Thursday, March 15, 2012

Falak case just the tip of the iceberg

Sangita Jha/New Delhi

Story of the child has shook country’s conscience. Activists call for strong measures to end trafficking

Falak, a badly bruised and battered baby battling for life at All India Institute ofMedical Sciences (AIIMS), has become the face of unabated human trafficking menace in the country. After hitting the national headlines and occupying the prime time on TV channels, she has silently become just another patient at the premier institution. This tells the sickening tale of human trafficking which has accounted for millions of Falaks over the years but there remains to end to their saga of pain.
Union home ministry very promptly had judged that plight of two-year-old baby Falak was a case of human trafficking. Falak was brought to the AIIMS on January 18 with severe head injury, both her arms broken, bite marks all over her body and her cheeks branded with hot iron. Immediately after her admission, doctors conducted a life saving surgery on her brain and another two were undertaken at a later date. Doctors said that she needs to undergo more such surgeries but they have been put on hold as infection level in her blood has not receded. After the media cornered the police, investigations appear to have laid bare the gory details of the infant's saga. The police traced her mutilated fate to cases of unabated human trafficking in Rajasthan.
Investigators said Falak's mother is also a member of a racket which dupe people in the name of marriage. Falak's mother Munni was sold to a youth in Jhunjhunu village for Rs 2.7 lakh. Now that she has been arrested by the Delhi Police and her truth exposed, the youth and his family is feeling cheated.
It has come to the light that Harpal and Mukesh Katewa were also victims of human trafficking. Harpal, who hails from Bhadaunda village in Jhunjhunu got married in September 2011 to Falak's mother Munni, who at the time was under the name Anita. Harpal has since been telling all those who want to listen to his story that he had paid Rs 2.7 lakh in two installments for marrying Anita, alias Munni, and later came to know that she had already been married and had three children apart from having undergone tubectomy.
Falak is just a tip of the iceberg. Selling a woman for the sake of marriage is, however, one part of the human trafficking saga. The other part is of course the dark alleys of sex trade in which girls trafficked from different parts of the country are pushed into.
A number of NGOs have well documented India as a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. A number of NGOs working for United Nations have reported internal forced labour constituting India's largest trafficking problem. They claim that men, women, and children are held in debt bondage and face forced labour working in brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories.
In the last two decades the worsening sex ratio in most of the northern states, including Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, have further added to the booming racket of illicit trafficking of women for sex and marriages. Children on the other hand are subjected to begging and in some instances they had been found to have been used as armed combatants by terrorist groups.
This is in addition to heavy inflow of women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation in various cities of India. Indian women on the other hand have been found to be trafficked to the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation.
The government prohibits some forms of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation through the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA). Prescribed penalties under the ITPA - ranging from seven years' to life imprisonment - are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. However, these laws appear to be ineffectually enforced.
Human trafficking cases appear to be flourishing for the reason that the palms of the law enforcement agencies and officials are greased enough that they turn a blind eye to the continuance of the worst kind of crime against humanity.

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