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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.

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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.

Are N-E kids part of RSS grand plans?

13 Jul

MANGALORE: The Dakshina Kannada District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) thought it had stumbled on a child trafficking racket at Kuttarpadavu in 2007. Little did it realize it had uncovered a cog in the RSS social engineering set-up which moved children from the North-East India to the state to protect them from religious conversion.

It happened when a school correspondent revealed to the Udupi CWC in 2009 that the RSS had been bringing children over seven years to protect them from missionaries and nurture them in the Hindu way. The number of such trafficked numbers was anywhere between 1,600 and 1,800.

The Udupi incident also came to light accidentally when a school applied for grants under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyana (SSA). During inspection, the SSA official found children from the North-East in the Thenkabettu aided Higher Primary School at Uppoor, without proper records. The school was neither recognized by the CWC nor were the children produced before the CWC.

CWC member Prameela Vas said Sukumar Shetty, correspondent, Padmavathi Govinda Memorial Trust, which runs the school, in a written statement said the RSS brought them here as the school faced a shortage of students. Though he assured that all the 17 girls would be produced before the CWC, local MLA Raghupathi Bhat scuttled the move and prevented the Brahmavar police from taking the children before CWC, said Vas. Shockingly, the school has no plans regarding their future after elementary education, she added.

The fate of 20 children at Mangala Seva Samithi, Kuttarpadavu, also hangs in the balance. For two years, nothing has moved from the district administration / police or the Women and Child Welfare Committee. The only positive thing is that the Meghalaya joint director of department of social welfare, Nelle, visited Kuttarpadavu, and submitted his report to the government a year ago. CWC sought a copy of the report two months ago. Now the DK CWC is planning to move the state child commission, formed on July 8, for expediting the case and returning children to their state.

Geo D’Silva, CWC member, told STOI that apart from human rights violation by denying children education in their native tongue, they are being subjected to “unwanted influences” which could turn them into anti-social elements. Stressing they have been “trafficked” assuring their parents that they would be given good education, D’Silva claimed they are being engineered to be made foot soldiers of a fundamentalist organization. D’Silva says, “If Tukaram Shetty, who claims to be the guardian of 20 children, is so interested in educating these deprived children, why are they being educated only in RSS-run schools? Moreover, the applications doesn’t contain any details about parents and the place they hail from except that the guardian is Tukaram Shetty. This violates Section 34 of the Juvenile Justice Act.” He points out, “The system has not moved an inch in bringing Shetty to book. Moreover, their religion has been shown as Hindu, while in reality they are tribals.”

After the Kuttarpadavu case, though there is no case against the perpetrators, there have been many complaints that CWC members are over-stepping their jurisdiction.

D’Silva says the return of the children should happen at the governmental level after the Meghalaya government goes trough the report. Till then, the fate of hundreds of children in an alien place is quite uncertain.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sphome/4719148.cms

Delhi has 11,825 missing children

9 Mar

NEW DELHI: The North-East district of the national capital has earned the dubious distinction of having the largest number of cases of missing children to be tracked down, accounting  for about one-fifth of a total of 11,825 such cases. Out of a total of 11,825 cases of children going missing from the city, North-East Delhi accounted for 2,518 missing children who are yet to be tracked down followed by South Delhi with 2,061 cases.

According to Delhi Police statistics till September 1, Outer Delhi has 1,497 such cases followed by South-West district with 1,458 such cases. The figures for other police districts are West (1,341), East (1183), North-West (928), Central (348), North (317), New Delhi (79). A number of missing children are girls. “Some children ran away from their houses as their parents scolded them for something, some others ran away due to poverty and few others due to parental harassment,” a senior police official said. Asked whether the police has any inputs that any organised gangs were operating in North-East Delhi who were involved in kidnapping children from the locality, the official said there was no such information.

“We are keeping a watch and investigations are on,” he added. Interestingly, the North-East district also tops the list from where children who were abandoned or ran away from their houses due to a variety of reasons were found. A number of children who were found were mentally disturbed. Out of a total of 297 such cases, North-East Delhi accounted for 208 cases followed by 34 in West Delhi, 19 in North and 10 in East Delhi.

 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Delhi/Delhi_has_11825_missing_children/articleshow/3439441.cms

Delhi may be unearthing a Nithari soon….

9 Mar

http://www.headlinesindia.com/special-reports/delhi-may-be-unearthing-a-nithari-soon.html

New Delhi: Kamini came from her native state, Bihar some 20 years ago with her husband in search of better livelihood to Delhi. Her eyes were full of dreams after she got her first child Satyendra. But as her son turned 11, he vanished from Nev Sarai, the village she is staying at. Seven years have passed since then, but Kamini is still
waiting for her son to return from the play-ground. She is hoping against hope because a Baba (godman) has assured her about Satyendra’s homecoming. But, the disturbing fact is  that the police has once again be proved incompetent.

The is not an isolated case of missing children. The national capital has sempiternal incidents of missing children. According to the reports of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), more than 44, 000 children of different age groups go missing every year in India. Delhi tops the list with 6.7 per cent of the total reported cases. Police records confirm that 6, 227 and 6,683 children went missing in 2004 and 2006 respectively in the Capital.

Facts reveal that most of the missing children come from the lower economic strata of society. That may be reason behind lacklustre approach of police on the matter, as it has always acted fast in hi-profile cases. Even the fourth estate does the same thing. “I lodged the complaint soon after Satyendra disappeared. I have visited police station several times since then with no breakthrough. Now I do not have any faith in the police. They do not even listen to our concerns sympathetically,” Kamini, whose husband is a vegetable seller, told Headlines India.

Police
even have even shown reluctance in giving information on the number and status of missing children. Even an RTI application could not bring out clear picture of it. Nav Shrishti, a non-governmental organisation, sought information about missing children in all the ten districts of Delhi under RTI Act. But, only seven of these districts replied. “One
of the police stations demanded hefty amount of Rs 12, 000 for giving information in the name of administrative cost! There was no symmetry in the fee charged by different police stations,” says Reena Banerjee, secretary of Nav Shristi.

Placard of one missing child
Placard of one missing child

She also alleges that the police hoodwinks a “serious matter” like this for some unknown reasons and unknown purposes. According to information furnished by Delhi Police under RTI the total number of missing children in the city since 2003 is 135. Reena says, “The matter of the fact is that cases are not being registered because most of the
complainants belong to impoverished families.” An alarming fact here is that a majority of the missing children are girls aged between 12-19 years and around 80 per cent of them come from slum areas, reports Institute of Social Sciences, JNU.

The study conducted by Nav Shristhi also underlines this fact. Underdeveloped areas like Samalika near Kapasheda, Simapuri, Sunder Nagari, Nangloi, Prem Nagar and Sultanpuri are particularly vulnerable for the safety of children. It is also important to note that most of the migrants coming from various states reside in these areas rendering their children a softer target for child poachers. Nithari ghosts are catching up fast with the national capital. Delhi might well be on the roads of finding another Nithari for the people to get shock waves.

Reena
suspects organ or sex rackets in association with beggary mafia, police and white collar criminals behind these unfortunate children. “We have got information about a girl, who was missing for one and half years. She had been taken to Ajmer but she managed to flee before the kidnappers could deport her to Dubai. She also said that there were
many girls in the captivity at that place,” Reena said.

Even the challenged children (kids with mental or permanent physical  disability) are not being spared in the Capital. Headlines India came across several parents of such children, who went missing from almost different corners of Delhi. They might have gone missing on their way back home, but it indicates the possibility of involvement of organ
traffickers. Manoj Tripathy, social scientist from the Jawarlal Nehru University affirms the second possibility. He goes even further hinting at the involvement of terrorist organisations, who may be using these children in jehad.

Kamini displaying her son's information
Kamini displaying her son’s information

Alliance of People Rights, an amalgamation of social rights organisations, has been raising the issue particularly after gory Nithari took place in Noida but not without hindrances. After the Alliance took-up the issue of missing children and submitted memorandums to the Supreme Court, the President and the NHRC, suddenly police become all powerful.

“We got call from ‘special police branch’ seeking the information about our sources of funds and article under which we have been registered. I told them that please search for missing children in stead of quizzing us. We just want administration to take more serious cognizance of this issue. The sooner, the better,” said Reena.

Sifting through the details of cases of disappearance, one would definitely feel the ubiquitous presence of the siblings of Nithari Managers. Headlines India is of view that protection of child rights and human rights is as important for the country as a nuclear deal or an assembly election or winning laurels at international platform is. This becomes even more pertinent and urgent if recalled in the backdrop of horrific stories of Nithari and Kidney crimes. The bell is ringing alarmingly. Hope someone is hearing.

THE BUSINESS OF ADOPTION

9 Mar

Sanjay Dubey finds that instead of restoring lost children to their parents, the capital’s adoption homes are selling them

The TEHELKA

Four-year-old Mohit is lucky. A distant relative, who wanted to settle a score with his parents Prem Sagar and Arti, kidnapped Mohit on May 10 and abandoned him at the Old Delhi railway station. Fortunately, he was rescued and sent to the Delhi Council for Child Welfare, a private adoption agency better known by its other name, Palna.

A frantic Sagar traced his boy to Palna and reached there on the morning of May 11. The officials there were extremely uncooperative. The parents were not allowed to meet their son. “After hours of waiting and pleading, Mohit was finally shown only to my wife and that too from a distance of some 10-15 yards,” says Sagar.

As the weekend fell over the next two days, Palna officials flatly told the parents that they could take Mohit home only on Monday, three days later. “They again refused to entertain us on Monday. We then had to go to the juvenile court, which directed us to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Kingsway Camp,” Sagar told Tehelka.

The government has established CWCs all over the country for the welfare of children who need care and protection. CWC’s are vested with judicial powers and on CWC’s orders and the intervention of some good Samaritans, Mohit was finally restored to his family on May14.

In Mohit’s case Palna disregarded two cardinal rules spelled out in the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA).

»It is mandatory for the police or Childline (a centralised number for missing kids 1098) or any voluntary organisation to produce a missing child before a CWC.

»Every effort should be made to restore the child to his or her biological parents.

Over 34,000 children have gone missing in Delhi in the last 20 years (as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data). Most of them aren’t as fortunate as Mohit. In last three years alone, 6,687 children in Delhi have been declared untraceable by the Crime Branch’s Missing Persons Squad. A senior Department of Social Welfare (DSW) official lays the blame for this on voluntary adoption agencies. “They are fated to live either an orphan’s or an adopted child’s life, all thanks to various voluntary organisations,” he says.

Mohit’s is just one instance of how rules under the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) and Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) guidelines to help missing, abandoned and runaway children are routinely ignored. Instead of providing them a ray of hope, adoption agencies only add to their misery.

CHILD PLAY
34,000 children have been reported missing in Delhi in the last 20 years
6,687 children have been declared untraceable between 2004 and 2006
200 Indian couples are waitlisted on an average with each agency. Non-Indians are still preferred
Rs 10,000 is the maximum amount non-Indian couples can be charged for adopting a child
Rs 2,00,000 is the minimum amount non-Indians pay to adopt an Indian child
Rs 20,000 is the average amount paid by Indian couples to adopt a child. By law they should just pay for the expenses

Confidential reports on the functioning of adoption agencies issued by DSW and accessed by Tehelka reveal how Palna routinely flouts norms and rules. A 2005 DSW report states, “Childline and the police are unduly helping the agency [Palna] in procuring children for it in violation of statutory provisions.” It calls Palna’s style of functioning “whimsical, arbitrary and manipulated.”

The report also charges Palna with not presenting children before the CWC or the police. “Why did Palna receive them [the children] and keep them without producing them before the committee. The matter requires to be taken up with the Commissioner of Police,” it says.

The report also says that Palna charges an arbitrary amount of money from people who adopt children — both Indians and foreigners. “All this also reveals how the police and Childline are flouting the statutory and mandatory provisions of JJA, and putting the welfare and fate of innocent children at stake at the hands of such agency [Palna].”

Adoption agencies ignore the poor in the list of prospective parents since they can’t cough up enough money

At the time there were 10 placement agencies for orphans and abandoned or lost children in Delhi (eight of those continue to operate) and, according to the DSW’s confidential reports, their style of functioning is not very different from Palna’s. “Further investigation of these organisations revealed that they are not providing any social service to anyone,” says another report. “They are getting children through legal or illegal means and are selling them in the market. The foreigners give higher prices therefore they prefer to sell them to the foreigners.”

Clause 4.35 of CARA guidelines unambiguously states that an adoption agency must be run on a non-profit basis and it shouldn’t look to make money from adoption. Documents with Tehelka show that recognised adoption agencies such as the Church of North India, Welfare Home for Children and Palna, among others, charge about Rs 20,000 on an average from Indians, instead of just the amount to take care of expenses. The guidelines specify that foreigners can be charged a maximum of Rs 10,000 but they routinely have to pay lakhs of rupees.

Clearly, adoption is a lucrative business. This could explain why organisations don’t make any special efforts to restore children to their biological parents, and why children are not produced before the CWC.

The reports also point out that adoption agencies ignore prospective parents in the waiting list who are poor and unable to cough up a high sum of money. SC and CARA guidelines also specify that Indians have to be given preference over foreigners for adoption, but despite there being a long queue of hopeful Indian adoptive parents, adoption agencies do the opposite and prefer foreign nationals seeking to adopt children.

The JJA states that before putting up a child for adoption, the adoption agency must publish his particulars in at least four leading newspapers, of which two must be in regional languages. But “private adoption agencies … have resorted to just a farcical eyewash, by publishing their self proclaimed names and self estimated dates of birth without any photograph, that too only of a few children, in some less popular newspapers, off and on only.” The report says that the agencies do this, “to avoid finding their natural parents.” Commenting on this a CWC member asks, “How can parents recognise their offspring by such an absurd publication which does not even have the child’s correct name ?”

“Most private agencies seldom prepare child histories, in total disregard of the directives of the Supreme Court. Such history sheets could help in tracing the natural parents of a lot of children… These agencies have thus separated innumerous (sic) children from their natural homes… in their urge to mint money through adoptions.”

Had Mohit’s parents not reached Palna, says a senior DSW official, “he would have been in Palna for months without the required effort to trace his family. The agency then would have secured a release order — mandatory to give a child in adoption — from the CWC, finally to give him to a total stranger in return for a huge amount of money.”

This, sources say, is the fate of most children found alone in Delhi. But, what has happened to the reports prepared by some honest DSW officers? “There were all sorts of pulls and pressure on the then director of DSW, Jitendra Narayan, as these agencies are run by very powerful people. Narayan, was ultimately transferred and the new dispensation, after sitting on the matter for a whole year, did nothing more than giving a mild warning to all the organisations,” says a DSW official.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main31.asp?filename=Ne070707the_business.asp

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

14 Mar

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

According to locals and police, he smuggled at least 50 children out of the villages in Sandeshkhali. Business was good for Tushar, a well-built man with thin moustache, till he sold one of his own relatives to the child trafficking racket and later came to know that the girl had landed into a brothel
in Delhi.
“I was full of remorse. I was repentant. I had brought the girl from my poor maternal uncle’s home with the promise that she would find a good house and paid a decent salary in Delhi. But once out of Kolkata, the agents who had taken her away could not provide any information about the girl for months and not a penny reached my uncle. Finally, I learnt that she was in a brothel. I had to leave my house as my uncle and other relatives kept visiting me and insisted on getting the girl back. This is my new address that my relatives do not know. They have lost track of me. I have also changed track to settle for other things,” says Bashar. He now works as a security guard with a well-known group in Kolkata.
Talking to The Indian Express, he narrated how the racket works at the grassroot level in villages like Sandeshkhali.
“I could speak well and convince people. Once you earn the confidence of a couple of homes in a particular village, the urge to send children to places like Delhi and Mumbai is like a tide,”
he says.
“There are so many children and so many mouths to feed. We were hailed as gods by the villagers, as they thought we could provide their children with jobs. Parents depend on the income of their children. It used this to our benefit. We told them that the children would find work as domestic helps in good households of Delhi and Mumbai.
They will earn substantial money. But they were sold,” says Bashar, sitting with his wife in the lawn of his house, in Sandeshkhali village.
According to Bashar, the agents in the districts and in Kolkata have people in villages who work for them.
They often also have tie-ups with agencies in Delhi, Mumbai and other big cities which provide domestic help services.
The children are moved to railway stations and transit lodges in Kolkata in groups of 10 and 20. They are taken to bigger cities by the agents through trains and buses, tells Bashar.
Once in Delhi or Mumbai, they are sorted according to their age and looks. The good-looking and young children are sold into sex trade. The others are sent to brothels or to households.
“A good-looking young girl fetched me anything between Rs 4000 to Rs 6000,” says Bashar. The chain upwards is intricate and is not disclosed to those below, Bashar adds.
“The parents are promised Rs 1000 to 1500 per month, but in most cases the payment is only for the first or second month. The standard story then is that the child has escaped from where he was employed and hence could not be contacted.” There were over 70 such agents in Sandeshkhali block when he was into the racket about a year ago, Bashar says.
He also ackowledges the involvement of both local police and local politicians. “Regular share was given to the police as well as the local village panchayat members of political parties. I used to work as a trafficker under a former village panchayat vice-chairman who belongs to the CPI(M). A good network in the villages and the financial condition of the families in the neighbouring villages was essential to run the racket,” says Bashar.
Members of an NGO, Save the Children, which is working for rehabilitation of the rescued trafficked children say that at least nine traffickers have been persuaded to get back to the mainstream in the past two years in Sandeshkhali.
http://www.indianexpress.com/story/25567.html

Low on police priority, missing cases on a high

14 Mar

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

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

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

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/25462.html

‘Seeing her die would’ve been better’

12 Mar

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

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

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