Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jharkhand Govt Slaps Crackdown On 'Baby Selling Business' After INNLIVE Exposed 'Shocking Trade'

Waking from its slumber, the Jharkhand government has finally launched a crackdown on the illicit baby business that is taking deep roots in the Capital’s underbelly. 

INNLIVE reported that girls and young women — mostly from Jharkhand — were brought to Delhi on the pretext of being employed as helps, then sexually assaulted by the unscrupulous owners and employees of placement agencies and forced to bear babies. 

Reacting to the INNLIVE report, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in Jharkhand has asked the superintendent of police (Gumla district) and district circle officers to investigate the matter and submit a report to the rights panel within 15 days. 

The police have registered a First Information Report (FIR) against a Delhi-based placement agency following a complaint from the families of two girls who are still in the custody of the agency. 

The girls, aged 15 and 17 years, had reached out to their families in Jharkhand seeking help. 

“The Jharkhand Police have registered an FIR against Jharkhand Manpower. The investigation is under way,” Alakh Singh, a member of the Jharkhand Child Welfare Committee, told INNLIVE. 

Adding to the woes of these young women, who are treated as “baby-producing machines”, the placement agency owners start the process of auctioning the yet-to-be-born babies to prospective clients from the moment they conceive. 

The price of a baby ranges from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 4 lakh, depending upon how old the foetus is. 

“This is an extremely serious matter and we have asked the superintendent of police of the Gumla district and other district officers to prepare a report and submit to us within 15 days. After it is filed, we will get in touch with the officials in Delhi and start the rescue operation at the earliest,” Sanjay Mishra, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), told INNLIVE.

Constant fear among young women in the Maoist-affected Jharkhand drives them to the national Capital in search of jobs.

As several cases of human trafficking are reported across the state, the government is planning to make the registration of placement agencies mandatory in Jharkhand.

“The plan has been approved by the government. We had a meeting with the chief minister where he gave a final nod to the decision. All the placement agencies operating from Jharkhand will have to registers themselves with the authorities concerned. The process is likely to kick off in next 15 days,” Mishra said. 

According to the officials, placement agencies are playing a major role in trafficking minor girls as well as children for the purpose of labour, sex slavery and forced marriages. 

The traffickers have changed their modus operandi with the changes in law and society. 

In most of the cases, the traffickers are known to the victims. The offenders convince the victim and her/his family to sell them to placement agencies. 

The placement agencies hire people to target girls and young women. They then lure these women with job offers, or sometimes kidnap them before bringing them to the main cities of the state. 

From these cities, another person takes the victims to railway stations where they are handed over to a third person, who then brings the women to Delhi.

After reaching Delhi, the victims are handed over yet again and brought to placement agencies.

“We have received the information about the FIR and are initiating an inquiry. A team of the Jharkhand Police has launched an investigation into the matter,” said S.N. Pradhan, a spokesperson for the Jharkhand police.

The infamous Panna Lal case 
The hide-and-seek of Panna Lal and his wife came to an end on October 19 in 2014 with their arrest by Crime Branch Delhi and Jharkhand Anti-human Trafficking Unit under various charges from Shakurpur area of Delhi. 

Thirty-one-year-old Panna Lal and his 37-year-old wife Sunita were most wanted in various FIRs in Jharkhand. 

Human Trafficking kingpin Panna Lal and his wife have been trafficking minor and young tribal girls from the remote areas of Jharkhand. 

Panna Lal and Sunita were running more than 200 illegal placement agencies with different names in Delhi, bringing minor girls from Jharkhand and selling them as domestic slaves with an advance payment of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per girl, in the affluent houses of Delhi.

Panna Lal and his wife used to target the minor girls and the most vulnerable families of remote and tribal areas of Jharkhand. 

When a girl is being targeted, she is lured with false promises of marriage, a good job, education, or a good life.

Families were also given assurances that the girl will be given a good life and her salary will be sent to them every month. 

After the girl is taken to Delhi, she is confined and placed into a house by the placement agencies of Panna Lal, to work from early morning till late nights without any break or holiday. 

The salary of the girl is also taken by Panna Lal. Every girl is placed in a house for a period of 11 months after which they are shifted to a new address. The victims are not allowed to go back to their home or to meet their relatives.

Police 'help illegal agencies thrive' 
Delhi has rapidly become a hub for placement agencies in the past few years. Areas like Tughlakabad, Ranibagh, Punjabi Bagh, Shakurpur, Shakarpur have emerged as centres for them.

There are more than 10,000 placement agencies running illegally in Delhi, and more than 4,000 of these are situated at Shakurpur only, which is becoming a hub of placement agencies.

But even after witnessing a disturbing trend, the Delhi Police have failed to act against these agencies. 

According to experts, Delhi Police need to be more pro-active in dealing with such cases. 

“While other state police have become quite active in dealing with the cases of child trafficking, Delhi Police still lags behind. The west district of Delhi is the most notorious in this case. West Delhi is slowly emerging as a hub for the placement agencies,” Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said. 

Shakti Vahini focuses on core issues related to children, women and the Right to Information. 

As per the data provided by Action against Trafficking and Sexual exploitation of children (ATSEC), an NGO that works against human trafficking, the number of children rescued from Delhi and sent back to Jharkhand increased from 10 in 2009 to 215 in 2015. 

As many as 10 kids in 2009-2010, 44 kids in 2010-2011, 104 kids in 2011-2012, 140 kids in 2012-2013, 147 kids in 2013-2014 and 215 kids in 2014-2015 were rescued from Delhi.

Victims have also alleged that the local counsellor deployed at the police stations does not serve any help. 

“There are many loopholes in the system. Sometimes victims are harassed, and again sent back to work as domestic help. We have received two complaints against a counsellor in Rajouri Garden police station. An FIR will be registered soon,” an official from Child Welfare Committee requesting anonymity told INNLIVE.

“A list of 254 placement agencies was submitted to Delhi police two years back but we have not received any concrete result. 

"Six months back, a letter was again shot to Delhi Police commissioner regarding the same where we were told that the officials are on the job. But even after six months, we have not received any communication from them on the same,” S.N. Pradhan, Jharkhand Police spokesperson, said.

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