanate from the US. While US Federal Government does not procure anything from India currently, an EOL label could hamper India’s chances of trade with the US in future.

Likewise, a TVPRA listing is a huge reputation risk for Indian apparel industry that supplies to global retailers and brands like Walmart, GAP, H&M, Diesel, M&S, Levi’s, et al, all of who swear by strict policies on child labour. While trade linkage with labour issues is not immediately enforceable in the absence of a legislation, the likelihood of a legislation in the coming months could affect Indian apparel exports fear those in know of things. With the next TVPRA list expected in September 2010 and the EOL list 13126 being finalised in the next three to four months, India is not leaving anything to chance. India has already initiated a process to defend itself through a three-pronged strategy: diplomatic channel, lobbying firm and the common compliance code. During a recent visit to Washington, an Indian delegation comprising joint secretary (exports) at the textiles ministry V Srinivas, AEPC chairperson Premal Udani and general secretary Vimal Kirti Singh met US law makers to present a case for exclusion of Indian garments from the two lists.

Further, AEPC has also finalised upon Brenda Jacobs of Sidley Austin LLP to lobby for India in the US. Back home, AEPC has roped in Mr Venugopal to represent the case of Indian garmenters. Ms Jacobs is expected to assist AEPC in the field of research besides sourcing information on US policy and labour laws.

While India insists that there are isolated cases of child labour (which is not reflective of the entire garmenting sector) and none of forced child labour in the Indian garment industry, it is trying to convince the US of its commitment towards eliminating child labour wherever it exists in the value chain. India also insists that the situation is far better than the likes of Bangladesh or Pakistan where child labour is rampant. A senior official from the textiles ministry told ET that AEPC has issued an advisory to all its members against use of child labour. “India has already conveyed to the US on its policies against use of forced child labour. Also, we have conveyed to the AEPC that it is an offence and a violation of law. We expect the Northern India Textiles Research Association to submit a report on forced labour in the industry shortly,” he said while AEPC chairman Premal Udani maintained: “AEPC is committed to not only guarantee non-usage of child labour in any factory in India but also to see that our factories follow the best labour practices. Currently, the onus is on us to prove that we are not guilty.”  With the US in no mood to relent, AEPC has initiated a process of formulating a Common Compliance Code to guide the industry, SMEs in particular, with regard to environmental laws and regulations, labour reforms, wage differentiation and discrimination, overtime, flexible working hours, health and safety issues and working conditions. In 2008, days after Tirupur drew international attention over alleged use of child labour, Tirupur Exporters Association made its members sign a self-declaration decree against use of child labour in their units

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/cons-products/garments-/-textiles/India-seeks-to-clear-child-labour-charges-in-textile-sector/articleshow/6061042.cms

Audit shock

18 May

PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI IN THE FRONTLINE

A social audit on the working of the ban on child labour in the domestic and hospitality sectors reveals a sorry state of affairs.

LIKE any normal child, Illyas from Varanasi, a 13-year-old, wanted to go to a regular school and become an important man some day. But poverty forced him to start working at an eatery for Rs.200 a day so that he could feed his younger siblings. He, however, continues his studies as well and is in class V. But his naive question stupefies all who hear it: “Shouldn’t the government help children like us to go to a school without working?”

Sanjay from Kursela, Bihar, has not been so lucky. Almost the same age as Illyas, he had to give up studies after class IV, when his father took ill, to take care of his three younger siblings. He earns Rs.900 a month, gets free food and supports his two younger brothers’ education.

Fifteen-year-old Nagaraju from Alware village, Nalgonda, Andhra Pradesh, works as a cleaner at a hotel for Rs.1,500 a month plus abuses and beatings. This poor boy supports the education of his elder sister, who has completed her intermediate and is planning to go for higher studies. His sister’s education, he hopes, will one day end his troubles.

Pooja, 13, from Lohanipur, Patna, cooks for a living and earns Rs.800 a month. Her three siblings work for food. She supports her mother, who turned mentally unstable after her husband abandoned her.

These heart-wrenching tales of real children were narrated at a public hearing on the working of the ban on child labour in the domestic sector and in the hospitality industry, which has been in force since October 2006. The public hearing, which was held in New Delhi on April 30, was the culmination of a nationwide social audit.

Looking at the sorry state of affairs in the country as far as child rights are concerned, one can see why there is an anguished cry for justice for children. The social audit, carried out by the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) and the Campaign Against Child Trafficking (CACT) in association with over 30 non-governmental organisations working for child rights, covered 12 States – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. It brought out a mind-boggling, countrywide tale of apathy, insensitivity and indifference.

Quoting official sources such as the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, the social audit report puts the number of children employed in the domestic sector at 1.86 lakh and in the hospitality industry at 70, 934. In all, over 2.56 lakh children work in the domestic and hospitality sectors. Unofficial sources, however, put the figure at around 20 million.

Compared with the enormity of the problem, the response of the authorities to the social audit was poor, even hostile, the report says. This is evident from the figures given of the number of children rescued in various States since the ban came into effect. Andhra Pradesh, which was more forthcoming with information than other States, rescued five children in 2006, 97 in 2007, 242 in 2008 and 62 in 2009. Bihar, which gave the figures for 2008 and 2009 only, rescued 474 and 1,404 children respectively. Delhi, where roughly 50,000 child workers are engaged in these two sectors, four children were rescued in 2006, 91 in 2007, 33 in 2008, and no figures are available for 2009. In Jharkhand, only 12 children from domestic sector and 15 from the hotel industry have been rescued since 2006. Madhya Pradesh simply gave no information. It was discovered by those carrying out the audit that either the States did not have the information or they did not want to divulge it and, therefore, kept shunting the auditors from one department to another.

On the basis of the meagre information received from the States (only 10 out of 12 responded), the auditors figured out that out of a total of 5,096 children rescued since October 2006, only 3.04 per cent of the children were reported to be from the domestic sector and the rest were from dhabas and roadside eateries\hotels. The figures for the number of children rehabilitated are equally dismal. “This speaks volumes about the attention being paid to the problem by our law-enforcement agencies,” one of the auditors said.

The public hearing once again threw light on the stark realities of an apathetic society, a callous government machinery and toothless laws, which have resulted in the social malaise called child labour. This is rampant across the country, in homes and in innumerable eateries, dhabas and hotels, though such employment has been banned by law.

The jury at the public hearing comprised Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission; R.K. Raghavan, former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation; Vimala Ramachandran, educationist; Ashok Arora, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court; and Arvind Kejriwal, Right to Information (RTI) activist and Magsaysay Award winner. Its unanimous verdict on the functioning of the ban on child labour in the domestic and hospitality sectors: “A failure.”

The public hearing was attended by eminent citizens, senior members from the media, senior government officials and child rights activists; 68 children were present, and 20 of them deposed before the jury. The jury noted: “It was clear that many children were forced into employment because of extremely adverse economic conditions at home. Some were orphans and some had only a single parent. The majority wanted to pursue education but had no option but to work to earn and support the rest of the family.… What was galling was the physical treatment meted out to some of them in a domestic environment. Those who perpetrated violence on the child workers included a software engineer and a banker. This indicates the gravity of the problem. Even those who are educated and are well employed are insensitive to child rights and the latter’s need to be treated with kindness and extreme care.”

With regard to the poor implementation of child rights laws, the jury observed: “The enforcement of existing laws has been tardy. For example, there are about 50,000 child workers in Delhi; only 23 of them are known to have been rescued. The need of the hour is to sensitise the enforcement machinery in order to make sure that the existing laws and provisions are well implemented in letter and spirit. At present, there is little accountability for implementation. The Ministry of Labour should devise means for bringing in this accountability.”

Stating that the existing laws on child rights were ineffective even in the rare circumstances when they were implemented, the jury noted that these could be made stringent so that they acted as a deterrent. It recommended making offences under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, cognisable and emphasised the need to sensitise the community at large on issues relating to child rights.

“Aren’t we all guilty? When we haggle with the autorickshaw driver and pay him Rs.2 less, or when we pay our maid a few hundred rupees less, aren’t we forcing them to send their children out for work?” asked Kejriwal. According to him, we are all directly or indirectly responsible for the current sorry state of children in India, and unless the attitude of society changes, child labour will continue to be prevalent. Added to this is the obfuscation of laws, which makes even existing provisions almost ineffective. “The law should be made more effective, offences under child labour laws should be made non-bailable, and the law-enforcing agencies should be made more accountable for their implementation,” he said.

The problem is compounded by the fact that there is little clarity about its real nature. Should it be treated as a labour issue or as a child rights and protection issue? “Child labourers are children in need of care and protection… but the Labour Ministry continues to deal with the issue of child labour by way of regulating it in some sectors and limiting its role to the rescue of children from hazardous sectors only, whereas the need of the hour is to address the problem in a holistic manner as an issue of children’s right to protection,” said Rajmangal Prasad, national convener, CACT. Moreover, he said, recognising the criminality of the offence would also lead to a shift in the attitude of the authorities and civil society at large, and that would happen only by making it a cognisable offence.

Another aspect that needs to be taken care of is the rehabilitation of children who are taken off work. “Most of the children employed in the domestic and hospitality sectors are there because of adverse financial conditions at home, so rehabilitation should be a key component of any programme aimed at such children,” said Rajmangal Prasad. The report says that rehabilitation programmes for children rescued from work are extremely inadequate, resulting in children falling back into the same trap after being rescued. The audit report cites the annual report of the Ministry of Labour, which itself says that under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP), catering to children rescued from hazardous sectors, the 9,000 schools being run for them have an enrolment of only 0.45 million children, and only 0.48 million have been mainstreamed since the NCLP was initiated in 1998. This gives rise to the big question: “Where is all the money being put into such programmes going? Who are the children benefiting from such projects?” The social auditors of the CACL and the CACT got no answer from the authorities, nor do government reports say anything about it.

“Revamping the existing child labour elimination programmes and investing adequately in new and holistic and need-based interventions is the need of the hour,” the audit report says.

But, as Kejriwal puts it, are we not all, as members of a responsible civil society, responsible for the sorry state of many such children? Unless the attitude of society as well as the law-enforcing agencies changes, nothing will change for these Illyases, Sanjays, Nagarajus and Poojas.

Death by drought and more

26 Dec

ANJALI LAL GUPTA IN THE HINDU

In drought-hit Bundelkhand, corruption is not just a tired cliché from a bad Bollywood movie, it is a life-threatening human rights emergency.

Corruption exacerbates poverty in Bundelkhand…the money earmarked for NREGA is being cleverly pocketed by village council leaders and unscrupulous officials.

Sesame shoots in the fields of Bundelkhand make it seem there is no drought. But the crops are stunted and useless.

Bundelkhand, which comprises six districts in Madhya Pradesh and seven in Uttar Pradesh, has had a drought for seven years except the last one. At the peak of farming season this year, rains were half of normal.

In between Mahoba and Chhattarpur districts lies Khajuraho airport. Swanky roads and five-star hotels dot the tourist destination and belie the silent human catastrophe unfolding just kilometres away. Drought may have ravaged the fields but State apathy and the brazenly corrupt officials are more brutal.

Multitudes throng us in every village we visited. Willing to clutch at straws in their desperation, their voices would go: “Have you written about my mentally challenged son?”… “I applied for old age pension long back.” … “I have been anxiously waiting for my widow pension card.” “They haven’t paid my NREGA wages.”

Inaccessible healthcare

Eighty-five-year old Motiya, slumped on a cot, gives out a heartrending cry as we step into his dingy hut. His wife sleeps nearby. Both have had fever for four days. Motiya has bed sores and can barely move. Villagers say that often worms crawl out of his mouth. “The other day my father defecated in bed. I cleaned him up. Where is the money to get them medicines?” asks Motiya’s son Chaniya, a daily-wage labourer in Seelaun village of Chhattarpur. The government hospital is 25 km away, and rarely stocks medicines.

Cattle, abandoned on highways, and the old are among the causalities of this drought as families flee a disaster. In village after village, elders have in vain applied for pension that provides Rs. 275 a month. Often the local officials demand bribes from penniless petitioners. Also, families who own more than five acres of land are not classified as being Below Poverty Line or BPL. It does not bother the officials that the drought has rendered income from land inadequate.

Dalit woman Jhharokhan Paswan in Chandauli village of Mahoba could not complete the last rites of her husband who died of grinding hunger last year. “My blind husband died a slow painful death,” she says. A tattered sari covers her old body. Had the grain bank supported by ActionAid partner organisation Kriti Shodh Sansthan not given her 40 kg of wheat, she would have had to go on begging. Last month, she threw a dried-up chapatti on the district collector’s table. He promised to mark her as BPL. And she is still waiting.

Against the wall

Despair is all too common in Bundelkhand. Rani’s husband Priti Pal Singh jumped into a well in Chandauli three months back. Their three acre land had stopped yielding, and he couldn’t repay a loan of Rs. 80,000 he took for his daughter’s wedding. Rani has asked for a job but the sarpanch argues over how an upper caste woman can go to work! Though only slightly better-off, villagers have been generous enough to offer food. “I dread to think what will happen if they stop. Sometimes I too feel like jumping into the well,” her voice falters. Nights spent listening to her children crying out of hunger are still fresh in her memory.

Corruption exacerbates poverty in Bundelkhand. The running of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or NREGA is an example. The scheme that promises 100 days’ work could have been a lifeline for rural families. But the money earmarked for it is being cleverly pocketed by formidable village council leaders and unscrupulous officials.

NREGA wages have not been paid to 200 people of Akauna village in Chhattarpur for eight months. Officials have yet to answer queries posed in March under the Right to Information Act on how many villagers got jobs in Akauna. Eighty villagers in Seelaun are yet to get remuneration. In village after village, inhabitants underline that those who are close to the panchayat leaders get NREGA work or a BPL tag.

Village council heads often refuse to accept written applications. Hence, little evidence remains of how many rural folk sought jobs and how many got them. The Afforestation Mega Campaign in Uttar Pradesh — a scheme worth Rs. 1582 million — was launched last year to boost the NREGA in drought-prone Bundelkhand. Mahoba was supposed to get 10 million saplings. “Only 40 per cent of the saplings have been sown, the rest are on paper,” reveals Manoj Kumar of Kriti Shodh Samsthan.

Six rivers have gone waterless in Mahoba. So, without food, water and jobs, people have no choice but to migrate to metropolises. Chhattarpur Collector E. Ramesh Kumar was quoted in The Hindudated September 5, “This is not distress migration.” He attributed the movement to seeking better opportunities.

“In Delhi we live in plastic huts next to roads. At times we fall from high rises doing construction work. Does that sound like a better opportunity?” asks Ramlal.

Ramesh Kumar, in a telephonic exchange, says he is only a few months old in Chhattarpur. And that “some shortcomings” perhaps do affect some villages.

Great divide

The distance between Bundelkhand’s poor and their political leaders is huge. Asked whether elected representatives have visited them ever since the polls, there are laughs all around in Chandauli.

Even as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said the country has enough food stored to prevent high inflation, hunger is widespread in Bundelkhand.

Those who are entitled to subsidised grains in Seelaun assert the full quota of 35 kg hardly ever reaches them. Numerous people across villages wryly confess that their meals consist of chapattis and salt. Bangle seller Ramesh Lakhera says, “I remember the taste of dal.” Lakhera’s earnings have plunged, and lentils cost a steep Rs. 90 per kg.

“Nearly 65 per cent of families are malnourished in 500 villages of Mahoba,” says Manoj Kumar.

In Banda district, 48 per cent of the children aged three or less are underfed. Government records reveal there are 130,000 malnourished children in Chhattarpur and 600 in Tikamgarh district. However grim these statistics may be, there’s more.

“We have discovered 40 undernourished children in Kandva village of Tikamgarh who have not been mentioned in anganwadi registers. Ten are severely malnourished,” says Narendra Sharma of ActionAid. Government-supported anganwadis supposedly provide nutritious food to toddlers and pregnant women.

In Mahoba, 165 anganwadis don’t function at all.

Denied rights

Rural families in Bundelkhand are routinely denied their right to health and life as they are often unable to access lifesaving treatment. The health system is seldom held to account. “Lately we rushed a young man bitten by a snake to the nearest health centre. They sent us away. He died on the way to a bigger hospital,” says Lallu Khan of Mahoba. Last year five children died of diarrhoea in Seelaun. Ramkali Ahirwar from Pratappura says bitterly, “We go to doctors when we are about to collapse. We die at home everyday.”

Asked whether the Uttar Pradesh government headed by a Dalit leader has made any difference to their lives, Phulia Rani, a Dalit woman in Chandauli, says “No.”

Meanwhile, the state website proudly announces “the historic decisions including increase in the budget for the welfare of Dalits and tribals by 41per cent”.

The author is a development journalist based in New Delhi and Hyderabad.

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2009/12/27/stories/2009122750130400.htm

They barter away education for money from cotton fields

20 Dec

Meena Menon IN  THE HINDU

These children are major hindrance to child rights in major cotton growing States


Save the Children and IKEA Social Initiative are trying to stamp out child labour in the cotton production and supply chain

In Maharashtra, the project covers 986 villages in Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim districts


AMRAVATI: From Gunji village, 12-year-old Reshma Itiwale walks for more than an hour to reach her workplace. For the past two months, she has been plucking cotton for Rs. 30 a day, along with her mother Nalini. Her father Vishwas and brothers Amol, 4, and Akshay,11, are daily wagers elsewhere.

The family owns two acres where they can plant cotton and tur dal in the monsoon. “In the summer and the rest of the time, we have to work,” says Nalini Itiwale. At Gunji in Dhamangaon taluka of Amravati district, with a population of 800, 25 per cent are landless. Unmindful of the searing afternoon sun, Nalini and Reshma are plucking cotton and throwing the bolls into a makeshift backpack made of cloth.

Reshma has studied up to Std. V. After Std. IV, she had to walk to Ashok Nagar, three km away, for secondary school. Soon she stopped going. Along with her is Kavita who says she is 18. She dropped out last year after studying up to 12th standard. Kavita comes from Phulam, and her family owns four acres. Nalini who has never been to school says: “We are poor people, if our children don’t work we cannot sustain the family.”

At Gavhani Pani, 12-year-old Gajanan, Std. V dropout, goes to pluck cotton for Rs. 40 a day. Since his father died five years ago, his mother Chaya struggles to make ends met. The family is landless and don’t even own a BPL card. “I want my son to study but I have no choice,” says Chaya. Her daughter Yogita is in Std. IV. It is because of children like Reshma and Gajanan that Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation, and IKEA Social Initiative have identified child labourers, especially those slogging it out on cotton fields, as a major hindrance to child rights in India’s major cotton growing States, including Maharashtra and Gujarat.

By promoting child rights, the partnership intends rooting out child labour from the cotton production and supply chain and other sectors in these States. The first phase of the four-year project has been launched in Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, the project covers 986 villages in four major cotton growing districts (Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim) in the drought-prone Vidarbha region, targeting 287,179 children in the age group of 3-18, including 122,653 working children.

At Giroli, also in Dhamangaon taluka, Gayabai Meshram, in her 70s, peers dejectedly at the world through her glasses. After her son and daughter-in-law died some years ago, her main worry is her three grandchildren, two of whom have returned from a relative’s place to live with her. Ashish dropped out in Std. XI and his sister Neha studied till Std. IX. “I left school five years ago and came to live with my grandmother. I mostly work in the fields, do weeding or plucking for Rs. 50 a day,” he says. If Neha and her brother don’t earn, they cannot survive. “I have no support now and depend on these two children. I get Rs. 250 in pension but that too is erratic, it comes once in four months. How can I manage?” asks Gayabai.

This is the first year that Chanchal Sonawane who studies in Std. VI has gone to pluck cotton. She is a bright student whose favourite subject is Marathi, and usually comes among the first three in class. However, she barely manages school twice a week. Her mother Tulsa had abandoned Chanchal and her two younger brothers owing to her husband’s alcoholism. It took the efforts of the entire Giroli village to convince her husband Laxmanrao to give up drinking and look after the family. Tulsa has since returned to her home.

Chanchal, with her nimble fingers, manages to pluck 20-40 kg of cotton a day. “When Chanchal goes to work, I stay at home to look after my youngest son who is two,” admits Tulsa. When her mother goes to work, Chanchal stays at home to mind the baby. “My daughter is good in studies, and at work too. It is expensive though to send her to school,” says Tulsa.

The key objectives of the project are to create child-labour free villages, ensure that all primary school children are in school and no child under 14 is engaged in exploitative labour, to set up a functioning Child Protection Committee at the community level, a functioning children’s group at the community and school level and to create awareness of child rights.

Save the Children’s baseline study in the four districts of Maharashtra revealed there are 556,476 children working with 383,849 (69 per cent) in cotton fields. Over 30 per cent of them report physical or sexual abuse at worksites. Many toil for 6-10 hours a day under hot and dusty conditions, exposed to the harmful pesticides.

The data reveals that over 50 per cent of the targeted children began working between 11 and 15 years of age, and a majority of this group unilaterally chose labour owing to economic conditions at home and lack of interest in education. Children lose 60-90 days at school to cotton weeding and picking during the season. One of the main problems is the lack of economic alternatives, and the project is planning to mobilise self-help groups, promote rural employment and train women and adolescents in vocational skills with market-oriented approach.

http://www.hindu.com/2009/12/20/stories/2009122055400900.htm

Secure their childhood

26 Sep

VISA RAVINDRAN IN THE HINDU

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: http://www.shaktiproductions.net/ 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.

Dehumanising

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.

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2009/09/20/stories/2009092050150400.htm

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

http://www.mid-day.com/news/2009/sep/210909-bars-sex-Ramzan-Dubai.htm

HOME MINISTRY DIRECTIVE TO STATE POLICE DEPARTMENTS ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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.

http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=52750&kwd=

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.

http://voiceofsikkim.com/2009/09/15/girls-rescued-from-the-hand-of-flesh-trader-in-sikkim/

MEDIA COALITION AND SHAKTI VAHINI EXPRESS THE GRAVE CONCERN OF INCREASING NEW TREND OF SIKKIMESE GIRLS BEING TRAFFICKED. THE GOVERNMENT OF SIKKIM HAS TO TAKE IMMEDIATE  STEPS TO MONITOR ALL THE EXIT ROUTES OF SIKKIM FOR TRAFFICKING. IF  TRAFFICKING CONTINUES UNABATED AND THE GOVERNMENT REMAINS SILENT AS A SPECTATOR VERY SOON THE DEMAND OF GIRLS FROM SIKKIM AND NORTH EAST WILL INCREASE AND THIS MAY EMERGE AS A REPLACEMENT OF NEPALI GIRLS WHO HAVE BEEN TRAFFICKED TO INDIA FOR MANY YEARS.

EVEN THE HOME MINISTRY HAS TO TAKE URGENT STEPS TO STOP THIS TRAFFIC.

THIS NEWS COMES JUST TWO DAYS AFTER A SIKKIM GIRL WAS RESCUED BY VIGILANT POLICE MAN FROM THE RED LIGHT AREA OF DELHI.

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.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/delhi/Sikkim-teenager-rescued-1-held/articleshow/5016846.cms

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