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Flood-hit eastern region in India ‘raises risk’ of Women, Children being sold into slavery

India alone is home 40 percent of the world's estimated 45.8 million slaves, according to a 2016 global slavery index published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation

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An aerial view of a flooded village on the outskirts of Allahabad, India, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

– by Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI, August 28, 2016: India’s flood-hit eastern region are at risk of being preyed upon by human traffickers and Women and children are being sold into slavery in middle-class homes, restaurants, and shops and even brothels, warned aid workers on Friday.

Heavy monsoon rains have caused rivers including the Ganges and its tributaries to burst their banks, forcing more than 200,000 people into relief camps in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand.

The deluge has killed at least 300 people, submerged thousands of mud-and-brick villages and destroyed large swathes of farmland – affecting millions of people across the five states.

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Charities working in the worst affected regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh said trafficking was widespread in the aftermath of previous disasters in the region, such as last year’s earthquake in neighboring Nepal and floods in Bihar in 2008.

“Children are always the most vulnerable during emergencies – especially during floods, when families are forced to move to higher ground, leaving their homes for an extended period of time,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children India.

“While a child’s parents may not always remain in their close proximity, and with the presence of strangers, the threat of sexual abuse and child trafficking is high. There are organized groups of offenders who are quick to seize opportunities to exploit the plight of children.”

South Asia is the fastest-growing and second-largest region for human trafficking in the world, after East Asia, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime.

India alone is home 40 percent of the world’s estimated 45.8 million slaves, according to a 2016 global slavery index published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

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Thousands of children, mostly from poor rural areas, are taken to cities every year by gangs who sell them into bonded labor or hire them out to unscrupulous employers.

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Many end up as domestic workers or laborers in brick kilns, roadside restaurants or small textile and embroidery workshops. Many women and girls are sold into brothels.

Experts say post-disaster human trafficking has become common in South Asia as an increase in extreme events caused by global warming leave the already poor even more vulnerable.

The breakdown of social institutions in devastated areas creates difficulties in securing food and humanitarian supplies, leaving women and children at risk of kidnapping, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.

“CHILD-FRIENDLY SPACES”

Government officials in Bihar said they were aware of the risk of exploitation and were working with charities such as Save The Children, ActionAid, and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF to curb instances of trafficking.

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“Before the current floods, we had held meetings early this month on the issue of human trafficking,” said Imamudin Ahmad, Director of Bihar’s social welfare department.

“We are sensitizing people and are involving everyone including the police department, labor  department, and social welfare departments.”

Officials added that authorities were also checking trains, often used to transport victims, originating from impoverished districts where children labor is commonly sourced.

With schools destroyed or shut down, aid agencies said they were creating “child-friendly spaces” to give children a safe environment to play, learn and be with their families.

“The company of others, along with trained facilitators, ensures that children are able to discuss their challenges and reduce their anxiety,” said Rafay Hussain, General Manager for Save the Children in Bihar.

“From our experience, we have seen that children need the company of their parents, family, and friends during such crises – and every effort should be made to ensure that they do remain in such company, for their safety and overall well-being.”

India usually experiences monsoons from June to September which are crucial for its agriculture sector, making up 18 percent of its gross domestic product and employing almost half the country’s 1.3 billion people.

But in many states, the rains frequently cause landslides and flooding that wash away crops, demolish homes and devastate livelihoods – pushing already impoverished families to the brink.

The floods in Bihar this year have killed at least 130 people. Almost one million people across 24 of Bihar’s 38 districts have been evacuated from their homes and are either in relief camps or have sought shelter on embankments and roads.

Television pictures showed people wading shoulder-high in floodwaters or sitting on the rooftops of partially submerged buildings, while others were seen climbing into boats as they were rescued by India’s disaster response teams.

Authorities said that they had managed to reach most affected communities, but aid agencies working in the state said rescue and relief efforts fell short of what was needed.

“We have also been working with the administration providing status updates, offering support and coordinating efforts. However all flood relief efforts are inadequate in terms of the scope and extent of the crisis,” said Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid India.

“In particular, many areas reported a shortage of boats. We need greater effort in building disaster preparedness and ensuring rapid response to emergency rescue and relief.” (Reuters)

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Report Claims, As Many As 1 Billion Indians Live in Areas of Water Scarcity

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater -- 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater -- 12 per cent of the global total.

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Global groundwater depletion - where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally - increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India's rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period. Pixabay

As many as one billion people in India live in areas of physical water scarcity, of which 600 million are in areas of high to extreme water stress, according to a new report.

Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid.

This number is expected to go up to five billion by 2050, said the report titled “Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019”, released to mark World Water Day on March 22.

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Pure water droplet. Pixabay

Physical water scarcity is getting worse, exacerbated by growing demand on water resources and and by climate and population changes.

By 2040 it is predicted that 33 countries are likely to face extremely high water stress – including 15 in the Middle East, most of Northern Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Spain. Many – including India, China, Southern Africa, USA and Australia – will face high water stress.

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Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid. Pixabay

Global groundwater depletion – where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally – increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India’s rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period.

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The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater — 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater — 12 per cent of the global total.

The WaterAid report warned that food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries are making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply as high-income countries buy products with considerable “water footprints” – the amount of water used in production — from water-scarce countries. (IANS)