PUCL Bulletin, August 2005

Conference on human trafficking and bonded labour

-- By Dr. K.N. Bhatt

Human trafficking is the modern from of slavery which not only affects the life of a human being out also the entire society. In most of the cases victims are used as bonded labour, begging, domestic servitude, sex abuse, etc. Mostly children are trafficked from the poor states. It is noted that most of the human trafficking and bonded labour originates in and around this region from Bihar and Jharkhand and their destination are various industries like Sari weaving industry in Varanasi, Carpet industry in Sonebhadra, Bhodhi, and Allahabad, stone breaking, brick kilns, and various other activities both in formal and non-formal sectors, of the economy. In addition, some of the women and children trafficked from these two states are also taken to other states.

In view of the above human concern, one day Interstate coordination workshop on “Combating Human Trafficking and Bonded Labour Practice” was organized on April 13, 2005 at GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. It was jointly organised by the Labour Department, Allahabad, DDWS, Allahabad and GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad to create awareness and interstate coordination between the source and destination states for combating/prevention of these evil practices and rehabilitation / reintegration of the victims. In brief, the main objectives of the workshop were to deliberate on various issues relation to Human Trafficking and Bonded Labour practice; to help and coordinate with the government officials and developmental agencies and; to find workable solutions to these problems. The workshop was divided into four sessions including an Inaugural Session, Technical Session, Discussion Session and Concluding Session.

Inaugural session
The Inaugural Session was chaired by Prof. R.C. Tripathi, Director, GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad with Hon’ble Justice Amar Saran, Judge, Allahabad High Court as the Chief Guest. The Guests of Honour for the occasion were Shri Sharda Prasad, IAS, Commissioner, Labour Department, Government of UP and Shri Ashok Singh, IAS, Director, Social Security, Government of Bihar. Workshop proceedings started with the welcome address by Fr. Louis Mascarenhas, Director, DDWS, Allahabad. In his welcome address Fr. Louis mentioned a case of three Tibetan traffickers nabbed at Allahabad railway junction by GRPF recently.

Due to lack of awareness, the railway magistrate was about to fine the traffickers only Rs. 800/- that too on the charges of traveling without tickets and they were being released. But for the intervention of a local NGO, they were remanded to a judicial custody for trafficking children from Both Gaya, Bihar. Specifying the above case, Fr. Louis pointed out towards the lack of awareness among the Police department and Judiciary officials about the laws applicable to the given situation. He suggested for formulating strategies to deal with these types of specific cases in order to combat human trafficking and bonded labour practice.

Dr K.N. Bhatt, Coordinator of the workshop and Faculty GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad delivered the Keynote address. At the outset, he said that the Bonded labour practice and trafficking to a great extent are two sides of the same coin as both are subjected to merciless market exploitation and are squeezed to produce surplus that is ethically enumerated. He argued that the trafficking in persons is the modern form of slavery. It is the third largest illegal international trade after the drugs and the guns profiting well-organized gangs of the Mafia’s. About 7,00,000 to 10,00,000 persons are trafficked per annum globally as per the estimates of the US State Department out of which 9% to 10% flow internationally and the majority of 90% cases are traded within interstate boundaries of the individual nations. This illegal activity is estimated to generate about Rs. 21,500 cr to Rs 32,000 cr of profit per year for the will-networked global traffickers. Dr Bhatt stated that mostly the victims of the trade are children and women who are trafficked for domestic servitude, organized industries, forced labour, sex tourism, drug trafficking etc.

The vulnerability of the poor people for trafficking and bondedness, argued Dr Bhatt, has gradually increased after the early 1990s when Indian economy was subjected to the Structural Adjustment Programme and unrestricted process of globalization under the guidance of international funding agencies. In the absence of proper institutional backup system in place indigenous labour intensive small and medium industries are being closed generated huge adult unemployment within the poor households. It is also noted that the self employed workforce with some capital assets of their own earlier are joining the category of assetless households over these years. These compelling circumstances call for the adoption of a survival strategy by the poor households, where women and children are forced to find some wage work to pool together their earning for their daily survival needs. Dr Bhatt further argued that the vulnerability of the poor has also been rising phenomenally over the years due to environmental factors, as environmentalism of the poor is quite different from the environmentalism of the rich.

Due to the process of fast depleting natural wealth on which poor sections depend under the crisis situations, the survival of these people now depends on the merciless forces of markets and thus increasing their vulnerability. Citing data from several research studies that Dr Bhatt conducted over the past five years, he revealed a positive correlation between debt, bonded labour practice and trafficking. He pleaded for empowerment of the poor by initiating effective social sector development schemes including equality education, health services, and employment / economic assets. The State should must come out actively in combating/preventing these social evils and identifying/rehabilitating the victims. Dr Bhatt specifically laid emphasis on coordination between source and destination States to deal with the problem.

Speaking on the occasion, Hon’ble Justice Amar Sharan emphasized for identification of the factors responsible for trafficking and bondage and its deeper analysis before focusing directly on the problem. He said trafficking and bondage is still not known to the larger society. It is not at the consciousness of the society at large. A chain of spurious factors emanating from multiple level deprivation lead to the incidence of trafficking in which both push and pull factors are responsible. Hence it is essential to focus on the children who return back after rescue and the type of work they do in their villages. Further, he opined that the liberation from trafficking is unlikely to provide a substitute for a graceful life, as it is not so simple. Sustained economic protection is a necessity to allow the victims to lead an independent life. Committed and serious efforts to deal with the problem only can bring about a positive change.

Sri Sharda Prasad recalled the discussions of a Conference organised by the UN in Vienna in which the countries marked by trafficking were categorized as source, intermediary and destination countries. He laid stress on lack of education and health as a basic cause for the problem, which leads to increase in cases of trafficking and bondedness. Sri Prasad further said that in most of the countries women and children are trafficked for sex tourism and it is really unfortunate that sex tourism is being encouraged by certain countries to allure inflow of tourists. He suggested that four factors should be intertwined to address this human phenomena including education, health, employment guarantee, and intervention by NGOs and administration. It was emphasiszed that the Institutionalization of these factors should be guarded closely through interstate nodal agencies. Speaking on the occasion Sri Ashok Singh highlighted the plight of trafficked and Bondage victims from Bihar and also stressed on the necessity of initiating rescue and rehabilitation measures.

Delivering his remarks, the Chairperson of the session Prof. R.C. Tripathi emphasized for the community based approach to development to ensure distributive justice. He argued that the western model of development which is based on rights and individualistic approach may not work in Indian context as the Indian society is quite different from the western society. Our society is more collectivist rather that individualistic. Hence it is important to have community based approach to development. He suggested to ensure collective approach to development and empowerment of the people. The Inaugural Session ended with a formal vote of thanks by Sri A.K. Rai, DLC Allahabad.

Technical session

In the technical session after a tea break, Sri Ashok Singh elaborated on the process of migration of labourers from Bihar to UP due to natural calamities. He stressed on rescue operations and release of children from bondage. He also emphasized on the coordination between the NGOs and government departments for rehabilitation of the children released as well as effective prosecution and conviction of the traffickers and brokers for effectively combating trafficking and bondedness. Presenting his paper Fr. Louis Mascarenhas focused on the Indian scenario and stressed the role of advocacy, networking and rescue for dealing with this social problem. He informed the delegated about one of the DDWS project Bal Vikas Ashram (Transit Home for Migrant Child Labourers) where rescued children are provided special care for their personality development, skill training and rehabilitation package. Fr Louis suggested individual and community level interventions to tackle the existing problem.

Sri U.P. Singh, DLC, Labour Department Headquarters Kanpur specifically noted that the main cause of trafficking, migration and bondedness is unemployment. He stressed for employment guarantee programmes to deal with the problem. He called upon the NGOs to come forward for the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims. Sri R.K. Rai, representative of COSAR, an NGO based in Lucknow argued that the existing problem is being further aggravated due the challenges of globalization, liberalization, and privatization. He emphasized on Bonded Labour system abolition Act, Immoral Trafficking Protection of Human Rights Act and also stressed on the importance of national and international commitments for combating human trafficking and bonded labour. Dr. K.N. Bhatt coordinated the technical session.

Discussion session
The Technical Session was followed by an in-depth discussion session in which representatives of the Government departments (mostly Labour Department Officers), social activists and NGOs deliberated on the issue and gave their views in order to combat and prevent human trafficking and bonded labour practice. Major emphasis was placed on the coordination between the source and destination states. At the beginning of the session Dr. K.N. Bhatt, who was coordinating the deliberations in the session gave his opening remarks by laying emphasis on giving first priority for rehabilitation to the women victims of trafficking and bondage. Citing on example of a Protection Home called Snehashraya in Allahabad, he pleaded of opening of such remarkable quality home elsewhere. This Protection Home, informed Dr Bhatt, is an another women empowerment project of DDWS which is led by Sr Sheeva Jose, as Coordinator for women welfare and Co-Convenor of Sahyog, an NGO based in Allahabad. After its establishment in 1998, this Home has provided its services to about 5,000 women and 105 children who stayed here.

In all 440 women have been rehabilitated and about 30-35 children from the home are kept in the boarding houses of quality educational institution run by Catholic Missionaries throughout the UP State. Dr Bhatt further informed that most of the women staying in Snehasharya are trafficked after their dowry harassment and discrimination against the females. These are the most vulnerable lot of helpless individuals rejected by the society, their own parents, in-laws and their own community, who are being cared by the Home like its own children in a loving and caring family like environment. If half of the countries population, felt Dr. Bhatt, remains neglected even in 21st century one can not aspire to attain national development goals. If the women/girl children of a nation are empowered, particularly in-terms of health services, quality education and economic independence / employment, the entire nation becomes educated, empowered and developed fully.

Concluding session
The Concluding Session was Chaired by Sri Sharda Prasad. At the beginning of session Dr. Ajay Kumar, Faculty, GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad presented a detailed report of the entire day’s deliberations. Delivering his presidential remarks Sri Sharda Prasad stressed on the collective involvement of various administrative departments in rescue and rehabilitation of the bonded child labourers. He hoped to make UP bonded labour/child labour free state in near future and promised all help on behalf of the labour department.

The workshop concluded with the offering of some solutions by focusing on issues like: much needs to be done in the area of prevention; Raising awareness at various levels especially villages; ensuring quality education and health facilities and; coordination between the government, police, law enforcement agencies, medical professionals, media and NGOs.

Finally a formal vote of thanks was proposed by Dr. K.N. Bhatt, coordinator of the workshop. – April 13, 2005


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