Media Round Table on Bonded Labour & Human Trafficking at Lucknow

A Media Round table event was organized on 9-December-2016 at UP Press Club, Lucknow, by UP CSO Forum, IJM, JVI and PVCHR. The objectives of the program were to sensitize the media and journalists on Human Trafficking and Bonded Labour, and advocate for more coverage and thus initiate a mass awareness on the issues.up-media-round-table-dec-2016

A total of 50 participants attended the event, including 44 people form media houses, UP CSO Forum and some CSOs from Lucknow. The discussion at the event included status of Bonded Labour in UP and efforts of the Government and CSOs on the issues. CSOs shared the problems faced by them while conducting interventions for bonded labour and human trafficking. The media houses present have assured an increase coverage, and have requested for stories from CSOs.

The formation of UP CSO forum on Bonded Labour and Human Trafficking, and finalization of Media Event are outcomes of a CSO consultation held at Varanasi on 16-Sep-2016.

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11 trafficked children rescued from Bindi workshop in Delhi

On 25-Oct-2016, 11 minor boys were rescued from forced child labour in bindi workshops in Seelampur, Delhi. The children, aged 12-17 years, were trafficked from flood affected villages in Araria and Purnea districts of Bihar and forced to work under confinement, without pay at. An FIR has been filed against 3 accused under relevant sections of IPC, Bonded Labour Act, Child Labour Act and Juvenile Justice Act.

The rescue was led by SDM Seelampur, in coordination with Labour Department, Delhi Police, EFFICOR and JVI.

 

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The children’s working hours ranged from 12-14 hours each day, far exceeding the 8-hour work day mandated for adult labourers. For these long hours, these child labouers were paid nothing, except a pittance of Rs. 50-100 per month. The children ate and lived in the same rooms tiny rooms where they worked. One of the workshops, which was a dirty room merely 10x 15 ft. in size, employed and housed 5 children. The children were working within the confinement of the workshops and not allowed to step out. The only breaks from work they received, were half-days on Fridays to visit the mosque. 4 children of Purnea had received Rs. 1500-4000 as advance from their employers before starting work.

Mohd. Kadir (pseudonym), a 17-year-old, dropped out of school after class 5 to help the family pay off a debt of Rs. 6 lakhs following his father’s accident a year ago. The amount has been borrowed a usurious rate of 5% per month from a friend of his employer and brother in law.

11-year-old Mohd. Yunus (pseudonym), the youngest among the survivors, informed that a local Primary School teacher in his village in Araria, from whom he got his Adhaar card made, provides identity cards to people for Rs. 200 each. Sarfaraz a 17-year-old, also got his Voter ID card from this teacher, where age is declared as 20-years Such a system is widely practiced by agents to enable easy trafficking of labourers and children.

All 11 children rescued, come from flood affected areas, and belong to extremely poor households. Like most families in these areas, the survivors are also debt ridden with a minimum of Rs. 50,000 per family. After repatriation to Bihar, the children will be added to the Child Labour Tracking System through the CWC of their respective districts, entitling them to several benefit benefits including a compensation of Rs. 25000 for rehabilitation. The children have expressed their eagerness to join school again and look forward to a hopeful life ahead.

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Rehabilitation is a Basic Right of Rescued Bonded Labourers

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Rescued bonded labourers at a Freedom Training

October 10, Tamil Nadu: Rehabilitation of the rescued bonded labourers is vital for the sustainable development of the freed bonded labourers. Hence we undertake various activities under the rehabilitation aspect such as: obtaining release certificates, supporting with protection letters, providing medical assistance, emergency help to the victims including food, temporary shelter, initiating government assistance through completing initial assessment form, psycho-social counseling to recover from trauma/ strain/ stress, organizing freedom training, obtaining entitlement rights like free house, voter card, aadhar card, ration card, rural employment guarantee card, developing family development form, school admission, support for technical education, community certificates, formation of self-help groups, accessing welfare schemes, uniting family, integrating with other government schemes and empowering community.

We undertake rehabilitation program as basic rights of the rescued bonded labourers and it is obligation of the government. In this way we have conducted freedom training for the rescued bonded labourers.

Similarly a Vigilance Committee meeting was organised at Sivagangai District Collectorate to discuss the new Central Sector Support Scheme for the rescued bonded labourers. Victims, social workers, government officers including District Collector, SP, Welfare Officers and others attended.

During the meeting we presented paper on the rehabilitation aspects and talked about the right to livelihood and right to life is basic constitutional provisions for all the people that includes rescued bonded labourers. The government extended very well for the rescued people including ration cards, rural employment cards and providing other services.

Following the meeting, various officers along with NASC team made visit to brick-kilns and wood cutting units and made inspection on the working conditions of the labourers.

*This story was contributed by the National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC).

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47 Bonded Labourers Rescued from Brick Kilns

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Rescued bonded labourers holding their Release Certificates

September 23, Tamil Nadu: The NASC team rescued over 47 bonded labourers from the brick-kilns of Pudur. These bonded labourers were working in the brick-kilns situated in Pudur village in the Vellore district and all of them are from the Irula Tribe community. Some of them are from within Vellore District, some from Kanchipuram district and few from Krishnagiri district of Tamilnadu State.

They obtained an advance (loan) of between Rs. 10,000 to Rs.70,000 and were working as bonded labourers for the same owner for 5 – 15 years. There were 47 victims: 12 men, 13 women, 16 boys, and 6 girls.

These labourers faced physical violence and verbal abuse and were never allowed outside and issues such as non-payment of minimum wages (weekly Rs.300 only), lack of freedom of movement, lack of freedom of employment and all were forced to live within the premises of the owners’ property (normally within the brick-kiln worksite), and never allowed to go as family to outside (either husband or wife or child always has to be under the control of the owner or his agent).

They have been planning to come out for last three years but do not know how to contact and to whom to seek help and it was very hard time in their life for the last five years. Later, they met the members of the National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC) and got information on the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act. Later the NASC team gathered more information and problems that these people face and verified whether the details were true or not. And then, they approached the Revenue Divisonal Officer (RDO) who is the Vellore Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Mr. Ajay Srinivasan of the District Government of Vellore and explained the subject.

With the help of RDO and his team’s full cooperation this rescue was successfully undertaken along with police protection on 23rd September 2016. The District Collector and various officers are helping in issuing the release certificates, providing rehabilitation and NASC team is organizing and supporting to the victims including transportation, food, medical help and other needs.

NASC is now working on an action plan for better rehabilitation, legal aid, and follow-up work along with the support of the RDO of Vellore District, Tamil Nadu.

*This story was contributed by the National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC).

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Odisha Woman Rescued after 3 years of Domestic Servitude

A 42-year-old woman from Odisha was rescued on 20-Sept-16 from a house in Delhi after three years of work in confinement, without pay or leaves.  An FIR against the accused employer has been registered under sections 16,17,19 of Bonded Labour Act.

A team led by an SDM, and comprising of Labour Department, Delhi Police, Women’s helpline (DCW), Chetanalaya and JVI, conducted the rescue and brought the victim to freedom, following information from IJM.

The victim, Maya*, belongs to a poor family in Sundergrh district of Odisha. Three years ago, she came to Delhi in search of work, leaving her husband and two children behind. Through a placement agent, Maya was placed at a house in South West Delhi, where she worked for three years, until her rescue.  The accused employer is working at the Delhi Airport, and his wife is a teacher in a well-known school.

Maya was promised Rs. 3500 per month, which she never received for her entire tenure. Instead, the employer paid the due wages to the placement agent, a practice widely common in Delhi. Since her arrival at the house, Maya has never been allowed to take a leave, or return to her village.

Maya has now received her Release Certificate and an interim rehabilitation amount of Rs. 5000, as per the Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourer 2016. The SDM also ordered the accused to pay ~Rs. 3 Lakhs as back wages to the victim, as per Minimum Wages Act.

On 29-Sept-16, Maya’s husband was granted her custody by the court and she is now at her home in Odisha, happily reunited with her children.

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* Pseudonym used to protect the victim’s identity.

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‘Labour Exploitation & Slavery in India’: Panel Discussion

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On August 31, 2016, National Foundation for India hosted a panel discussion on ‘Labour Exploitation and Slavery in India: The Role of Media, Government, and Civil Society.’ Kishalay Bhattacharjee, former resident editor NDTV and executive director of Reachout Foundation, moderated the event. The hall in India Habitat Centre was filled with around 160 state level journalists, national media, journalism students, and CSOs, who came to hear senior journalists and other key stakeholders discuss the issue. Here is an overview of their compelling and timely conversation.

Media perspective of bonded labour:

“Cruelties, deaths, sexual exploitation – everything that is immediately newsworthy will get priority… If I want to report on bonded labour, [the media and reading public] will be far less interested.” – Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor for Caravan Magazine

“There is no space for labour in the media at all. Labour is no more an issue as far as media is concerned.” – Girish Nikam, Rajya Sabha TV

On the storytelling standard:

“Good intentions are never enough. Stories must make readers read. They have to be written in a way that will make people read.” – Hartosh Singh Bal

On using the term ‘slavery’:

“Use the harshest word available…when we think others don’t deserve dignity or wages, we are the ones who are sick.” – Saba Naqvi, Political Editor for Outlook Magazine

“‘Trafficking’ and ‘bonded labour’ do not evoke responses.” – Hartosh Singh Bal

MP Udit Raj urged the audience to consider the economic and social reasons for debt bondage and not apply the global definition of ‘slavery.’ In response, Sanjay Macwan, Regional Director at IJM, said: “Let’s not look at the global definition. We have our own. Let’s look at that.” He was of course referring to Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code, which states:

 “Buying or disposing of any person as a slave. – Whoever imports, exports, removes, buys, sells of disposes of any person as a slave, or accepts, receives or detains against his will any person as a slave, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

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International Justice Mission also organised a Multi-Sensory Exhibition to “bring the field to the audience,” which was available for the audience to explore before the panel discussion. Using photographs, audio recordings, and objects that were either recovered from rescue sites or representative in nature, the exhibition invited people to look more deeply into the lives of bonded labour survivors.

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Freed bonded labourers after a generation

Bonded Labourers who were working in rice-mills for over 20 years are rescued on 17th September 2016 by the NASC team members. The rescue work was supported by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate Dr.A Arun Thamburaj IAS, Thasildar, Police and other officers and also media was very supportive for this rescue work.

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Rescued people, including minors as young as 6 years old, worked for generations based on the advance that a family member obtained from the owner. Native village of these people are from Venpakkam of Cheyyar Taluk in Thiruvannamalai District and they are forced to work in a rice-mill located in Puliyampakkam near Walajabad in Kanchipuram district. It was identified during the prevalence study on bonded labourer.

Further coordination and rescued process was done by APK along with SDM. For the advance of Rs.60,000 these 8 members consisting two families belong Irula tribes were forced to work as bonded labourers. The rescue process took very effectively and followed with medical check-up, first aid, food supply, police protection, free legal aid including FIR case and other process was going on well.

Rescued people also obtained Release Certificates and rehabilitation is followed along with providing psycho-social support and it was assisted by the Welfare Association of Released Bonded labourers.

* This story was contributed by the National Adivasi Solidarity Council. 

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CSO Consultation On Bonded Labour & Trafficking in UP

 

A CSO Consultation on Bonded Labour and Human Trafficking was organized by Justice Ventures International (JVI) on 16-Sept-2016. The consultation received participation from 11 NGOs: Asmita, GRS, IJM, JVI, MSEMVS, PVCHR, RIDAM, ROSA, SRF, SCS and VISION.[i]

Issues faced by NGOs in addressing the issue of Bonded Labour were discussed and suggestions and solutions were proposed. A Forum on Bonded Labour in Uttar Pradesh has also been formed with 11 NGOs to initiate a process of joint advocacy for better government responses, and collaboration for addressing issues faced by NGOs in securing justice for bonded labourers.

Existing system to address the issue of BL in UP

The event started with discussion on steps taken by the UP government over the last few years to address the issue of bonded labour and the existing system to tackle the menace. Some of the much appreciates steps included:

  1. Formation and regular functioning of SLMC
  2. Formation of 65 district level VCs and 299 Sub-Division level VCs.
  3. Regular release of rehabilitation money sine 2015 along with progress report.
  4. Issuance of guidelines on BL by Principal Secretary (Labour)
  5. Formation and functioning of State Resource Centre on Bonded and Child Labour, founded by UNICEF and ILO
  6. 4 Regional consultations on BL organized by Labour Dept. in 2016
  7. Appointment of state nodal officer for BL – ALC Shakuntala Gautam (IAS)
  8. Activation of AHTUs in 35 districts with the status of PS.

 

Discussion on issues faced by CSOs

The CSOs shared several issued faced by them in addressing the issue of Bonded Labour, ranging from individual rescues and rehabilitation to district and state level issues in securing justice for bonded labourers. Following are some of the suggestions discussed as solutions to addressing these issues.

  1. Strong Documentation and evidence collection
  2. Setting realistic expectations with the victims
  3. Using Inter Sate Migrant Labour Act
  4. Involving NHRC if faced with no action from the district administration
  5. VC Membership for NGOs
  6. Ensuring filing of FIR with relevant sections including Sec 370 IPC
  7. Include DM’s action items in SAP
  8. Involve AHTU

Relevance of Sec 370 IPC in bonded labour cases and involving AHTU

Another important point of discussion was the new Anti Human Trafficking Bill 2016 and how, using the same can in Bonded Labour cases, can make the fight against bonded labour stronger. A related example was shared by IJM where, in a first of its kind, the owner of a brick kiln in Orissa from where 60 labourers were rescued, was convicted with 7 years’ sentence.

 

Forum on bonded labour in Uttar Pradesh

A Forum on Bonded Labour in Uttar Pradesh has been initiated with 11 NGOs at the consultation. While working against of Modern Day Slavery is long and full of difficulties, with CSOs coming together, the fight can be strengthened. The CSO participants agreed to work together in advocating for better government action and are keen to help each other in cases of bonded labour and human trafficking.

 


[i] MSEMVS (Manav Sansadhan Evam Mahila Vikas Sansthan, Varanasi),

PVCHR (People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, Varanasi

ERS (Education Resources Society, Allahabad)

ROSA (Rural Organization for Social Advancement, Varanasi)

SCS (Subhash Children’s Society, Varanasi)

SRF (Dr. Shambhunath Research Foundation, Varanasi)

 

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WB minor trafficked, rescued from forced marriage in Haryana

‘This is how marriages happen here’, was his answer when Fatima’s brother in law was questioned about ‘buying’ a kidnapped girl for marriage. The family’s surprise at hearing the question spoke of the wide prevalence of the practice in the village, as acknowledged by the policemen in the rescue team.

Fatima*, a 16-year-old girl, was trafficked from a village in Murshidabad, West Bengal by two marriage brokers and sold to an agent in Haryana in March-2016. The agent sold Fatima for Rs. 80,000 from for marriage to a 30-year-old man in a village near Karnal, Haryana.

An FIR against the two local marriage brokers has been registered in Murshidabad and the case was referred to JVI. With unconfirmed location as Karnal with help of its investigation team, JVI consulted the CBI in Delhi, which further referred the case to the SP of Karnal District. By tracking the phone number used by Fatima to contact her family, Karnal Police confirmed the victim’s location in a village, 22 Kms away from Karnal city.

On 5-Sept-2016, she was rescued by a joint team of the Crime Investigation Agency 2 (CIA 2), Karnal Police and JVI.

Due to intimidation and fear Fatima denied being trafficked and being abused. The 16-year-old claims to be happy with her 30-year-old husband and said she wanted to continue living with him, possibility under the influence of Stockholm syndrome or fear of social stigma.

After the recording of her statements by CWC, Fatima has been repatriated to Murshidabad and is currently under a rehabilitation program. Both the accused are currently in judicial custody in Murshidabad. While Fatima’s husband and his family have not been arrested yet, this is a violation of section 366(A) and the POCSO Act, under which they may be tried in West Bengal.

At 879 females per 1000 males, Haryana is among the states with lowest sex ratio in India. Years of sex selective abortions has led to a dearth of brides in Haryana. In addition to being a cause of misery for the ready-to-mingle grooms, this shortage has led to a disturbing social pattern of ‘importing’ brides, fueling the trafficking of women for forced marriage. Girls, including minors, are trafficked from different parts of the country, forced into marriage, often to men upto twice their age, and then used as unpaid labourers[1].

[1]http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/india/

*Fatima is a pseudonym used to protect victim’s identity. 

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Field Updates from the National Adivasi Solidarity Council

India is celebrating 70th year of Independence and freedom to every citizen is ensured in the Constitution of India with justice & equality. The Bonded labour system is a relic of history that should have long ago been eliminated from our country. In order to ensure basic human rights guaranteed under the Indian constitution as well as under the international human rights framework, the injustice-mode of the discrimination process, must be addressed collectively and shall be ended completely. Ending bonded labour system and preventing human trafficking system has to be given top priority of the government at all level.

LIVELIHOODS DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR RURAL & TRIBAL WOMEN TO ELIMINATE FORCED LABOUR SYSTEM

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On 5th August 2016, we have organised vulnerable women’s meeting to overcome poverty, displacement and other disadvantages at the regional level in Ambur. About 500 women from rural and tribal areas attended at this meeting and talked about various reasons for poverty, discrimination, reasons for forced labour, migration, displacement, illiteracy and solutions to overcome disadvantages and to prevent violence on women. During this meeting, we have distributed seed grant for Rs. 5,10,000 to the selected 70 families to do alternative income generation activities and to combat poverty related issues as well as for better rehabilitation of rescued bonded labourers’ families with the approach of self-help groups. Funding for this initiative was generated through Australian High Commission to the Foundation for Sustainable Development for creating changes among the rural and adivasi women. The Field team has been working in 56 villages covering tribal areas and rural areas to increase girl child education, prevent violence against women, prevent bonded labour system and to promote better rehabilitation system with the involvement of the Panchayat raj institutions. Along with this programme, our team has promoted a community-based cultural team which is creating an awareness to create a better life for the women. During this program, it was an opportunity for the women members to come together and challenge discrimination that they are facing also it created scope for them to became as leaders. District Government and other civil society organizations are cooperated and media support provided very well for this meeting and it gave identity for women.
MEETING WITH DGP ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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On 9th August 2016, we had an opportunity to have discussion with the Director General of Police at Kerala State in Thiruvananthapuram. We had interaction on tribal people living conditions and requested him for ending human trafficking and need of key role in eliminating bonded labour system. We also asked the DGP to protect rights of the vulnerable communities such as the tribal people of Wayanad, Kannur, Kasargod, Palakkad and Idukki areas of Kerala State. The DGP and ADGPs are very interestingly listened our presentation and extended their cooperation to work together to combat the human trafficking and protect rights of the vulnerable by application of the Article 21 and Article 23. During this meeting we had vibrant questions and clarifications and at the beginning stage the DGP and his subordinators did not agree that there are bonded labourers in India and we used many incidents, documents, and reports to convenience them and finally agreed to work with us to implement the law on any such incident in the future course. We have also asked the DGP to help the district level IPS officers and Police department to undertake action in favour of the innocent labourers. The DGP promised to coordinate with us and ready to give protection whenever we do such rescue operation as well as during the identification work of dangerous situation. This was satisfactory meeting with the police directorate and we have shared some of the documents mutually for further understanding on the issue as well as role of Police. Followed that we also met the Chief Minister and talked about the educational status of tribal children and situation of migration for very low wages and he asked the Social Justice ministry and tribal ministry to look-into matter for further development action.

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