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‘Persons’ not ‘possession’, ‘children’ not ‘commodities’, ‘girls’ not ‘goods’

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The present research paper aims at touching one of the most sensitized issues in the human society, that is, human trafficking. What is human trafficking? How is it done? Why humans are made victim to such a menace? What are the different forms of human trafficking? What are the causes and the impact of human trafficking on individuals and society? All the questions will be answered in this research paper. In addition to this, we will also talk about the international conventions and protocols such as – Palermo Protocols; UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes, 2000; Council of Europe Convention and EU Directives along with the role of UN High Commissioner for Refugees and International Labor Organization. We will also take a brief look at the Indian national legal framework relating to human trafficking like – Indian Penal Code, 1860; Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956; Constitution of India; Information and Technology Act, 2000. After all this, we will go through the Anti – Trafficking Bill, 2018 which is currently in the Parliamentary Standing Committee for re-consideration. We will talk about the loopholes in the bill by closely critiquing it and answer the question, that is, what are the Victim Compensation and Witness Protection Schemes or are there even any, at subsequent stage. Besides, we will take a glance at some of the important and landmark cases and judgments which are adding to the development of human trafficking laws. At last, we will sum up our discussion by giving up some of the suggestions and recommendations that are needed to be taken into consideration in the upcoming Anti – Trafficking Legislations and also to eliminate this despicable evil from the lives of the individuals to make this world a better place for living.

KEYWORDS – Human Trafficking, international legal framework, cases, judgments, Anti – Trafficking Bill 2018, Palermo Protocols.

“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.”

-Unknown

These two lines are very well depicting the current situation of our human society. The people are not loved but used. They are being sold in the same manner as the commodities are sold. And, this is the reason why the world is in so much chaos. All the humans are born with certain rights. In the general parlance, we call those rights as human rights. Each and every person enjoys these rights by virtue of being human. And, it is the obligation of the people to respect each other’s rights. Here, the question arises is that are we really fulfilling our duty? Do we really respect the rights of other humans? Is this the kind of humanity that we are talking about these days? Why do we call ourselves as humans even? To answer all such questions, it is expedient to have an understanding about one of the organized crimes that leads to the grave violation of human rights, that is, human trafficking.

Before starting with the concept of human trafficking, let us first start quoting some facts and figures relating to the same to have an idea about the terrible situation across the globe. According to International Labor Organisation,

At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage.

It means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1000 people in the world.

1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.

Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labor, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labor imposed by state authorities.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labor, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors.

These figures are horrible and insane. But this is what it is! And, the dangerous thing is that these figures are increasing tremendously. This is high time that we should have stricter laws and legislations to combat this global issue of human trafficking.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word “human trafficking” as “an organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor).” This definition gives us a very narrow understanding as it mainly talks about only two aspects of human trafficking – “prostitution” and “forced labor”. There are many more aspects which are related to human trafficking. All these aspects are defined by an international protocol, that is, Palermo Protocols.

Article 3(a) of Palermo Protocols defines, “Trafficking in persons” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

We can conclude the above definition by answering three major questions:

What is done?

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbor, or receipt of persons.

How is it done?

It is done by creating threat, use of force, coercion, abduction, deception, inducement of alluring payments.

Why is it done?

It is done for exploitative purposes like sexual activities, slavery, bonded labor, organ removal, forced marriage, child soldiers, and what not.

Human Trafficking refers to the trading of persons or quid pro quo of persons for illegal purposes. It is recognized as an organized crime and also known as modern-day slavery.

FORMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

There are numerous ways by which people are trafficked and exploited to execute the heinous crime of human trafficking. Let us have a brief discussion about the same.

ORGAN HARVESTING

The trafficking in organs involves removing a part of the body, commonly kidneys and liver, for the purposes of illicit trading. The trading of organs is increasing day-by-day at international levels. In this techno-savvy world, as the technology for transplantation of organs is increasing, the organ trafficking is also rising up. A victim, either forcefully or freely, gives the consent for the organ removal because they are in the need of money, but are then cheated, or are paid less than the promised price.

FORCED MARRIAGE

Forced Marriage is when one person or both the persons are put under pressure to marry someone or to marry each other respectively against their will. The consent in such cases is obtained fraudulently or by undue influence or by coercion. Generally, the objective of forced marriage is either to take individual outside the country or to gain access in a country for some illegal purposes.

SENDING CHILDREN IN WARS

The one of the most vulnerable groups of human trafficking are children because it is easier to manipulate them. They do not have developed sense of danger and they can be easily recruited to the armed conflicts as soldiers. They may be used either for frontline combat by engaging them directly in the acts of violence or within auxiliary roles of informants. This type of practice is most prevalent in parts of Africa and Asia.

LABOUR EXPLOITATION

This refers to the situation where people are coerced to work, either voluntary or involuntary, in hazardous conditions. Due to lack of employment opportunities in their region, they tend to migrate from their inhabitant areas to the place of work. And, they are generally engaged in factories, mines, industries where they are not paid even minimum wages for their work. Moreover, they are not allowed to leave their workplace. This is one of the main reasons why illegal immigration is heading up. Debt Bondage and Child Labor form the parts of forced labor.

DRUG TRAFFICKING

Drug Trafficking refers to the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of the substances which are restricted by the Drug Prohibition Laws. Children are made soft targets to smuggle illegal drugs from one place to another.

SEX TRAFFICKING

Sex Trafficking is when an individual engages in a commercial sex act as a result of force, fraud or coercion. Sexual exploitation occurs in various settings including brothels for prostitution purposes, pimping, strip clubs, massage parlors, private homes, sex tourism, pornography, mail order brides or bride trafficking and many more. Women and Children are the most common victims of sex trafficking. LGBT identifying individuals, especially transgender, are increasingly found to be victim of sex trafficking.

SLAVERY

The word ‘slavery’ refers to the conditions where people are treated as the property of another person, household, company, corporation or government. This is the status of a person over whom ownership rights are exercised. Slaves are held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase, or birth, and are deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to receive compensation in return for their labor. Forced domestic servitude also forms the part of slavery where people are forced to work for long hours for little pay. They may also suffer physical and sexual abuse.

FORCED CRIMINALITY

This is when somebody is forced to carry out criminal activity through coercion or deception. It includes begging, pick-pocketing, bag snatching, ATM theft, selling of counterfeit goods and all. Mostly, children are exposed to the vulnerability of forced criminality.

These crimes are happening in every corner of the world and can include any person regardless of age, socio-economic background or location. Women, children and transgender are the most vulnerable groups exposed to human trafficking. As a result, each form can look very different. The statistics of these crimes are rising at an alarming level despite of having so many legislations, both at national and international levels, to combat this global issue.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: CAUSES AND EFFECTS

To effectively understand the concept of human trafficking or modern slavery, we must first understand what causes it and how it affects those involved. The root cause of human trafficking is traffickers. But what attracts traffickers to do such type of crimes? The answer is simple. It is the vulnerability that creates opportunity for traffickers. Now, the major question arises that what are vulnerable conditions and actually who falls prey to such crimes?

The conditions are – poverty; unemployment; displacement due to wars, political instability, and natural disasters; lack of education and knowledge; poor and broken family conditions; social and cultural practices; inadequacy of proper legislations and law enforcement agencies. The vulnerable groups include women, children, and LGBTQ communities, undocumented migrant persons, poverty-stricken and downtrodden. It is easy to manipulate these people and traffickers are trained to identify vulnerability. That’s why; these people become the soft-targets of these heart-core traffickers.

The effects of human trafficking are too harsh to handle for the victims. It has the power to impact someone’s life forever. The consequences are not only limited to the extent of physical trauma but also comprise mental, psychological and sociological harms. The physical trauma includes sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, cancer, injuries, infections, and other illnesses. A lack of proper medical care allows these conditions to spread and worsen often affecting an individual’s health permanently. It also has a severe impact on the mental health and social life of the victim, including, depression, stress, memory loss, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, difficulty in relationships, isolation from the society and many more.

Not only victims, but the traffickers are too affected by the outcomes of human trafficking. The traffickers also experience trauma because of what they see and do to others, and many traffickers have been victimized themselves at some point in their lives.

INTERNATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

There are a number of laws and legislations that are adopted by international forums in order to combat the menace of human trafficking. Let us have a brief look about the major international legislations.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), Adopted by General Assembly resolution 55/25 of 15 November 2000, is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime. The Convention is further supplemented by three Protocols, which target specific areas and manifestations of organized crime. Countries must become parties to the Convention itself before they can become parties to any of the Protocols. The three Protocols are as follows:

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2003), is the first global legally binding instrument with an agreed definition on trafficking in persons. Article 3(a) talks about the definition of trafficking in persons and Article 3(b) states that ‘consent’ becomes irrelevant when the child is below 18 years of age. Also, Article 5 tells us about the criminalization.

The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (2004), deals with the growing problem of organized criminal groups to smuggle migrants, often at high risk to the migrants and at great profit for the offenders.

The Protocol against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition (2005), is the first legally binding instrument on small arms and its purpose is to promote, facilitate and strengthen cooperation among State Parties in order to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which declares in Article 4 that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, in Article 8 states that “(1) No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave trade in all their forms shall be prohibited. (2) No one shall be held in servitude. (3) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

The Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery of 1926, which states in Article 2 that the parties agreed “to prevent and suppress the slave trade and to progressively bring about the complete elimination of slavery in all its forms.”

The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery of 1956, which states in Article 3(1) that “the act of conveying or attempting to convey slaves from one country to another by whatever means of transport, or of being accessory thereto shall be a criminal offense under the laws of the States Parties to this Convention and persons convicted thereto shall be liable to very severe penalties.”

The Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of Prostitution of Others of 1949. The Preamble to this Convention provided that “Whereas prostitution and the accompanying evil of traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community.” Article 17 thereof provides that States parties are required to “undertake, in connection with immigration and emigration, to adopt or maintain such measures ASE are required, in terms of their obligations under the present Convention, to check the traffic in persons of either sex for the purpose of prostitution.”

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1979, which, in Article 6, calls upon States parties to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.”

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women of 1993, which defines “violence against women” to include “rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, which states that States parties must “take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form.”

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, Child Pornography of 2000.

The Optional Protocol Stipulates, in Article 10, that States parties must “take all necessary steps to strengthen international cooperation by multinational, regional and bilateral agreements for the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of those responsible for acts involving the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and child sex tourism.”

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict of 2000. The Optional Protocol requires States parties to ensure that “persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsory recruited into their armed forces.”

The ILO Convention No 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour of 1999, which provides in Article 3 “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery such as the sale and trafficking of children.”

The Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families of 1990, which in Article 11 provides that “No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be held in slavery or servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labor.”

Despite of having numerous legislations at international level, the basic rights rather human rights are at abysmal. This should be the first priority, or we should say, this is the need of the hour to tackle the crisis of human trafficking.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: INDIAN LEGAL FRAMEWORK

After having a discussion about international legal framework relating to human trafficking, it becomes important to talk about the Indian laws and legislations as well. India has recognized human trafficking as one of the major issues and to control the same, it has enacted various laws. Let us take a glance at these laws.

Constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights to its citizens and it is the duty of the State to protect these rights. According to Article 23(1), “trafficking of human beings and beggar and other similar practices are punishable offence under the law.” In the similar manner, Article 24 “prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines, or other hazardous employment.” “Right to Life and Personal Liberty” guaranteed by Article 21 is also infringed because of human trafficking.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 has around 25 provisions which talk about trafficking and made it a punishable offence. The significant provisions Section 370 and Section 370A provide for comprehensive measures to combat the organized crime. It also includes trafficking of children for exploitation in any form – physical, sexual, slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 is the primary legislation related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children, women and girls, but it does not define trafficking. Keeping a brothel or allowing premises to be used as a brothel or prostitution in the vicinity of the public places are some of the offences specified in ITPA, 1956. Also, Section 372 and Section 373 deals with the selling and buying of girls for the purpose of prostitution.

Information Technology Act, 2000 penalizes the publication or transmission of inappropriate or lascivious material in electronic form which depicts children in sexual explicit act or pornography. Section 67A and Section 68B are the relevant sections to discuss when we talk about human trafficking.

As per Section 2(14) (ii) and (ix) of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 talks about children who are found working in contravention of labour laws for the time being in force or is found begging, or living on the street and who is found vulnerable and is likely to be induced into drug abuse or trafficking is included as a “child in need of care and protection”, among others.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. It also provides various precise definitions of sexual abuse, penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment and all.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 defines a child as a person who has not completed the age of 14 years. The Act provides the provisions to regulate the working hours and working conditions of the child workers and also protects them from being employed in hazardous industries.

The other important legislations related to trafficking in persons are – Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006; Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976; Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994.

Apart from all these legislations, different State Governments have also enacted the laws in order to deal with this issue. The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012; Karnataka Devadasi (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1982; Goa Children’s Act, 2003; Andhra Pradesh Devadasi (Prohibiting Dedication) Act, 1989 are some of the major State legislations.

From time-to-time, India has enacted various legislations to handle the rising rates of human trafficking and also to obligate with the international instruments. But are these laws enough? Yes, these laws are sufficient from the perspective of working independently. Then, why these laws are not capable of tackling the rising number of human trafficking in India? If we talk about the figures, then, according to National Crime Records Bureau, 8132 human trafficking cases were reported in India in 2016 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In the same year, 23117 trafficking victims were rescued. Of these, the highest number of persons were trafficked for forced labour (45.5%), followed by prostitution (21.5%). Thus, there is a need to have a comprehensive legislation that can constitute all forms of human trafficking. Consequently, after identifying gaps in the existing legislations, the Anti-Trafficking Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Ms. Maneka Gandhi in July, 2018. Currently, the Bill is in the Parliamentary Standing Committee for revision. Let us take a look at the critical analysis of the bill.

THE ANTI-TRAFFICKING BILL: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL

The Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2018 or Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 is a well-organized bill which provides for the investigation of trafficking cases, and prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked victims.

Key highlights of the Anti-Trafficking Bill

The Bill clearly sets out the definition of “trafficking in persons” and specifies all the offences as “cognizable and non-bailable.” Also, the Bill states that its provisions must be read in consonance with other laws and its provisions will only apply in the case of any inconsistency. The main highlights of the Bill are as follows:

The Bill includes trafficking for various purposes – sexual exploitation, slavery, forced removal of organs. In addition, the Bill considers trafficking for certain purposes such as begging, inducing early sexual maturity, forced labour, bearing children as an “aggravated” form of trafficking, which attracts a higher punishment.

In order to punish the traffickers, the Bill provides for the establishment of “investigation authorities or Anti-Trafficking Units and rehabilitation authorities” at “district, state and national levels.” Further, may be, “protection homes and rehabilitation homes” establishes for the long-term care and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking.

The Bill provides for the “preventive measures” to be taken by “district and state anti-trafficking committees” to protect and prevent vulnerable persons from being trafficked. These measures include – facilitating implementation of livelihood and educational programmes for vulnerable communities, various government programmes and schemes, and developing law and order framework to ensure prevention of trafficking.

The Bill also provides for the setting up “designated courts” in each district for the complete trial of trafficking cases within a year.

While the victims of the offence are provided with “immunity” this immunity extends to only those crimes that are punishable with imprisonment of 10 years or more and not for lesser offences.

The Bill “penalizes an owner or lessor of a premise” as if he is presumed to have knowledge about the trafficking carried out on the premise, along with the traffickers.

The Bill also “punishes a person who distribute or publish material” which may be used for the purpose of trafficking.

The Bill sets out the “higher penalties” for the various offences related to trafficking as compared to the punishments given in the prevailing laws.

Besides all these provisions, the Bill is not perfect and still having certain lacunae which needs to be fulfilled. Let us have a glance at the criticisms of the Bill to understand it more effectively.

Criticisms of the Anti-Trafficking Bill

The Anti-Trafficking Bill, 2018 is a good initiative by the government to condemn the offence of human trafficking. But like every other law, it is also having some gaps. These gaps must be removed to bring this Bill effectively into existence. The criticisms of the Bill are as follows:

Firstly, the Bill gives “no clarity” as to what will happen to the existing laws. This Bill states that it is not a replacement to the existing laws but it adds to the wide range of existing legal framework which deals with various aspects of trafficking in their own way. This will lead to the overlapping in the laws regarding their enforcement and rehabilitation procedures.

Secondly, the “assumption” that owner must be having the prior knowledge regarding the use of his/her premise for illicit purposes is a departure from the standard principle in criminal law where the guilt of the accused has to be proved and not presumed.

Thirdly, the Bill does not specify the criteria of differentiation between “aggravated and non-aggravated” forms of trafficking. It does not tell why other forms of trafficking will not fall in the aggravated category.

Fourthly, what about the “transgender” being vulnerable community. The preamble of the Bill recognizes women and children as vulnerable but it does not even talk about transgender. It is a great lacuna.

Fifthly, the Bill does not mention the word “sex-buyers.” Why the Bill does not set the liability for the sex-buyers? Everyone in the chain of trafficking must be liable.

Sixthly, the “budgets” are not earmarked for the purposes of establishing rehabilitation centers and shelter homes.

Seventhly, the process of “rehabilitation” is very limited. No heed is paid to the fact that there should be individualized exit strategies for the victims to recover from the trauma of trafficking.

Lastly, the “victim immunity and witness protection schemes” are absent. No assurance is given to the victims and witnesses that no actions will be taken against them if they will speak up. Further, the immunity will be given only to those persons who will be trafficked for serious crimes. But the trafficked victims who commit petty offences under coercion will not be able to claim immunity.

These are some of the major lacunae which must be taken into consideration by the law enforcing agencies before the Bill comes into effect.

LANDMARK CASES AND JUDGMENTS

The Supreme Court and various other High Courts stepped in and taking up the cases for proper functioning and monitoring of the institutional machinery, statutory agencies and victims rehabilitation schemes. The Court while exercising its jurisdiction for enforcement of fundamental rights has given various landmark judgments for the strengthening government response in combating trafficking. Some of the various proactive landmark judgments are as follows:

Vishal Jeet v. Union of India

FACTS – A writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution was filed by way of Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court. It seeks issuance of certain directions – (i) to look into issues of Red Light areas and forced prostitution from a law enforcement perspective; (ii) to rescue victims of commercial sexual exploitation and provide them with proper rehabilitation facilities so as to enable them to choose a more dignified way of life; (iii) to look into issues pertaining to dedication of young girls as Devadasi and Jogin.

JUDGMENT – The Supreme Court held that this matter is of great importance and stated that this malady is not only social but also a socio-economic problem and, therefore, the measures to be taken in that regard should be more preventive rather than punitive. Considering all aspects of matter before it, the SC issued the following directions to Central and State Governments – (i) direct concerned law enforcing authorities to take appropriate and speedy action under the existing laws in eradicating child prostitution; (ii) take steps in providing adequate and rehabilitative homes; (iii) set up Advisory Committee consisting of relevant government officials and voluntary organizations to make suggestions for eradicating child prostitution and the Devadasi and Jogin tradition and measures for rehabilitation of victims.

Gaurav Jain v. Union of India

FACTS – The petitioner filed writ petition under Article 32 of Indian Constitution by way of Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court of India, based on an article “A Red Light Trap: Society gives no chance to prostitutes’ offspring” published in the magazine ‘India Today’. In the petition, the petitioner has asked for the establishment of separate educational institutions for the children of prostitutes and, seeking a declaration that prostitutes in India have – (i) the right to be free citizens, (ii) the right not to be trapped again, (iii) the right of readjustment by economic empowerment, social justice, self-sustenance, equality of status, dignity of person in truth and reality and social integration.

JUDGMENT – Considering all the facts regarding the matter, the Supreme Court did not accept the plea for separate educational institutions for children of prostitutes as it would not be in the interest of the children and society at large. Further, the Supreme Court quoted the Fundamental Rights of Women and Children from the Constitution of India (namely, Articles 14, 15, 16, 21, 23, 24, 38, 39, 45, and 46) and relevant International Instruments. Also, the SC constituted a Committee directing it to frame a National Plan of Action and to implement it in mission mode. This is to be noted that SC in its whole judgment used the term fallen women for prostitutes.

In Kamaljit v. State of NCT of Delhi 2006, the court in its order stated that sexual exploitation of women and children had not delivered the desired results and more stringent measures were the crying need of the day. Thus, the court emphasized on the point that trafficking is an organized crime and more serious measures are required to condemn it.

The Bombay High Court, in its recent judgment, held that there is no provision under the law which makes prostitution per se a criminal offence. It orders the release of three women sex workers detained at a State corrective institution in Mumbai. It observes that an adult woman had the right to choose her vocation. However, seducing any person for the purpose of prostitution or running a brothel is illegal.

These are only some of the landmark Indian cases which prepared a roadmap for the development of laws regarding human trafficking. There are a plethora of landmark cases relating to human trafficking. The Supreme Court and various other High Courts of India have time-to-time decided many cases and are still trying to develop some rigid measures to stop this brutal practice.

Let us also quote one recent judgment relating to human trafficking by the UK Supreme Court.

MS (Pakistan) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department

FACTS – The Appellant, MS, is a Pakistani national who entered the UK in 2011 at the age of 16 years on a visitor’s visa. During the four preceding years, while still in Pakistan, he had been subjected to forced labour and physical abuse by relatives. One of them, his step-grandmother, brought him to the UK by deceiving him into thinking this was for the purpose of his education. On arrival, he was forced to work for no pay, as arranged by his step-grandmother for her own financial gain. He then moved from job to job for the next 15 months, under the control and compulsion of adults, as both the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) and the Upper Tribunal (UT) later found.

In September 2012, the Appellant came to the attention of the police, who referred him to a local authority Social Services Department. They, in turn, referred him to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), due to concerns as to his vulnerability and the possibility that he had been trafficked. However, in February 2013, the NRM decided that there was no reason to believe that he was a victim of trafficking. The Appellant sought judicial review of this decision in April 2013.

In September 2012, the Appellant had also claimed asylum, but that application was rejected in August 2013. The Secretary of State, therefore, decided to remove the Appellant from the UK. The Appellant appealed this decision on asylum and human rights grounds to the FTT who dismissed his appeal. The UT granted permission to appeal and re-made the decision in view of errors of law by the FTT, finding in favour of the Appellant. In addressing NRM’s decision, the UT observed it to be contrary to the Article 4 of European Convention on Human Rights.

The Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal, which allowed the appeal for the AS (Afghanistan) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, the UT could only go behind the NRM’s decision and re-determine the factual issues as to trafficking if the decision was perverse or irrational or one which was not open to the NRM.

The Appellant was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. He later wished to withdraw from the proceedings, as his immigration problems had now been resolved. A preliminary issue therefore arose as to whether the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which had applied to intervene in the proceedings, could take over the appeal.

JUDGMENT – The Supreme Court on unanimously allows the appeal. Lady Hale gives the only judgment, with which Lord Kerr, Lady Black, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lord Briggs agree. The Supreme Court held that the immigration tribunals can make their own findings of facts and they are not bound by the Home Office. Therefore, the appeal is allowed and the UT’s decision is restored.

This was the instance of the UK Supreme Court in the judgment dated March 18, 2020 regarding human trafficking.

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?

For tackling this major problem, we have to contribute at individual, societal, national and international level to make a great change. Therefore, few suggestions and recommendations to prevent and protect the vulnerable groups and to improve the conditions of trafficked victims are as follows:

First things first, the “implementation of laws” must be strictly done. The enforcement agencies and personnel should be trained to deal with the issue of human trafficking.

The “individualized rehabilitation strategies” for the victims of trafficking must properly planned. The government must ensure a good and healthy environment for the victims in the rehab centers and shelter homes, so that, victims can cope up with the situation and can start their life from a new perspective.

The “awareness campaigns” regarding human trafficking must be initiated at a massive level. The people must be made aware to protect themselves from being trapped in the circles of trafficking.

The people must be provided with “job opportunities” to reduce the trafficking of migrant workers. If they will be given better economic opportunities in their areas, then the chances are high that we can combat trafficking of migrant persons.

“Good governance and transparency” must be a prior commitment to prevent human trafficking.

Apart from these suggestions, the major requirement is to cut down the source or the roots of human trafficking at the ground level, i.e., rural areas. The people must be given reasonable social, economic and educational opportunities to prevent themselves from the clutches of traffickers. The government should take immediate and strict actions regarding this huge problem. This should be the need of the hour.

CONCLUSION

After having a very lengthy discussion on the issue that should be the priority to be tackled, we have come to an end of the same. As we have seen what human trafficking is and who are the vulnerable groups that are most likely to fall prey to the traffickers, it varies from country to country. People in precarious situations are looking out for their needs and in the desperation of the same; they end up falling in the hands of traffickers. We see this exploitation happening in various different forms – forced labour, slavery, servitude, prostitution, engaging children in wars, and many more. This leads to the severe physical, mental and emotional health conditions of the victims of human trafficking. It is evident from the discussion that we have a robust legal framework both at national and international levels. But, because of negligent, corruptive and non-serious nature of our law enforcement agencies, human trafficking has become a hidden crime. Due to the lack of victim-centric justice and witness incentivizing schemes, the victims are afraid of coming out. The safety of the public and victims is a paramount need. Not only the government and law implementing bodies, but also the society at large must have to take drastic steps to condemn this global issue. Despite of the fact that “Right to Life and Personal Liberty” are fundamental human rights, the status of “human” has fallen no more to that of a “commodity.” These human rights are inalienable and natural rights that call for a duty to be preserved and not infringed.

STOLEN PEOPLE, STOLEN DREAMS! END THE MISERY, STOP TRAFFICKING!

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NCEL granted export permission for rice and sugar

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The newly established National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) has received authorization to export 14,92,800 tonnes of non-Basmati rice to 16 countries and 50,000 tonnes of sugar to two countries, as disclosed by Cooperation Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Functioning under the ambit of the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002, the NCEL, registered in January this year, operates across agriculture, allied activities, handloom, and handicraft items. With an objective to double its revenue by 2025 from the present Rs 2,160 crore, the entity has actively enrolled numerous cooperatives, garnering 2,581 membership applications from 22 states and Union Territories.

Minister Amit Shah emphasized that NCEL’s primary objective is to create an export-friendly environment, particularly for agricultural commodities, leveraging India’s comparative advantage in these sectors. The cooperative body welcomes the participation of cooperative societies, from grassroots to apex levels, interested in engaging in export activities.

The key focus of NCEL remains on utilizing the surplus available within the Indian cooperative sector by accessing global markets. This strategic expansion aims to enhance the demand for Indian cooperative products on an international scale, ensuring better price realizations for these goods and services.

NCEL’s operational scope encompasses a comprehensive ecosystem to promote exports, spanning procurement, storage, processing, marketing, branding, labelling, packaging, certification, research and development, and trading across all goods and services produced by cooperative societies.

Moreover, the cooperative export body intends to facilitate cooperatives in availing benefits from various export-related schemes and policies curated by different ministries, streamlining and enhancing their export endeavours.

The establishment of NCEL underscores a concerted effort to leverage cooperative strengths in India’s export landscape, promising to amplify market reach and economic returns for agricultural commodities and allied sectors through strategic global engagements.

The initiative by the Cooperation Minister, Amit Shah, signifies a concerted push to empower cooperative societies in India’s export realm. By extending export permissions for substantial quantities of non-Basmati rice and sugar, the National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) is poised to facilitate a significant leap in the global market for agricultural produce.

This move aligns with India’s broader objective to bolster its global trade footprint, leveraging the competitive edge of its agricultural sector. Through NCEL, the aim is not only to foster increased export volumes but also to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic gains, channelling the benefits back to the grassroots level of cooperative societies.

Moreover, the strategic focus of NCEL on diverse export-related activities, including procurement, storage, branding, and research, speaks volumes about the comprehensive approach taken to fortify the entire export ecosystem. This encompassing strategy, coupled with NCEL’s commitment to guiding cooperatives in navigating export-related policies and schemes, underscores a forward-thinking approach aimed at creating a conducive environment for cooperative-driven exports.

The enthusiasm surrounding NCEL’s permissions signals a transformative phase for India’s cooperative sector. By leveraging cooperative strengths and fostering a global market presence, the initiative not only aims to boost export figures but also promises to uplift local communities, thereby enhancing the socio-economic fabric of the country.

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Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968

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Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968

Additional 86 Non-existent RUPPs shall be deleted from the list and benefits under the Symbols Order (1968) withdrawnAction against these 339 (86+253) non-compliant. RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022

In continuation of the earlier action initiated on May 25, 2022 for enforcing due compliances by Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs), the Election Commission of India led by Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today further delisted 86 non-existent RUPPs and declared additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. This action against 339 non-compliant RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022.

As per statutory requirements under section 29A of the RP Act, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, PAN to the Commission without delay. 86 RUPPs have been found to be non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on report of undelivered letters/notices from Postal Authority sent to the registered address of concerned RUPP. It may be recalled that ECI had delisted 87 RUPPs and 111 RUPPs vide orders dated May 25, 2022 and June 20, 2022, thus totalling the number of delisted RUPPs to 284.

This decision against 253 non-compliant RUPPs has been taken based on reports received from Chief Electoral Officers of seven states namely Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh. These 253 RUPPs have been declared inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. These RUPPs have failed to comply with statutory requirements for more than 16 compliance steps since 2015 and are continuing to default.

It is also noted that of the above 253 parties, 66 RUPPs actually applied for a common symbol as per para 10B of the Symbol’s Order 1968 and did not contest the respective elections. It is pertinent to note that privilege of a common symbol is given to RUPP based upon an undertaking for putting up at least 5 percent of total candidates with regard to said legislative assembly election of a State. Possibility of such parties occupying the available pre-election political space by taking benefits of admissible entitlements without contesting elections cannot be ruled out.

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Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh

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Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh

The 75-day long ongoing Coastal Clean Up Campaign is receiving a huge response from across the sections of society and besides others, Governors, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, celebrities, film and sports personalities, civil society groups etc. are joining the campaign with overwhelming enthusiasm and pledging their support to the longest and largest beach cleaning campaign in the world titled “Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar”, coordinated by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences with collaboration from all the other Union Ministries, departments as well as governments of the coastal States.

Addressing a press conference today, three days ahead of “International Coastal Clean-up Day” on 17th September, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he will join the campaign at Juhu beach in Mumbai on 17th September and informed that Governor Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and several personalities as well as NGOs will also join at Juhu.

The Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support through social media. The PM has stressed on keeping India’s coasts clean as he praised efforts of volunteers to remove garbage from the Juhu beach in Mumbai. Responding to a video posted by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh about the clean-up at the beach, Modi tweeted, “Commendable… I appreciate all those involved in this effort. India is blessed with a long and beautiful coastline and it is important we focus on keeping our coasts clean”. The Minister said, “A cleanathon was organised at Juhu Beach in Mumbai, saw participation in large numbers especially by youngsters and Civil Society.

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will take a lead in the clean-up campaign at world famous Puri beach, while Pratap Chandra Sarangi, former union minister will be at Chandipur. BJP MP from Hooghly, West Bengal Ms Locket Chatterjee will be at Digha on D-Day. R.K.Mission head will lead the campaign at Bakkhali in southern Bengal.

Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel will be at Porbandar (Madhavpur), while Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala will join the clean-up operation at Jafrabad, Amreli.

Governor of Goa P. S. Sreedharan Pillai and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will take part in beach cleaning campaign in South and North Goa beaches on 17th September.

Similarly, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will be at Kochi, while MoS External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be at Kovalam beach at Thiruvananthapuram.

Governor of Karnataka Thawar Chand Gehlot will join the campaign at Panambur beach in Mangalore, while the Governor of Telangana, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan will lend her helping hand at Puducherry beach.

Governor of Mizoram Dr. K. Hari Babu will take part in Vizag beach while L. Murugan, Union MoS, Information and Broadcasting will join the event at Chennai

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the campaign has entered the mode of whole of Government approach plus whole of nation participation.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, apart from active cooperation of Ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, organisations and associations like National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Seema Jagran Manch, SFD, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Gatividhi (PSG), along with other social organizations and educational institutions are participating in the clean-up campaign.

The MPs of coastal states have also pledged full support to the first-of-its-kind and longest running coastal clean-up campaign in the world and they also advised the Ministry of Earth Sciences to undertake a variety of activities by involving local NGOs.

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DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH

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DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today announced setting up of a Dashboard to share the best technology practices among the Centre and the States.

Presiding over the concluding session of the two-day “Centre-State Science Conclave” at Science City in Ahmedabad, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that a high level mechanism will be developed by the Department of Science and Technology to monitor and coordinate the follow up action of the conclave. The Minister also asked the States to appoint a Nodal officer in each of the States to coordinate and cooperate with the Special Committee for knowing and sharing the best practices.

Giving the example of heli-borne technology launched from Jodhpur, Rajasthan in October, 2021, Dr Jitendra Singh said, to start with, the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana were taken up for this latest heli-borne survey.

The Minister pointed out that if the same technology is uploaded on Dashboard, other States may join and share this CSIR technology from source finding to water treatment and thus benefit millions of people across the country.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, it will also positively contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” as well as “doubling farmer’s income” goals. He said, the latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping groundwater sources in arid regions and thus help utilise groundwater for drinking purposes.

The 2-day ‘Centre-State Science Conclave’ was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Science City, Ahmedabad, yesterday. Dr Jitendra Singh expressed satisfaction that important plenary sessions with State S&T Ministers discussed in detail on issues like Agriculture, Innovation for producing portable drinking water including application of technologies like Desalination, Heli borne methods developed by DST, Clean Energy for All including S&T role in Hydrogen mission, Deep Sea Mission of MoES and its relevance for Coastal States/UT, Digital healthcare for All and Synergizing Science with National Education Policy.

A special session with the CEOs of over 100 Start-Ups and industry at the Centre-State Science Conclave’ in Ahmedabad came up with scientific solutions in the field of agriculture, drone, artificial intelligence, biotechnological solutions, single-use plastic alternates, irrigation and digital health amongst others.

Many of the State governments have shown keen interest in some of the technologies and agreed to partner with some of the startups for State-specific technological solutions.

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Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity

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Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity

The worst floods in several decades have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, one of the most populous countries of South Asia. The floods have touched the country’s 220 million people’s lives directly or indirectly. More than 1,300 people have died with 81 out of 160 districts directly affected by the floods, leaving at least 33 million people homeless.

The heat waves followed by rains and glacial melting has been a global trend this year bringing out the stark reality that despite all talks and conventions, the world community has failed to contain and reverse climatic change. But Pakistan’s case is unique.

Beyond the human losses, the country’s economic managers have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network, damaged an incalculable number of houses, and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.

Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, describes present crisis as “a triple whammy”, putting together economic, political and natural. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said.

Despite this, the political masters are not only busy in bickering and allegations against each other, but have also triggered a blame game on social media as usual, pointing fingers on India for the flood havoc. The bombardment of propaganda, nevertheless, cannot change the reality that Pakistan government and its institutions have utterly failed in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens.

Ludicrous as it is, it cannot absolve the leadership of Pakistan that has failed people in terms of economic mismanagement, entrenched corruption and naked cronyism in the system. Added to these are the wrong policies and priorities of Islamabad which have been instrumental in bringing economic crisis and political instability. The floods have only abetted it.

The natural disaster has struck Pakistan while economy is passing through the difficult phase of multiple challenges including Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, heavy debt burden and solvency-related issues. The protracted economic crisis is likely to deepen further despite conclusion of talks with the IMF for release of Extended Fund Facility credit.

While Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred a total loss of “at least $10 billion”, independent analysts, including Uzar Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia centre and economist Ammar Habib Khan, put the figure between $15-20 billion, and expect it to rise further as information is coming with a great lag.

Existing infrastructure is collapsing with the flooding submerging one-third of the country, pushing 37 per cent of population into poverty. Pakistan is literally and figuratively under deep water, writes Nasir Jamal. It may take a few more months before the damages can be assessed. Even before the flooding, 60 per cent of the population was suffering from hunger, malnutrition and related diseases and the figures are bound to shoot up now.

In view of the mammoth loss, the IMF’s $1.2 billion credit now seems to be a peanut. Pakistan was earlier wounded and now it is bleeding. Floods will exacerbate the economic crisis that had shown initial signs of abating with the IMF deal. Twin deficits, growth prospects and inflationary expectations will be worsening, inflicting misery on the poor. Despite increasing gravity of the situation, saving people’s life and livelihood have not still become the priorities among the political class who are revealing in an ugly slugfest.

The real cost of the natural calamity is being borne by millions of poor kids, pregnant women, elderly and sick persons crowded under the open sky or tents, prone to hunger, diseases and insecurity as they wait for aid. It will be weeks before many can even return to their villages as the land drains and dries. It will take months, even years, to recover from the loss of housing, animals, crops and cultivable land.

Covid-19 had only disrupted economic exchange without damaging the economic base. But the flood has destroyed crops, land, animals, bridges, etc. negatively impacting deeper on the poor and the economy. And the insensitive political class in Pakistan is still deeply engrossed in political maneuver and cunning tricks against each other rather than presenting a united face at the time of calamity. That is the character of Pakistan’s politics.

In view of the contribution of agriculture to the extent of one fourth of the GDP, the country would have to face major revenue loss due to crop losses. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s August 29 report, almost 80 per cent of crops in Sindh, which produces roughly 30% of Pakistan’s cotton output, were destroyed.

Close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s textile industry, an important source of employment and foreign exchange, uses the cotton produced in the country. Floods are likely to cause severe shortage of cotton, said Abdul Rahim Nasir, Chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He added that instead of earlier average import of cotton estimated at about 4 million bales, Pakistan would now need to import just the double of that figure, at a potential cost of $3 billion.

Shahrukh Wani, an Oxford economist, says the flood will make it terribly difficult for the government to reduce the trade deficit because while the country will need to import food to “compensate” for lost crops, the textile sector will find itself struggling due to “potential shortage” of cotton crop.

The biting inflation which rose to 25% in the month of July from a year earlier, the highest since May 1975, is taking its own toll on the living conditions of masses. The flooding would further push up the inflation and accentuate the scarcity of even essentials.

Amreen Soorani, Head of Research at JS Global Capital Ltd, said that “the main concern from the floods is the impact on inflation”. Even the IMF warned that the runaway inflation could trigger protests and instability.

Islamabad secured funds from the IMF for immediate bailout of the economy from the saturating forex crisis. However, the problems would be far from over for Islamabad. As the advanced countries are focused more on the impact of Ukraine-Russia war and trying to cope with recessionary pressures while some of the development partners including Middle Eastern countries and China are down with donor fatigue, Islamabad has scant probability to get any major international relief.

For now, the immediate challenge that government will face is to fulfil the conditions of raising taxes and applying austerity measures as part of its agreement with the IMF for its bailout package. This might turn out a politically unpopular move and could flare up the political bickering. The condition is rife for mass protests in view of increasing cost of living for many months now, which opposition could take advantage of. Anger is rising across Pakistan over the slow pace of government relief efforts.

The catastrophic floods have put a downward pressure on growth prospectus. Initial estimates suggest that the economic growth rate may slow down to just 2 per cent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the recent floods caused more damage than the 2010 calamity wherein the economic losses had been estimated at $9.7 billion. The floods have already caused supply chain-related issues.

Even during natural calamity, politicians are concerned about their political agenda rather than allowing international aid agencies to import essential food items from the neighbouring country. Cases after cases of corruption are cropping up, “you reveal mine, I will reveal yours”, an unending slugfest continues.

Instead of fighting the fallout of the devastating natural calamity united, they are engrossed in manoeuvre and cunning tricks and a regressive thought process whether or not to allow aid flow from India. Some of the government top officials have suggested importing essential commodities such as food and medicine from India, while others are still the victim of the old rigidities and anti-India mindset.

India is an undoable reality of being the most potent vehicle of South Asia’s growth vision as it is a responsible regional power and the fastest growing economy of the world, which offers a big market for exports and sourcing imports. Islamabad needs to understand that cooperation with neighbours does not reduce the stature of a calamity hit country.

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

The Kartarpur Corridor has once again reunited another family after a man who separated from his parents when he was only a few months old in 1947, finally met his sister in Pakistan.

Amarjit Singh was left out in India along with his sister while his Muslim parents came to Pakistan. All eyes went teary as they saw the emotional scenes of the brother-sister reunion in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Geo News reported.

Amarjit Singh arrived in Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa to meet his Muslim sister and to remain as her guest.

His sister, 65-year-old Kulsoom Akhtar, could not control her emotions after seeing Amarjit.

Both hugged each other and kept crying. She had travelled from her hometown in Faisalabad along with her son Shahzad Ahmed and other family members to meet her brother.

Kulsoom said that her parents came to Pakistan from the suburbs of the Jalandhar region of India in 1947, leaving behind her younger brother and a sister, Express Tribune reported.

Kulsoom said she was born in Pakistan and used to hear about her lost brother and a sister from her mother. She said that her mother used to cry every time whenever she remembered her missing children. Kulsoom said that she did not expect that she would ever be able to meet her brother and sister. However, a few years ago, a friend of her father Sardar Dara Singh came to Pakistan from India.

Kulsoom’s mother told Singh about her son and daughter she left behind in India. She also told him the name of their village and the location of their house in the neighbouring country.

Amarjit then visited her house in Padawan village of Jalandhar and informed her that her son was alive but her daughter was dead. Her son was named Amarjit Singh who was adopted by a Sikh family back then in 1947, The Express Tribune reported.

After getting the brother’s information, Amarjit and Kulsoom Akhtar contacted on WhatsApp and using the Kartarpur Corridor and the meeting between the two siblings became a reality.

Now an elderly man, Sardar Amarjit Singh came to Gurdwara Sahib in a wheelchair. Kulsoom Akhtar also could not travel due to back pain, but she showed courage and reached Kartarpur from Faisalabad along with her son. Both the siblings kept crying while embracing each other and remembering their parents.

Amarjit said that when he first learned that his real parents were in Pakistan and were Muslims, it was a shock to him. However, he comforted his heart that many families were separated from each other in addition to his own family.

Many Muslim children became Sikhs and many Sikh children became Muslims, Express Tribune reported.

He said that he always wanted to meet his real sister and brothers. He said that he is happy to know that three of his brothers are alive. However, one brother who was in Germany has passed away.

He said he will now come to Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa and spend time with his family. He also said that he will take his family to India as well so that they could meet their Sikh family. Both the siblings had brought many gifts for each other.

Shahzad Ahmad, son of Kulsoom, said that he used to hear about his uncle from his grandmother and mother. He said that all of the siblings were very young at the time of Partition and no name was given to Amarjit or perhaps, after so many years, the name had slipped out of mind.

“I understand that since my uncle was brought up by a Sikh family, he happens to be a Sikh, and my family and I have no problem with this,” he added.

Shahzad said that he is happy that even after 75 years his mother has found her lost brother.

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