A persistent malaise

A persistent malaise

A persistent malaise

Human trafficking is one of the largest organised crimes in India.With successive governments failing to combat it, the trafficking has grown and traffickers have adopted new styles of functioning to dodge police

Days after GB Road’s brothel owners Afaq Hussain, 50, and Saira, 45, were arrested along with six of their associates by Delhi Police’s Crime Branch, central district police transferred 42 police personal, posted at Kamla Market police station, to other police stations.

GB (Garstin Bastion) Road, a strip of three kilometre of land, falls under the jurisdiction of Kamla Market police station in Central Delhi and houses around 4000 sex workers in 90 odd kothas (brothels) lined up on one side of the road. Experts believe that the arrest of the couple followed by the transfer of police personnel can’t be a mere coincidence.
“We have experienced in our numerous raids at GB Road that whenever we have accompanied the local police personnel the raid turned out to be a failure. The brothel managers in advance get to know about our arrival and we get no proof of any illegal activity at the place,” says Nishikant, executive director, Shaktivahini NGO.

“On the other hand, when we have accompanied Joint Commissioner of Police (Central range) or the Crime Branch’s Anti Human Traffic unit personnel, raids have been successful,” Nishikant adds.

In 2013, the then additional deputy commissioner of police (central) Rajiv Sharma had ordered an inquiry into the connection between local police personnel and brothel managers, said sources.

The inquiry, conducted by the special staff of central district, revealed that nearly 50 per cent staffs of Kamla Market police station was in touch with owners and managers of several brothels. Following the inquiry report, action was taken against several policemen of the police station, sources add.

“Role of local police is sometime fishy, which is a matter of great concern. The investigating officer and the beat officers need to be regularly transferred. They should not remain there for a long period of time otherwise chances of a nexus between them and the brothel managers are high,” Nishikant says.

Sensitization of police officers handling the rescue operation is another aspect which needs major attention. Lot of trafficked girls don’t speak up against their handlers due to “insensitive” and “casual” manner in which they are being questioned by the police, said experts.

Moreover, the presence of musclemen and henchmen of the various brothel naayikas (women brothel managers) create an atmosphere of fear around the hapless girls and women.

“Station house officer who is being brought there should be a sensitized officer on the issue of human trafficking. Ideally, inspector-ranked officers should be brought from Anti Human Trafficking unit,” Nishikant says.

“If it happens then lot of intervention and successful raids and rescue operation are possible. We have seen such intervention when Surender Jeet Kaur and Mr. Joshi (both from Delhi Police) were there. We have been able to successfully close down lot of brothels during their tenure. So sensitised officer is the need of the time,” Nishikant adds.

Crime Branch’s Anti Human Trafficking unit was established in 2012 as a dedicated unit of Delhi Police to tackle the cases of human trafficking and forced prostitution.

“Local police deals with several issues. Human trafficking is just a part of their various tasks. Due to the nature of their job, they can’t tackle the matter in a specialised manner,” says G Ram Gopal Naik, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime).

“To deal with the issue of human trafficking, a dedicated force called Anti Human Trafficking unit under the Crime Branch was established. The unit does in depth investigation and deals with the problem in a holistic manner,” Naik adds.

Human trafficking is one of the largest organised crimes in India. According to government data, over 1.5 lakh children went missing in 2014 alone. With successive governments failing to combat it, the trafficking business has grown and traffickers have adopted new styles of functioning to dodge police.

Delhi contributes 1.3% to the total human trafficking in India. Among the girls rescued last year, 194 were trafficked to Delhi on the pretext of jobs, seven were forced into prostitution and three were sold to other states. In all, 163 people were arrested for trafficking children.

The 2015 National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data shows a 73% increase in the registration of cases against traffickers-the figure went up to 156 from 23 registered a year ago. As many as 207 girls were rescued by the police and other agencies in 2015 compared with 32 in 2014.

At GB Road, there is a four-tier structure in which the brothels are managed. At the bottom of the layer are naayikas, who directly control the girls at GB Road. Each naayika is responsible for 10-15 girls under her. Then comes the brothel manager who happens to be a muscleman managing the business aspect of the brothel. Above a manager is a kotha madam, and then at the top is the kotha owner.

The faceless kotha owners are the real force behind the economy of GB Road’s sex trade, say experts. After the arrest of Afaq Hussain and Saira, both owners of several kothas in the red light area, police are expecting that the business will receive a blow. However, sources said there are many more owners who are still operating in the lucrative business worth hundreds of crores.

On September 22 this year, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal alleged that a Union minister and another Delhi leader, from a prominent party, were involved in the functioning of brothels on GB Road. Maliwal also claimed Delhi Police had registered an FIR against her since she was probing ownership records of establishments on GB Road.

 “We were trying to find out under whose patronage this business was taking place. I have received very strong leads that there is a minister in the Union government, and a senior Delhi leader of a prominent party, under whose patronage this entire business is taking place,” Maliwall said.

Earlier this year, Maliwal had accused the Delhi Police of being ineffective in checking the illegal trafficking of girls and women in GB Road. "This place exists just three kilometres away from parliament and a similar distance from the Delhi secretariat. Also police teams from far away states like West Bengal and Karnataka come find missing girls based on tip-off to GB Road but the Delhi police station on the same road does little to keep a check on preventing trafficking," Maliwal had said.

In the past few years, the national capital has emerged as a major trafficking hub of the country where girls from as far as from Nepal are being trafficked in. In 2015, 11,538 cases of immoral trafficking were found pending in courts across the country out of which more than 70% of the victims were connected to Delhi. In 10% of the cases, the accused were booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. There were 23 cases of parents getting booked for abandoning minor children, who were later trafficked.

About 60% of the victims were in the age group of 12-16 years and 83.3% of the traffickers were known to the victim. Most of the victims rescued were trafficked from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

Police had booked 121 people for employing a trafficked child as a household help or at a workshop. In 2015, Delhi Police 200 cases were lodged under sections of Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act. In 2014, one case had been registered under Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act.

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