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NGOs take the lead in saving domestic helps in distress

Vishnu Sukumaran, New Delhi, Oct 12, 2013 in The Deccan Herald:

Though police mount raids and catch culprits, it’s the activists who feed them information.

Rescue operations to save trafficked girls and young women are usually planned by NGOs, who seek police’s help for gathering information and conducting raids. 

Police have established anti-human trafficking unit (AHTU) in all districts with the Crime Branch of Delhi Police as the nodal agency.

According to a police officer, swift action is taken on the basis of information developed by them or a on tip-off from an NGO. After the raids, police are responsible for tracing and arresting employers, while the rescued girls are handed over to the Child Welfare Committee or shelter homes.

On its own the Crime Branch, however, managed to bust only four human trafficking rackets, which include sex trade, last year. Altogether, Delhi Police were involved in 129 operations, conducted with the help of NGOs, rescuing 240 girls. Over 20 people were also arrested in 16 cases registered against placement agencies. 

Among the NGOs, Shakti Vahini has been appointed as the nodal NGO by Nanakpura Special Police Unit for Women and Children for two districts in the capital — New Delhi and east Delhi. 

All the NGOs have an active network among domestic workers in the capital, and help organise raids for rescue operations. They also provide legal support to rescued victims in addition to providing translators, transport and accommodation facilities for court hearings and legal counselling. 

Rishi Kant of NGO Shakti Vahini says apart from local police, they also get requests from police from other states and the CID for assistance in rescue operations in Delhi and NCR. 

“Our network in NCR helps state AHTUs to conduct rescue operations, and we are in a better position to link police officers from other states with local police,” Kant adds.

It becomes crucial as most domestic helps in the capital come from other states. 

NGOs further reckon that a sensitive and informed police ensure better assistance to victims. Accordingly, steps have been taken to sensitise police officers at the police station level about human trafficking issues.

Shakti Vahini conducts four training sessions every week in different police stations. When it comes to sexual harassment of domestic help by employers, NGO Jagori says that women find it difficult to report such incidents and are forced to remain silent. “The power dynamics between employers and employees and fear of discrimination or dismissal also ensure that they keep silent,” a report says.

Other women’s organisations that have addressed the issue point out that domestic workers do not have the confidence or the forum to share their experiences of abuse. The lack of any institutional support makes it more difficult to report sexual harassment. “When domestic workers protest against any form of sexual harassment, they are threatened with loss of employment or accusations of theft,” the report added. As a result of this, most of the rescue operations are conducted on the basis of secret information. 


The NGOs also work towards victim rehabilitation and repatriation. After a rescue operation, counsellors accompany police in the production of the victim before legal officers. “Post rescue, counselling is provided to victims, which helps them to overcome the trauma and testify before magistrates,” says Zarine Khan of NGO Prayas. They also volunteer in tracing the victim’s families and repatriation

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