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Special teams handle arrival of African dignitaries

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New Delhi: Even as senior ministers and officials from Africa have started arriving for pre-summit consultations, special teams have been formed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) to ensure the smooth arrival of the dignitaries – from kings, to presidents to prime ministers – for the October 26-29 India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS).

The sheer task of handling the aerial logistics is a daunting challenge in itself.

“The aviation logistics is a key area, as it is entry point for the dignitaries for the event,” a senior government official, who is in the know of transit arrangements, told IANS.

“For this purpose, we have formed special teams comprising air traffic control (ATC) and ground handling personnel at IGIA to track and handle the large contingent of foreign dignitaries who will arrive for the summit.”

These teams will work to coordinate the aerial movements of arriving dignitaries.

“We have stationed enough manpower and equipment to easily handle the communication, navigation, surveillance (CNS), air traffic management (ATM) and ground handling services for the arriving dignitaries,” the official said.

He pointed out that airspace over the IGI airport will not be closed to cater to the VVIP aerial movements.

“Nowadays, airspace restrictions are not imposed during VVIP movements. However, special teams do handle the monitoring and surveillance of such flights. This will also be accorded to the flights ferrying the dignitaries,” the official said.

However, special protocols will be followed to administer smooth transit to and from the airport.

“We will make sure that the aircraft are not kept waiting on ground to take off or circling in the sky for getting a landing slot. Arrangements have been made in advance so that these circumstances do not arise,” the official said.

Another senior government official associated with organising the event said that the dignitaries will start arriving from October 26-27 and start departing from Oct 29.

“Many of the dignitaries are arriving here by scheduled flights. Nearly half of the visiting dignitaries will be ferried by chartered jets or state-owned aircraft,” said the official.

The dignitaries travelling by scheduled flights will be formally received by the MEA (ministry of external affairs) officials at the IGIA’s Terminal-3 (T3) area known as the Canyon. This enormous area, that also houses the immigration counters, is resplendent with large-scale models of ‘hand dance mudras’ (gestures).

Chartered or state-owned aircraft have been allotted dedicated parking bays which will be connected to the airport terminal via aerobridges. Dignitaries arriving by these flights will then be received in the same manner as those who arrive by scheduled flights.

Dedicated parking bays and contact stands have already been allotted to the dignitaries coming through private jets or state-owned aircraft, the official said.

He said that a few dignitaries will disembark at bays located at the technical area of the Indian Air Force. This is being done on the request of the protocol staff of some of the visiting delegations.

On the parking of aircraft, the official said that there is ample airside space and bays available to handle all the private jets and state-owned aircraft.

“Unlike other mega diplomatic events of the past, when few aircraft were parked in nearby airports such as Agra or Jaipur due to shortage of space in Delhi, this time around there is enough parking space available at the IGIA,” the official added.

On the city side, apart from the well manicured landscapes, the roads to and from the airport will sport the Indian flag along with those of the 54 African nations.

(Rohit Vaid,IANS)

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)