Most trafficking survivors unaware they're eligible for compensation; authorities must proactively ensure rehabilitation, legal aid

According to a recent study by anti-trafficking NGO Sanjog, only 77 survivors of human trafficking have received compensation from 2011 to 2019.

Roop Sen March 09, 2020 17:25:05 IST
Most trafficking survivors unaware they're eligible for compensation; authorities must proactively ensure rehabilitation, legal aid
  • A recent study shows that only a minuscule number of trafficking survivors have been granted compensation under Section 357A of the CrPC.

  • According to a recent study by anti-trafficking NGO Sanjog, only 77 survivors of human trafficking have received compensation from 2011 to 2019.

  • This, the study found, is largely because most survivors are not made aware about the relevant scheme in the first place.

In 2008, the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended and a new provision (Section 357A) was added to it to provide compensation for victims of crime. Among the provision’s intended beneficiaries are trafficking survivors — people who largely come from marginalised sections of society, and need financial assistance. However, a recent study shows that only a minuscule number of trafficking survivors have been granted compensation under the scheme mandated by the provision.

According to a recent study by anti-trafficking NGO Sanjog, only 77 survivors of human trafficking have received compensation in the country from 2011 to 2019. In this period, only 107 survivors applied for compensation. This, the study found, is largely because most survivors are not made aware about the relevant scheme in the first place. The NGO procured this data through the Right to Information (RTI).

Two trafficking survivors, Farzana and Sushil (both names changed to protect identity), testify to this. Both of them are members of ILFAT (India Leaders Forum Against Trafficking), an organisation of survivors of trafficking across eight states. They assert that neither police officers nor prosecutors, judges or social workers told them about the compensation scheme and the procedure to avail of it.

Most trafficking survivors unaware theyre eligible for compensation authorities must proactively ensure rehabilitation legal aid

Representational image. Reuters

The question arises as to who is responsible for the implementation of Section 357A of the CrPC. The researchers from Sanjog, Vipan Kumar and Nisha Mehroon, point out that the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) is responsible for the implementation of the scheme in each district. One aspect of “implementation” is adjudicating on claims, if such applications are made by survivors. Another aspect is to ensure that information on this legislation reaches the intended beneficiaries. There is a need for the State Legal Services Authorities to formulate a standardised strategy on how to make sure that trafficking survivors are informed about the scheme, and about how to seek assistance from legal aid lawyers to apply for it.

Even if survivors do apply for compensation, DLSAs in many cases do not help them in a proactive manner. This was seen in case studies of 55 survivors, which formed a part of this research. The research showed that trafficking survivors often lack the legal or medical records that are necessary to file claims.

The story of Asma (name changed) is instructive in this regard. Asma had been sold and forced into sex work at a Pune brothel for three years. After she was rescued, she was placed in the custody of an NGO and a police case was filed. However, she was never given a copy of the FIR — one copy remained with the police station and another copy remained in the custody of the NGO. When Asma returned to her family in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, she had neither the legal papers nor the medical papers related to her case. So, when she applied for compensation, she had no documentary proof to present before the DLSA. The authority asked the social worker in charge of her case to procure the documents, but the social worker, too, was unable to do so.

Later, Asma managed to get in touch with human rights lawyer Kaushik Gupta, who asked her to approach the local DLSA itself asking for help. Gupta informed her that it was the local authority’s responsibility to cross-check her claims with the DLSA in Pune, which would in turn be responsible for procuring documents related to her case.

Eventually, Asma got the compensation amount. However, the case brings to light the inadequacies of the present mechanism to deal with survivors.

The research conducted by Sanjog showed that most survivors of trafficking live in extreme poverty — most of them do not own land and are daily wage labourers. It underlines the need for authorities to assist survivors to source documents and other pieces of evidence, rather than transfer the burden of proof on them. The State Legal Services Authorities should also create a protocol for calculating the compensation amount, which would take into account not just trafficking but also injuries or other harm sustained due to the crime. Further, it should provide DLSAs with copies of key high court judgments in this regard, so that the authorities are made aware of the importance of this legislation.

The DLSAs, on their part, must ensure that survivors can access legal aid, not just at the level of the trial court, but also high courts, if necessary.

The author is a member of NGO Sanjog

Updated Date:

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