Thursday, October 27, 2016

Child trafficking, an alarming issue in Bengaluru

by Shalet Jimmy
published in the International Business Times (India)

It was 10.30 a.m. on Monday at the BMTC bus stand in Bengaluru, when the field staff of BOSCO's Child Assistance Centre at Majestic bus stand came across a seven-year-old boy in school uniform. He said he came to meet his elder brother and that he had taken permission from his teachers and parents before leaving the school.

But that did not seem to be the truth as he was wearing his school uniform. The field staff decided to take him to the child care centre. Just then another six-year-old child was found loitering at the bus stand. We had a hard time exacting information from him, as he seemed mentally challenged. As we moved to the Bangalore City Railway Station nearby, we found another seven-year-old boy sleeping at the 8th platform. His clothes were soiled, and he started crying after being woken up. He was initially reluctant to go with the Railway CHILDLINE Coordinator and kept saying that he wanted to go to Mandya.

Eventually, when all of them were taken to the BOSCO's Child Assistance Booth at the 4th platform, there were three more children waiting, including a 14-year-old girl. It certainly gave us more than enough reasons to panic as all the incidents happened in a matter of a few minutes – six children were rescued in half an hour. According to BOSCO, an average of 20 run-away/unaccompanied children are rescued from railway stations, bus stands and other city areas every day. But the number of children reaching the streets would be many more.

BOSCO, an organisation run by the Salesians of Don BOSCO, is a registered NGO that has been offering services to the young at risk, including children living on the streets, child labourers, abandoned/ orphaned children, victims of drug abuse and child abuse, beggers, rag pickers, etc. since 1980. "We are doing our level best to rescue children and rehabilitate them. Though we rescue and rehabilitate over 7,000 boys and girls a year, the actual number of children reaching the streets would be many more. Where do the rest reach?," asks Fr Mathew Thomas, the Executive Director of Bengaluru Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO).

Chances are high for those children to end up in the wrong hands, he adds. Brokers frequent the areas around the railway station and bus stand to trap such children away from the family. "Most of them will be in a state of bewilderment, thereby exposing their vulnerability. Hence, it becomes easy for the brokers/traffickers to approach them with offers for job, food and shelter and the children easily fall prey to them," says Thomas Paul, programme manager, BOSCO.

The brokers are approached by hotel owners, who want to employ children. This arrangement, which involves commissions for the brokers, happens in broad daylight near the Majestic railway station. While some children are taken to factories, sweets makers, eateries/hotels, automobile workshops and construction sites, others end up with marriage caterers and are employed to cut vegetables and wash plates. Some are used for begging and pick-pocketing. 

The runaway children come from almost all the states in the country, mostly from Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and West Bengal.Thomas reveals they are able to rescue children because the in-fights among brokers sometimes results in one group tipping them off against the rival group.

Ramaswamy, the Co-coordinator at BOSCO Railway CHILDLINE, says rescuing children from the railway station is becoming a strenuous task as most children don't even reach the main railway stations now. "To avoid us, the brokers/traffickers make them get down at the adjacent railway stations. From there, they take them away by autorickshaw or taxi," he says.

Besides, many are brought from other states in the name of education to get them enrolled in religious institutions, or under the name of some orphanages. "In such cases our intervention gets difficult as they would produce everything, including an identity card and other necessary forms. We could only intervene in those cases when we get a cue that the children are not aware of the contractors who have brought them here," he points out, adding that in many cases they are not able to register cases against the traffickers as it is difficult to identify the trafficker. If at all cases are registered it stops with the lodging of the FIR.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Female foeticide thriving business for radiologists, astrologers in Salem, Tamil Nadu

y Shalet Jimmy
published in the International Business Times (India)

It wasn't an easy decision for Meena, nor was it voluntary. It all began after an astrologer told her that it would be a girl. Coming under severe pressure from her family and society, the 28-year- old had taken abortion pills.

Just three days after taking the pill, she started feeling ill; and soon her condition got worse. She could not even stand straight. Still she didn't take rest. Writhing in pain, she went to work in the fields to provide for her children. In the middle of the work, the pain aggravated and she looked for an isolated corner across the field. That's where Meena underwent the much-painful abortion, unattended and solo. Soon she dug up a pit and put an end to that little being.
Why advertise with us?

    SC rebukes Google, Microsoft and Yahoo for displaying advertisements promoting sex determination tests
    India's largest seminary fights female foeticide

Meena's is a clear case of forced female foeticide, a rampant phenomenon in Salem. Meena had undergone nine deliveries, including three abortions, until she turned 28.

She was so anaemic that one wondered how she could have endured the painful abortion procedure and also her deliveries. She took abortion pills during the sixth month of her pregnancy.

"The pain is as similar as labour pain," she said. Even such terrible pain could not stop her from having two more abortions.

Though many national dailies report on the issue, female foeticide continues to exist in a rampant form. The issue is, of course, not confined to Salem alone. It's happening in most parts of the country and is yet to show a downward trend.

To make matters more worse, illegal scanning centres and astrologers thrive in Salem. Many, like Meena, are ready to kill their foetus in the womb when an astrologer says it would be a girl.

Geetha, 24 is all tears when she spoke about her two abortions. "People would speak ill of me if I don't deliver a baby boy. That's why I was forced to do it." She had four deliveries and two abortions.

Ultrasound centres and astrologers practise unscrupulous methods to determine gender. For instance, if the first and the second children are female then they say that the third child is also likely to be a girl child. Then they push the mother/elders to commit foeticide.

There also exists another crude form of foeticide – inserting the sap of Arka flowers or Calotropis gigantea into the genitals of the expectant mother.

The scariest thing is that most of these abortions are conducted sans any scientific medical intervention. There are no instructions from doctors. Besides, most of them do not even know the name of the abortion pill.

"It's a small pill but I don't know the name. It costs Rs 500-600," says Selvi.

Ask them how they came to know about the pill, and they say "We got the name from other patients who were there in the scanning centres."

The sex ratio of the district is 929 against the state ratio of 972. The child sex ratio is 918 in the district against the state ratio of 946. The low child sex ratio is a clear indicator that the number of cases of female foeticide is huge in the district.

While the numbers are left as mere statistics in government records, the one question that needs to be constantly asked is, "Is public aware of this reality?"

(Names have been changed in the story to protect the identity of the sources.)