How we raided a GB Road brothel to rescue her
Vasantha, a widow and mother of a girl, was sold by a fellow worker's mother in Bangalore where she worked in a garments factory as a tailor.
- Total Shares
It was business as usual at brothel 59 in Delhi's GB Road, which houses more than 4,000 sex workers. What was unusual on the night of June 23 was the deliberate gait of Sameer Tyagi, a regular client of this brothel. Sameer appeared a bit jaded, busy on the phone, scanning the faces of about 20 odd garishly painted faces of women as they waited around for the next deal. It was 10pm, humid and a Bollywood number was playing loudly.
"Naya muniya laye ho kya (have you got a new girl?)" asked one of the older sex workers pointing towards me as I walked up the stairs to the second floor with casually dressed police officers from the Crime Branch of Delhi Police. Within few seconds, anti-trafficking activists of the NGO Shakti Vahini were also clambering up the stairs. All hell broke loose as the sex workers, pimps and customers realised that this is a police raid. We were there to rescue Vasantha (name changed) a 18-year-old girl from Kolar, Karnataka. Sameer had given the NGO information about Vasantha wanting to get out of the brothel. The police and the team from the NGO asked some of the women about Vasantha as no one from the raiding team knew what she looked like. There were no answers.
Sameer was standing at a distance from us and watching the goings on intently. He called one of the Shakti Vahini members, told her Vasantha's location and what she was wearing. As we moved towards the room, the brothel manager and some pimps blocked our way. There was some pushing, shoving, expletives, shouting and then we entered a dimly lit, dank room. A thin, frightened girl dressed in a black micro mini and a pink floral shirt was sitting on a bed, anxiety writ large on her face. "Are you Vasantha from Karnataka?" asked one of the police officers. The frightened girl looked nervously around and shook her head. We asked her again and informed her that we were here to take her out of the brothel and send her back home. At this Vasantha leapt out of bed and quickly fell at one of the police officers feet. "Please get me out of here. Don't leave me behind. They will kill me," Vasantha said as she tightly held on to the officer's legs. She refused to go out of the brothel dressed as she was and picked up some clothes and money.
Escorted by police officers and members from Shakti Vahini, Vasantha literally ran out of the brothel. Her medical examination revealed that she was severely abused. According to her statement recorded by the medical officer, Vasantha was forced to sleep with nearly 30 men in a day for only Rs 310 per customer. She was not given any money and would be roughed up by pimps and the brothel manager if she failed to get tips from customers.
Vasantha, a widow and mother of a girl, was sold to this brothel by a fellow worker's mother in Bangalore where she worked in a garments factory as a tailor. She arrived in Delhi in April this year and is looking forward to go home to her parents. Rishi Kant, co-founder of the NGO, Shakti Vahini who has conducted more than 100 raids to rescue hapless women and girls trapped in brothels, and who supervised Vasantha's rescue, has deputed his team members to regularly check buses and trains coming from certain areas of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as traffickers constantly invent new tricks to evade detection.
"The process of victim rehabilitation and victim compensation is very complex and slow. The Delhi government pays only Rs 50,000 to victims of trafficking and even that amount takes years to reach the victim. The court cases last long and the lawyers representing the traffickers vilify and intimidate the victims so much that in most cases the harassed victims settle the case out of court for very little money. Therefore conviction rates in human trafficking cases are low and take years to reach conclusion. This is a huge battle and must be fought well", Rishi said.
Interestingly Uttar Pradesh government pays three lakh rupees to a victim of human trafficking and has taken several measures to combat trafficking from Nepal post the devastating earthquakes recently. With Nepal police releasing a report on June 7 which says that cases of human trafficking in Nepal have increased by 50 per cent after the earthquake, the UP government's home department has swung into action.
UP shares a nearly 619km-long porous border with Nepal making it difficult to check traffickers. It organised a meeting on June 11 under the aegis of its home department. The meeting involved participation of district magistrates and police officials of the eight districts bordering Nepal - Gorakhpur, Maharajgunj, Kushinagar, Bharaich, Sravasti, Siddharthnagar, Pilibhit and Balrampur along with Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel, representatives of the UNICEF and Shakti Vahini.
According to Kamal Saxena, secretary, home department of UP the frequency of human trafficking is 3.5 times more than murders in the country and that the crime needs to be tackled with alacrity and in a focussed manner. "We have delegated responsibilities to all 35 anti-human trafficking units in the state and have also made provisions for their training by Shakti Vahini and have also directed the police and the SSB to share intelligence for better coordination. The shelter homes need to be upgraded and the police need to be sensitised police so that they act with speed when they have credible information on trafficking. We have to put our house in order before we take the best practices to the neighbouring states of Bihar and West Bengal where a great deal of trafficking is reported from", said Saxena. The state government is drawing up a plan to spend the budgeted two crores rupees as compensation to victims of trafficking.
To encourage the local population to report instances of trafficking, all checkpoints in the mentioned districts will now have large hoardings declaring human trafficking as an offence and will have numbers of relevant people in the district administration, police, NGOs and other stakeholders. CCTVs will also be installed on all checkpoints and profile of traffickers with iris identification will all become digital.
West Bengal and Bihar is yet to organise their response and increase their vigil in the face of increased threat of trafficking from across the border. For girls like Vasantha whose client became her rescuer, the battle for a normal life begins.