The Asian Age – Bihar’s child bazaar: 2,000 kids trafficked annually

Once the child is handed over to members of these gangs, which pose as placement agencies, there is no end to their exploitation.

Nayear Azad

Patna-Bihar-India, 9 December 2017. There has been a steady increase in cases of child trafficking in Bihar, a fact accepted by the Nitish Kumar government which has launched a special drive to combat the menace which is suspected to be impacting 2,000 children every year.

Activists who have been fighting against trafficking claim that victims, including girls under the age of 18, from poor families are being pushed into slavery, prostitution and surrogacy by agents who manage to mislead poor parents with their lucrative offers of getting their children good jobs.

Once the child is handed over to members of these gangs, which pose as placement agencies, there is no end to their exploitation.

Government sources said that directions for a focussed drive against child trafficking came after activists involved in rescue operations demanded immediate action to stop the surge in such cases.

Statistics cited by Human Liberty Network, a social group involved in rescue and rehabilitation work, showed that 2,000 children disappear from the state every year.

In April, senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav, who was then in Opposition, had raised a question in the state Assembly claiming that over 572 children had gone missing from various locations in Patna district in last one year.

However, that is not all, Mr Yadav, who is now a senior minister in Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet, had cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to point out that cases related to human trafficking in Bihar had increased in past few years.

“After I raised the issue in the state Assembly, several persons who have been involved in the racket were arrested, most of them were from Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

NCRB data shows that in 2015, 332 cases of child trafficking were registered in Bihar, the third highest in the country. Assam registered 1,317 cases and West Bengal had 1,119 cases.

Reports suggest that in 2017, around 160 persons involved in child trafficking were arrested by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel on the Indo-Nepal border. Around 560 children were also rescued.

SSB personnel during their operation in 2016 had arrested 136 persons from border areas. These included 89 from Bihar and 47 from Nepal. Altogether 824 children, including girls, were rescued during this period.

According to an assessment, minor girls and women are the main targets of immoral trafficking in Bihar. Activists involved in combating child trafficking in the state recently claimed that 6,000 children from various parts of the country have been rescued in last couple of years.

“Areas surrounding Nepal border are highly sensitive. It is tough to rescue girls as they are often pushed into flesh trade by traffickers. We also found that underage boys were mostly sold to bangle and carpet factory owners outside the state and are forced into bonded labour,” activist Suresh Kumar told this newspaper.

Giving an account of an incident which occurred a few months ago, Mr Kumar said that a teenage girl from Patna was pushed into prostitution by people who posed as placement agents.

“We later came to know that the girl was taken to Uttar Pradesh and probably pushed into prostitution. Despite all our efforts, we couldn’t trace the whereabouts of the girl,” Mr Kumar said.

In another incident, a 12-year-old girl from Nawada was sold to UP-based traffickers by her own maternal grandmother and aunt for Rs 12,000. The girl was later rescued by a group called Tatwasi Samaj Nyas which also helped the police arrest people who were behind the racket.

According to a recent report, a majority of victims are from Patna, Gaya, Nalanda, Nawada, East and West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur, Madhepura, Supaul and Kishanganj.

Child rights organisations working to prevent such cases are of the view that the surge in immoral trafficking is also linked to pushing the victims into “forced surrogacy”, an emerging money spinner.

Earlier a group working against girl trafficking had rescued several victims out of whom four complained of being used as “surrogate mothers”.

Talking to this newspaper about the issue, an activist working with Human Liberty Network said, “Surrogacy racket is booming in the country. Young girls between the age of 17 and 20 are being pushed into the bearing children for others,” said the activist who helped rescue and rehabilitate nearly half a dozen such girls.

A Role model

Tronie Foundation CEO Rani Hong, a survivor of child trafficking, is a role model for all rescued children. She had earlier met Bihar government officials to launch a campaign against gangs who work as touts and exploit people, especially daily wage earners in rural areas and their children.

“I strongly believe that we need to stand up and if we can do that as a nation then we can drastically reduce, even prevent child trafficking. I want to work with the Government of India and launch a massive campaign against trafficking and slavery,” said Ms Hong.

Ms Hong was pushed into the slavery when she was just six years of age. She was kidnapped from Kerala and taken to Canada before being rescued. “I was tortured and treated like a slave and later abandoned as a destitue,” she said.

Ms Hong and her husband run special awareness drives in 20 countries, including India, through her US-based foundation. Till 2016, she served as special advisor, human trafficking, for the UN.


The Tribune – Now, ex-Hazoori Raagi opposes SGPC president’s appointment

Says the decision has hurt sentiments of Sikhs

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 8 December 2017. The opposition to the SAD’s pick for the SGPC president’s post today reached Akal Takht when the Sikh Sadbhawna Dal, headed by former Hazoori Raagi of Golden Temple Bhai Baldev Singh Wadala, claimed that choosing Gobind Singh Longowal was a mistake.

Amid mild resistance, Wadala, along with his supporters, reached Akal Takht to get ‘ardas’ performed for the success of their campaign against conversion of Gurdwara Gurudongmar Sahib into a Buddhist temple in Sikkim under a political conspiracy.

Wadala said a person who had defied Akal Takht’s ‘hukumnama’ against the Dera Sirsa head could never be fit to head the apex body of the Sikhs. He said till the SGPC was made free of interference of the ‘Fakhr-e-Kaum’ family (senior Badal was conferred this title by the SGPC), nothing could be expected from it.

“A series of instances of Guru Granth Sahib’s desecration, a flip-flop over the decision of pardoning the Dera Sirsa head, inaction against sacrilege of historic gurdwaras in Sikkim and now, the appointment of Longowal have hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs across the globe.

It was the Badals who were behind all these controversies. The need of the hour is to release the ‘Panth’ from their clutches and boycott them from public platforms,” he said.

A day after his election, Longowal had to face the wrath of the United Sikh Party activists who showed black flags during his visit to Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib in Patiala.

Earlier, a Sikh activist, Baldev Singh Sirsa, had alleged that Longowal was behind the “shady” land deal between two gurdwaras in 2004 when he was an MLA. The parallel jathedars also burnt his effigies in Ajnala recently.

Gent De Lijn Trams & Dampoort to Ieper

Gent De Lijn Trams
Gent Zuid
9 November 2017

Gent Zuid – Tram 4 to Muide, Tram 2 to Zwijnaarde

Gent De Lijn Trams
10 November 2017

Tram 2 due at 21:31

Dampoort to Ieper
11 November 2017

Dampoort – Single platform

Gent – Dampoort

Poperingen – Lille Flandres
Train from Antwerp to Kortrijk
One part of the train to Lille (Rijssel)
One part of the train to Ieper and Poperinge

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The News – Man acquitted of murder of Sikh woman

Lahore-Panjab-Pakistan, 9 December 2017. Additional District and Sessions Judge Irfan Basra Friday acquitted a person namely Hafiz Shahzad of murder charges of a Canadian national Sikh woman, Rajvinder Kaur Gill.

The court has acquitted the accused after prosecution failed to prove charges levelled against him. It is pertinent to mention here that the main accused in this murder case namely Shahid Ghazanfar alias Karishna Roy is still at large.

On January 2, 2013, Sarwar Road police had registered an FIR on the complaint of Sikandar Singh Gill, father of the victim girl. The complainant stated that his daughter Rajvinder Kaur reached Lahore Airport from Canada on August 25, 2012. He said when she reached Lahore, she had Canadian passport bearing number 354321045161686, cash, a laptop, gold ornaments and other things of personal use with her.

He added that she was in contact with Shahid Ghazanfar alias Karishna Roy and Shahzad but so far they could not find her neither she called her family telephonically after reaching Pakistan. Sarwar Road police arrested Shahzad and produced him before the Cantonment judicial magistrate.

Later, police claimed that Hafiz Shahzad had confessed to his crime, kidnapping and murdering the woman on the behest of Shahid Ghazanfar alias Karishna Roy. As per police, Shahid had invited Rajvinder Kaur to Pakistan for a diamond auction in Lahore.

Shahid and Gill had known each other for a long time and he had told her that he would pay her back the money he owed her when she came to Lahore. Shahid and Shahzad received Gill at the airport and drove her to Sheikhupura on motorway.

Dawn – A little dissent, please

Abbas Nasir

Op/Ed, 9 December 2017. Whether or not the mainstreaming project was approved by the government, it seems to be steaming ahead with concessions being made to groups espousing extremist and intolerant causes.

It was several months back that retired Lt-General Amjad Shoaib, who informally speaks for the security establishment, disclosed in a TV interview that the then DG ISI, Lt-General Rizwan Akhtar, had proposed to the PML-N government to mainstream militant religious organisations.

This mainstreaming proposal had two strands; the first encouraged and facilitated the participation of these groups in the country’s electoral politics, the second proposed the recruitment of the militants belonging to these organisations in the security forces.

The retired general’s disclosure spurred considerable media excitement about the merits and demerits of such a mainstreaming project particularly when at no point was it made apparent what sort of de-radicalisation programme the militants would have to attend before their induction into the security setup.

The general complained then about a lack of response from the government to the proposal. The problem with making too many assumptions is that one or more could be wrong. But with no transparency at all about this so-called mainstreaming, a number of doubts emerge.

The first and foremost is the speed with which political mainstreaming is proceedings with Ahle Hadith, and possibly Deobandi, groups being nudged into electoral politics; now even militant strands of the Barelvi movement are being pushed into the fray.

It is easier to see the political strand of the project being executed as its manifestations are public. Nobody has any idea if similar progress is being made in the militants’ induction into the police and paramilitary forces or whether that is on hold or if any de-radicalisation programme has at all been initiated.

My major issue with such policy rollout is that the lack of debate does not allow either the protagonists or the opponents of such a plan to explore the range of likely repercussions.

Thus, far-reaching decisions are taken in an environment which can be likened to Alice in Wonderland, ie, where those rolling it out are so committed and enthusiastic about the correctness and the wisdom of their decision that they don’t pause for a moment to consider any adverse scenario.

Sadly, in the current political situation in the country, with next year’s elections approaching fast, other compulsions seem to be coming into play with more than hints that all kinds of strange bedfellows are being ushered in in the quest for ‘desired’ results.

PTI leader Imran Khan’s electoral alliance with JUI-S leader Maulana Samiul Haq; PPP leader Asif Zardari’s U-turn on the policy announced by his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to oppose any extra-constitutional measures to effect change of government and many other pieces fit into the same jigsaw.

Mr Zardari has now gone ahead and endorsed any street agitation by Dr Tahirul Qadri to topple the government. Who knows if the new bonhomie between the two leaders, who were photographed by the media holding hands, could also lead to an electoral adjustment between PAT and the PPP?

If Mr Zardari believes his going along with Tahirul Qadri will net the party some Barelvi votes outside of Sindh (where his once-federal party now finds itself restricted), he may feel his political opportunism is worth it.

Of course, the PPP will need to calculate the loss suffered by the party’s credibility against any gains made due to Tahirul Qadri’s possible support if the two were to go together in any agitation to cut short the PML-N’s tenure and then in any subsequent election.

If the by-elections in Punjab and also KP are any indicator, the PPP’s votes coupled with those accruing to a possible deal with PAT won’t better the Zardari-led party’s chances in any significant measure.

Many of these chess moves, the outcome of which is far from certain, are being played mainly with a view to eroding the vote bank of the PML-N particularly in Punjab and KP.

If you ask my honest opinion, I’d say all these machinations are not needed as the PML-N in-fight involving the doves and the hawks is debilitating enough for the party, and any outside tinkering with the process is wholly unnecessary.

You have doubts about this? Just go and search for the TV interviews of the Punjab government spokesman Malik Mohammad Ahmad Khan in the aftermath of the military and intelligence-brokered agreement which saw the TLYRA lockdown of Islamabad end.

The spokesman was categorical in not blaming anyone but the federal government for the fiasco and watching him holding forth it was difficult to believe that the administrations in the province and at the centre belonged to the same party.

God help the PML-N if the same dichotomy presents itself in the run-up to the elections, in the selection of candidates and the election campaign, despite huge swathes of support for the party in Punjab.

In the fast-emerging political dynamics of Pakistan, my major concern is that the space for expression of any liberal thought or dissent that is seen as hostile by the establishment is leading to disappearances and others repressive measures.

Politically engineer all you want, but for God’s sake do not stamp out dissent by disappearing bloggers, social media activists and political workers. Peaceful dissent is vital for the well-being of any society. Each time we have forgotten this, the consequences have been disastrous.

This week another Lahore-based activist who slammed the Faizabad accord facilitated by the ISI has gone missing. I have no means of saying definitively who is responsible. But the track record of state institutions can perhaps guide us.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn