The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a reminder to the West Bengal’s Secretary of Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare to expedite the work of conducting a survey along with Indian Institute of Science over the conditions of victims of Sonagachi from social, legal and health point of view and submit the report within 10 weeks.
New Delhi [India], August 21 : Adjudicating a petition filed by noted civil liberties activist, human rights lawyer and Supreme Court advocate, Radhakanta Tripathy, the NHRC passed the order. The petitioner, Tripathy, alleged that victim women are suffering from rape or sexual abuse and human trafficking at Kolkata’s Sonagachi due to the alleged inaction and negligence of state mechanism. He narrated the ordeal of the area and the plight of the sex workers from health, family, social and psychological and legal points of view.
Requesting the NHRC to address the issue of human rights of residents, victims of the largest red-light area of Asia, Tripathy sought for a comprehensive report with recommendations for the state and central government to follow in a time-bound manner.
The Secretary Department of Women and Child Development of the West Bengal government, in its detailed report, had informed the Commission about the steps taken to deal with the issue of human trafficking. In response, Tripathy requested to investigate the case by special monitor NHRC dealing with women trafficking.
The NHRC had transmitted the comments of Tripathy to West Bengal’s Chief Secretary to submit the report about the policy framed to check or prevent such type of sex-trade and brothel in Sonagachchi and compliance of Supreme Court directions in the matter of Budhdev Karmaskar against West Bengal, within six weeks.
The NHRC also directed the Principal Secretary of West Bengal’s Department of Women and Child Development, Union Health Ministry and West Bengal’s Chief Secretary to conduct a survey along with the Indian Institute of Science over the conditions of victims of Sonagachi from social, legal and health point of view and submit the report.
In response, the Under Secretary of the Union Health Ministry, in its report has informed the Commission that they have prepared the detailed guidelines and protocols on medico-legal care for survivors and victims of sexual violence. In this regard, various reminders have also been sent to states and UTs for implementation of the same. Regular follow up and meetings were also conducted in this regard. However, no report has been received from state authorities concerned.
Tripathy who also filed the case, pertaining to the plight of sex workers across India, during the COVID pandemic, stated that the approach of the governments is below expectation and lacks political will also.
The West Bengal authorities and government said that the Kolkata Police has taken various steps to prevent the sex trade in the Sonagachi area. The surveillance is maintained and specific intelligence is collected in collaboration with NGOs working in this field.
“In last five years in Sonagachi, 19 cases relating to human trafficking were recorded, 51 accused were arrested and 58 victims were rescued. Anti Human Traffic Unit, a specialized section has been established in the Detective Department of the Kolkata police. In Kolkata during the last five years, AHTU DD has recorded a total of 94 cases under the IT(P) Act and a total of 752 accused persons have been arrested and 146 victim girls have been rescued,” the WB government said.
“The main objective of the government scheme was to provide the opportunity for a dignified life by providing alternative career opportunities for sex workers and victims of sex trafficking. It was further informed to the Commission that matter is being actively pursued with the Indian Institute of Science regarding conducting the survey along with Indian Institute of Science over the condition of the victims of Sonagachhi,” it added. (