By Darshana Daga, Pune Mirror

Number of survivors in state rescue homes has remained stagnant due to Bangladesh government’s laxity; Maha authorities say awareness also low

For Bangladeshi women trafficked into India and living in rescue homes in Maharashtra, life is at a standstill. Despite being rescued by the government, they remain at a loose end as the repatriation process is disturbingly lax, sometimes taking up to two years.

Though the Indian government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Bangladeshi government on the prevention of human trafficking, especially of women and children, ground realities have not changed. According to the Women and Child Commissionerate of Maharashtra, the Bangladeshi government is doing little to get things moving.

There are 118 Bangladeshi women living in government rescue homes in the state, of which 30 are from Pune. On July 15, a batch of 29 women was repatriated by the Maharashtra government. The last repatriation took place six months ago.

KM Nagargoje, commissioner of the Women and Child Commissionerate, said, “The number of Bangladeshi women in the state has remained between 120 and 130 for the past three years. Repatriation takes a long time, sometimes even two or three years in some cases.”

Nagargoje added, “Last month, I had conducted a meeting to deal with the issue. But, the task force from Bangladesh did not bother to attend. There are other issues, such as passport requirements, which could also delay the process. There are also approvals required at different levels. Before repatriating a woman, we need nods from the home ministry, external affairs ministry, state police, women and child commissionerate of the state and district level women and child office. But, these approvals do not take time; it only verification from Bangladesh which causes delays.”

“During earlier meetings, I noticed the absence of skilled police officers with motivation and adequate training in Bangladesh. Also, there is not enough awareness created by the government,” Nagargoje said.

A Bangladeshi woman from the Rescue Foundation home in Hadapsar, said, “I have been here for the last six months. My case has been passed by the Indian government and I am impatiently waiting for a response from the Bangladeshi government, but in vain. I am starting to lose hope.”

Another Bangladeshi woman from the same home said, “I have been here for eight months and nothing has moved. Whenever I call my parents, I ask them if they have received any letter from the government. But, there is nothing.”

A Bangladeshi woman from the Government Rescue home at Mundhwa, said, “I have been for the last one-and-a-half years. The Bangladeshi police have demanded Rs 20,000 from my parents to clear the verification of my documents. But, my parents could not afford it. Now they have started saving money so that I can go home.”

Another woman from the home, said, “I was cheated by an agent who asked me not to reveal my Bangladeshi identity and that he would help to go home. For the first three months that I was here, I pretended to be from West Bengal. Only after counselling did I come to know that the agent wanted me to continue in the business of prostitution and that he couldn’t have sent me back to my country. IT’s been at least a year and I have not got my address proof verified by the Bangladesh government.”

Meanwhile, quite unlike their counterparts in Bangladesh, the Nepal government has put in major efforts to repatriate women from their country.

Said Nagargoje, “There are hardly any Nepali trafficked women in the state rescue homes. There’s currently only one in the state and, for the last two years, only one or two have been rescued and sent to Nepal within a month. The government, with the help of NGOs such as Maiti Nepal, has worked hard to not only reduce the time duration for repatriation but also to reduce trafficking cases.”

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