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Maharashtra trafficking case: 16 held for flesh trade

68 women were rescued in January 2017 in a joint raid carried out by Rescue Foundation and Shahada police, after which the police had arrested two brothel owners in Nandurbar

mumbai Updated: May 27, 2018 00:46 IST
Megha Sood
Megha Sood
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Nandurbar trafficking case,Nandurbar
The accused hail from Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajastan, West Bengal and Odisha.(PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATION)

Sixteen months after 68 women were rescued at Nandurbar, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Maharashtra director general of police Satish Mathur has arrested 16 middlemen and women who allegedly lured the parents of the women with money and then sold them to brothels in Nandurbar.

The 16 accused were arrested at different instances throughout the month of May. They hail from Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Odisha.

On January 10, 2017, 68 women were rescued in a joint raid carried out by Rescue Foundation and Shahada police, after which the police had arrested two brothel owners in Nandurbar.

The SIT was formed after the Supreme Court came down heavily on Shahada police when they informed the SC that they had no clue how 68 women, including those from Rajasthan, ended up at brothels in Maharashtra.

The court had then suggested that there could be an inter-state trafficking network , and ordered the DG to probe the case.

Rescue Foundation had filed a petition in the Aurangabad high court stating that since January 10, 2017, the police had made little progress in tracking down the main criminals who had trafficked the girls, many of whom are minors, to Shahada from across the country.

The petition stated that the police were not interested in digging deep into the inter-state and cross-border trafficking racket.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was informed of the formation of the SIT by Mathur on April 3, 2018. Mathur also nominated inspector general Krishna Prakash (Prevention of Atrocities Against Women and Children) to head the SIT, which was being headed by an additional superintendent of police at Nandurbar.

The SIT, with the assistance of Rescue Foundation and statements of the parents of the rescued persons, found out that they had been lured by middlemen in their respective states with money on the promise of securing for them the job of a domestic help in Maharashtra.

The SIT also found that these middlemen or pimps sold them to brothels in Shahada. “We investigated the call data records, mobile locations and bank statements of these accused and confirmed that they had sold the girls for a profit to the brothel owners,” said the officer.

The arrested persons have been identified as Pundalik Gorakh Marathe, 47, Javed Fakir, 32, Sunil Thackrey, 26, Kiran Sonawane, 28, Gokul Chavan, 20, Puja Thackrey, 37, Kalambai Mahire, 60 and Babybai Sonwane, 45, from Maharashtra, Renu Paswan, 32, from Bihar, Jagmohan Ishwarlal Chadi, 49, Ramansingh Karmawat, 27, Pradhan Karmawat, 40 and Mumtaz Karmawat, 42, from Rajasthan, Shivlibibi Shaikh, 35 and Lakshmi Patel, 42, from West Bengal and Mamta Yadav, 50, from Odisha.

SIT seized a car which was used to transport the women to the clients and to brothels, mobile phones and bank statements of the accused. The SIT has also sent a proposal to the district Legal Aids Authority for compensation to four minor girls from 12 years to 17 years under the ‘Manodhairya’ scheme. The DG of Maharashtra spoke to the Rajasthan DG and discussed the issue of human trafficking between the two states. The DG stated that among other areas the Kota range, Bundi and Tonk are prominent where the crime is committed.

Freedom at last

On January 10, 2017, 68 women were rescued in a joint raid at Nandurbar carried out by Rescue Foundation and Shahada police, after which the police had arrested two brothel owners

Of these, seven were found to be minors and sent to rehabilitation homes. The remaining 61 women were also later sent to rehabilitation homes

Out of the remaining 61 women, 18 were found to be minors

A week later, people claiming to be the parents of rescued persons came forward to claim their custody. In February 2017 the justice magistrate ordered the release of the girls who were in the care of Rescue Foundation. The foundation then approached the Aurangabad bench of Mumbai high court to oppose this order as it said many of the girls were sent by the parents to the brothels through middlemen

The foundation argued that after the orders by the magistrate, 25 women, which included 16 minors, were released by rehabilitation homes in Nandurbar. They refused to give up the remaining 40-odd women in their custody. “We argued that they feared that the girls claimed by people claiming to be their parents would wind up again in the flesh trade business,” said Triveni Acharya, founder of Rescue Foundation

Later, 11 girls who were being made to stay in a shelter in Nandurbar escaped on April 25, 2017

“We are in constant touch with the SIT in rehabilitation of the victims and are planning to hold a discussion with the Ministry of External Affairs to discuss the cross border trafficking. We are also studying the economic and social backgrounds of the areas from where these 68 persons were trafficked to Nandurbar,” said Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of Maharashtra State Commission for Women.

State’s role

The state government has constituted special cells in 12 vulnerable districts and set up special courts for speedy trial of trafficking cases. The conviction rate in such cases is 50% (in Maharashtra)

Maharashtra CM and home minister Devendra Fadnavis said 10,000 children were rescued by police under a special initiative called ‘Operation Muskan’ since 2015

Human trafficking cases registered in Maharashtra

2014 --- 733

2015 --- 1027

2016 --- 918

In 2016, top three states in terms of women trafficked from each state

West Bengal --- 2,064

Maharashtra ---- 1,379

Rajasthan --- 909

(Source: National Crime Records Bureau)

First Published: May 27, 2018 00:46 IST