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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
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– 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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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.