Boys Sold by Trusted Villager Turned Human Trafficker

Friends Ajay and Durgesh are returned to their families with the help of ActionAid India and the All India Bonded Labour Liberation Front. The boys were tricked into bonded labour by a trusted fellow villager. Credit: ActionAid

By Mehru Jaffer
Lucknow, India, Jan 28 2022 – Friends Ajay and Durgesh were lured from the same village in the remote and poverty-stricken countryside of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) in January 2021.

Friends Ajay and Durgesh were lured from the same village in the remote and poverty-stricken countryside of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) in January 2021.

The boys, aged 16, were whisked away from their homes, transported, and sold as bonded labour to a garment factory in Rajkot in the western state of Gujarat. Rajkot is some 2000 km from Ajay and Durgesh’s village in UP.

Along with two other boys from the same village, Sanjay (15) and Pavan (14), Ajay and Durgesh were befriended by a man, only identified as Gulab, and promised an eight-hour a day job, with a salary of Rs 7500 (about US 100 dollars) per month at a garment factory. The boys accepted the offer immediately because Gulab was from the same village and had known them since childhood.

“At the factory, the boys were thrown in with dozens of other children who were never paid. They were woken at 7 am and forced to work till 11 pm. The factory owner threatened to kill them if they stepped out of the factory,” Dalsinghar told IPS speaking from Lucknow. “The children were abused and kicked when the supervisor felt that they were not working fast enough. None of the children was given enough to eat.”

Dalsinghar, who goes by his surname, is a trade union leader and head of the UP office of the All India Bonded Labour Liberation Front. With ActionAid India, Dalsinghar helped to rescue the four boys in August 2021. The boys are now finishing their studies in their village.

These boys are lucky to have escaped the clutches of traffickers. Ajay found a mobile phone one day and quickly called his family. He told them the exact location of the factory in faraway Gujarat.

The family got in touch with Raju, a volunteer with ActionAid India, who lived near their village. With the help of Dalsinghar, Raju and the district administrations of Kushinagar in UP and Rajkot in Gujarat, the boys were rescued, and their eight-month ordeal at the hands of the garment factory owner ended.

There are numerous incidents of victims being deceived by people they know.

Families celebrate the return of four boys trafficked into bonded labour in a factory far from home. Credit: ActionAid, India

Take Gulab as an example. Gulab came from the same village as the four teenagers he trapped and sold to a garment factory owner.

In the hope of avoiding deprivation and starvation in difficult economic times, the teenagers took up Gulab’s offer. They trusted him and fell for his lies because it did not occur to them that he would betray them.

ActionAid quotes other instances when a loved one has tricked victims. When that happens, the victim often does not fight back.

Sita was sold to traffickers by her alcoholic father in a West Bengal village as a bride. She was taken from place to place until she found shelter in an ashram in a city in UP. The police were informed, and she returned to her village in West Bengal.

Frequently missing children and adults cases include abduction and trafficking. Most of the time, missing people are not reported to the police, and if reported, the reports are not registered.

Children from the poorest of low-income families are most vulnerable. They are the main target of traffickers as poor and illiterate families are most likely not to approach authorities for help. There are instances of children and adults leaving home searching for glamour and fortune in big cities like Mumbai. Once there, touts find them and force them to beg or work as sex slaves without remuneration or concern for their health.

ActionAid India continues to work in villages providing support to survivors of trafficking and violence with medical, psycho-social and legal support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that times are extremely challenging for communities. Schools closures and work opportunities in most villages have shrunk, which means that social activists like Dalsinghar need to be more vigilant today than ever before.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai have rescued thousands of children from the worst form of child labour and trafficking.

Satyarthi has led a Bharat Yatra, a nationwide march in India to demand legislation against child rape, child sexual abuse and trafficking.

The Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation conducted a study in 2020 that concluded there was a high likelihood of an increase in human trafficking in the post-lockdown period for labour.

About 89 per cent of NGOs surveyed said that trafficking of both adults and children for labour would be one of the biggest threats in the post-lockdown period as household incomes of the most vulnerable deplete.

There is concern that the desperate and vulnerable populations of unorganised workers, who are in no position to negotiate wages or their rights, will be a massive pool for cheap labour. Many of these labourers could be children, forced out of school and forced to earn a living.

The fear is that thousands of children will likely be trafficked across the country to work in manufacturing units where they will be paid meagre to no wages and will most likely face extreme physical, mental and sexual violence.

Thousands of children like Ajay, Durgesh, Sanjay and Pavan are easy targets for an organised crime network of human trafficking. It is feared that many more children will be enslaved during the pandemic by those looking for cheap labour when many economic activities have come to a standstill.

“It is tragic when people betray the trust of children,” concludes Dalsinghar.

This article is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.
The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) http://gsngoal8.com/ is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7, which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.
The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such as exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking”.

 


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“Don’t Forget Leprosy” Campaign Gathers Pace as World Leprosy Day Approaches

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, has served as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination since 2001. He is part of Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, which has organized the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign.

By External Source
Jan 28 2022 (IPS-Partners)

Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative is collaborating with 32 organizations from 13 countries to promote the message “Don’t forget leprosy” in the run-up to World Leprosy Day on January 30. The international campaign includes awareness-raising events and outreach to governments and is being publicized via newspapers, television, radio, and social media.

Based in Tokyo, Japan, Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative launched the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign in August 2021 to ensure efforts against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, are not sidelined amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking part are NGOs, organizations of persons affected by leprosy, research institutes, and government agencies from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.

The Initiative’s Yohei Sasakawa, who serves as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly hard on persons affected by leprosy and their families who were in a vulnerable situation to begin with. Lockdowns and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus have caused many problems at the field level, making access to medical services difficult, causing loss of livelihoods, and exacerbating the difficulties that persons affected by leprosy already encounter due to stigma and discrimination. They must not be forgotten.”

From India, which accounts for around 60% of all new cases of leprosy diagnosed globally each year, 13 8 organizations are participating. Activities include intensive awareness-raising events aimed at school children and university students to provide young people with correct knowledge about leprosy and help prevent discrimination from taking root.

In Brazil, the country with the second-highest number of annual new cases and which has yet to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem (with elimination defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 population), the campaign is being carried out by more than 2,000 persons affected by leprosy and volunteers from MORHAN (the Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Affected by Hansen’s Disease). Activities include a focus on healthcare professionals and involve training local public health nurses, strengthening the functions of leprosy referral centers and case-finding.

Activities for World Leprosy Day by Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative
The Initiative has launched a special website (https://gasasakawa.org/) for the Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy. Inaugurated by Sasakawa in 2006 and released in conjunction with World Leprosy Day, the annual Global Appeal underlines the messages that leprosy is curable, treatment is available free of charge throughout the world, and that social discrimination has no place.

As side events of this year’s Global Appeal, the Initiative is hosting two webinars on raising awareness of leprosy (“The role of health professionals at the grassroots level” and “The role of young people: sharing discussions from three regions”) as well as a photo contest on social media. A selection of the best photos, which depict the daily lives of persons affected by leprosy and relief activities, will be displayed on the Global Appeal website.

In addition, Sasakawa has posted a message for World Leprosy Day on the WHO website.

About Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative
The Initiative is a strategic alliance between WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei Sasakawa, The Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation for achieving a world without leprosy and problems related to the disease. Since 1975, The Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation have supported the national leprosy programs of endemic countries through the WHO, with support totaling some US$200 million to date. In cooperation with the Japanese government and other partners, the foundations have played an important role in advocating with the United Nations, helping to secure a 2010 UN General Assembly resolution on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members and the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on leprosy by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017.

See the Initiative’s home page for further details.

About leprosy
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infectious disease that mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Around 200,000 cases are newly reported each year. Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy, but left untreated can result in permanent disability. An estimated 3 to 4 million people in the world today are thought to be living with some form of disability as a result of leprosy. Although completely curable, many myths and misunderstandings surround the disease. In various parts of the world, patients, those who have been treated and cured, and even their family members continue to be stigmatized. The discrimination they face limits their opportunities for education, employment, and full participation in society.

Chart1: List of participating organizations

When Will Countries Ever Learn how Well to do Fuel Subsidy Reforms?

View of downtown Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Credit: World Bank/Shynar Jetpissova
Amid alarming reports of deadly violence in Kazakhstan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Asia called for restraint and dialogue. 6 January 2022

By Anit Mukherjee and Alan Gelb
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 28 2022 – Consider the situation. Faced with growing fiscal stress, the government of an energy exporting country decides to cut generous subsidies, doubling the fuel price overnight.

Protestors are out on the streets, clashing violently with security forces called in to maintain law and order. They vent their frustration not only with rising fuel prices but also with living costs, lack of social services, crumbling infrastructure, corruption and political repression.

Faced with the prospect of a popular uprising, the government backtracks on reforms and re-institutes subsidies, postponing the hard decisions for a later date.

This is Kazakhstan in 2022. It is also Ecuador in 2019, Nigeria in 2012, Bolivia in 2010, Indonesia in 2005 and several other energy exporters which have tried to end, or at least reduce, fuel subsidies over the last two decades.

The list will grow significantly if we include importers who are more exposed to the vagaries of international energy prices. What is interesting is that the story plays out in almost exactly the same way, and the consequences of both action – and inaction – are very similar as well.

For resource rich countries like Kazakhstan, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nigeria, subsidized energy, especially from fossil fuels, is one of the few tangible ways by which citizens can feel that they have a claim to a national resource.

While the level of subsidies varies, at some $228 dollars per head or 2.6% of GDP in 2020, those of Kazakhstan are high but not the highest among exporters. In a situation where the government is generally perceived to be repressive, incompetent and corrupt, food and fuel subsidies keep a lid on deeper grievances. It is economically damaging but politically expedient, a delicate equilibrium that many countries have sought to manage over the last several decades – with little success.

Our research has shown that there is a better way to do energy subsidy reform. Providing direct cash transfers to compensate for the rise in energy prices can be a “win-win” solution. To put it simply, energy compensatory transfers (ECT) enable households, especially the poor and the vulnerable, to absorb the shock and reallocate resources as per their needs.

By removing the arbitrage between subsidized and market prices, ECTs can also reduce corruption, improve distribution and incentivize efficient use of energy. Countries like Iran, India, Jordan and the Dominican Republic have been relatively successful in this type of reform, and their experience holds lessons for other countries that choose to embark on this path.

Digital technology can help significantly to identify beneficiaries, provide them necessary guidance and information, and transfer payments directly to individuals and households. Three key enablers of ECTs are an identification system with universal coverage of the population, strong communications and wide access to financial accounts.

Multiple databases can be cross-checked to verify eligibility norms and grievance redressal systems can help reduce exclusion of genuine beneficiaries. As shown, for example, by India’s LPG subsidy reform, countries can progressively tighten the eligibility criteria over time to target the poorest sections of the population.

Finally, ECTs can provide the impetus for a more transparent and accountable system of subsidy management, helping improve public confidence and support to the government’s reform agenda over the long run.

So, why don’t more countries follow this approach? For one, most energy subsidy reforms are pushed forward in times of economic crisis. ECTs require political commitment, openness to engage in public dialogue, building consensus among stakeholders and powerful vested interests, setting up implementation systems and working across different government ministries, departments and agencies.

Direct compensation is also more transparent than the frequently opaque systems of price subsidization that favor the rich, with their higher energy consumption, even if justified by the need to protect the poor.

ECTs are not simple solutions and often require time to be put in place. On the surface, it may seem simpler to just raise energy prices overnight through an administrative order. But the payoffs are significant in terms of sustainability, economic outcomes, social cohesion and political stability.

The sooner countries can take a longer term approach, the better will they be able to manage the transition to a more sustainable system that supports those who need it most.

Kazakhstan is the first country in 2022 to see popular unrest due to fuel price hike. It almost certainly would not be the last.

Anit Mukherjee is a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Alan Gelb is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

 


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Why isn’t a Career in Politics Aspirational for Girls and Women in India?

Building the knowledge, self-confidence, voice, and mobility of women can have a positive impact on women’s participation in politics | Credit: Flickr

By Shevika M
Jan 28 2022 – For most young girls, a career in politics is not even on the radar. For the few that are interested, building a career in politics in India seems unachievable.

One such example is of a 15-year-old student from Chennai who said she wanted to be the prime minister of New Zealand when she grows up. It’s unfortunate to imagine that there may be others like her who aspire to be the prime minister of another country rather than get involved in politics in their own country.

As a country, we have made significant progress. Both men and women in India now vote in equal numbers, but we have a long way to go when it comes to women’s political participation beyond voting

India has completed 73 years of being a republic, but we are still very far from reaching equal representation and making politics an aspirational career choice for young girls. We currently have 78 (out of 543) women parliamentarians.

At 14.3 percent, this is the highest representation of women we have seen since 1947. This figure is much lower at the state-level—we have an average of nine percent of women in our state assemblies. Six Indian states have no female ministers.

As a country, we have made significant progress. Both men and women in India now vote in equal numbers, but we have a long way to go when it comes to women’s political participation beyond voting. This includes campaigning for candidates, running for office, and holding political office.

When we dig a little deeper, we find that less than 10 percent of the candidates in the 2019 elections were women. At the state level, we see similar data, where between 1980 and 2007, women comprised 5.5 percent of state legislators but only 4.4 percent of the candidates were women.

A study from Uttar Pradesh in 2019 suggests that women lag behind in several determinants of political participation, such as knowledge of how political institutions work and confidence in their own leadership abilities.

Building the knowledge, self-confidence, voice, and mobility of women can have a positive impact on women’s participation in politics. This needs to happen early for young girls so that they can build the ability to think critically and play a role in shaping India’s future.

While setting up Kuviraa, an initiative that works to build political engagement and leadership among young girls, we found that most schools (apart from a few progressive, alternative ones) and parents shy away from speaking to students about politics given how polarised our society has become. This unfortunately leaves young people to get most of their information on politics from unverified sources and social media, which has built cynicism among our youth.

In October 2021, we conducted a workshop with a group of 13 year olds and asked them to draw their perception of India’s politicians. We made two observations:

  1. None of the participants drew women political leaders. When asked why, they said it was because they did not know any female politicians.
  2. All the participants described politicians as ‘selfish’ or ‘corrupt’ and did not have anything positive to say about our elected representatives.

To further understand how young people, especially young girls, across India perceive politics, we collected data from over 400 children and young adults—between the ages of 11 and 24—across 24 Indian states. We found similar trends with respondents using ‘corrupt’, ‘confusing / complicated’ and ‘dirty’ as the top adjectives to describe India’s politics.

 

There is a difference in political aspirations between girls and boys

We also found that even though both male and female respondents stated in equal numbers that they would vote (when they would be eligible), there was a significant difference when it came to their political aspirations. Thirty-two percent of male respondents said they would be interested in getting involved in politics in the future, compared to only 19.7 percent of female respondents.

Female respondents also reported being less familiar with political processes and their local elected representatives compared to their male counterparts. Additionally, they were less likely to discuss politics with their friends and family.

Interestingly, although the overall faith in our current political leaders was low among young people, boys were nearly twice as likely as girls to think our current politicians are effective (16.4 percent vs 8.9 percent).

Our study further showed that at a younger age (11–17 years), girls are more interested in politics than boys, but when they are eligible to vote, boys’ interest overtakes that of girls (despite the interest of both groups growing with age).

Similar trends are seen in a recent US-based study published in the American Political Science Review which finds that not only do children see politics as a male-dominated space, but also that with age, girls increasingly see political leadership as a ‘man’s world’. The research also states that as a result of this, girls express lower levels of interest and ambition in politics than boys.

 

We need to make politics accessible for young girls

The example of the young girl who aspires to be the prime minister of New Zealand helped us realise the importance of portraying relatable role models for Indian girls. The global media has done a great job praising PM Jacinda Ardern, especially after her initial response to the pandemic.

This contributed to her becoming a role model for girls across the world. Further, research from the US shows that over time, the more that women politicians are covered in the national news, the more likely it is for adolescent girls to indicate their intention to be politically active.

Our survey also found that young people who were more exposed to politics—by participating in democratic processes in school or college and those who knew politicians personally—were more likely to express interest in politics than respondents who weren’t.

To make politics an aspirational career choice we need to break down narratives about young girls and political power. In the West, we see several examples of civil society organisations such as Teach a Girl to Lead and IGNITE National that prepare the next generation of women voters who are interested in becoming political leaders by introducing them to their local political representatives and hosting dialogues around politics.

Kuviraa aims to fill this gap in India by working with schools and nonprofits to deconstruct politics for young girls, building positive narratives for politics by highlighting women politicians as role models, and creating opportunities for them to engage with democratic processes that will ignite political ambition.

As we prepare for five state elections in 2022 and a general election in 2024, educators, civil society, and philanthropy must come together to create an enabling environment for young girls to be engaged in political processes as we cannot have a truly functional democracy without equal representation.

Shevika M is the founder of Kuviraa, a non-partisan initiative that aims to build political engagement and leadership in girls across India
This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)