The Telegraph
Tuesday , February 19 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Skills training to curb flesh trade

New Delhi, Feb. 18: The rural development ministry has decided to provide skill-based training to girls in areas that have reported cases of human trafficking, particularly in Bengal and two other states, according to a plan experts feel would check the scourge.

The plan is to train the girls through self-help groups and “link” each of these groups to banks for funds.

The idea, one expert said, was to “improve their economic condition” so that they could take “informed” decisions. Similar training activities will be held in areas where manual scavenging is high.

The ministry has decided to focus the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), a flagship scheme also known as Aajeevika, on creating more self-help groups (SHGs). “The idea is to create more SHGs, link each SHG to a bank so that they get finance, provide skill training to women and arrange jobs in private organisations wherever possible,” minister Jairam Ramesh told The Telegraph.

“The idea is that at least one woman from every poor family should be a member of an SHG and should be able to take advantage of the Aajeevika scheme in areas witnessing intense women trafficking and manual scavenging.”

The mission plans to cover a target of seven crore BPL households through self-help groups. According to the scheme, these groups would be provided finance from banks and access to market-based institutions to sell their products. At present, there are 25 lakh such groups with three crore women members.

While nearly 80 per cent of these groups have been created in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the mission’s implementation has remained poor in the east.

Ramesh said the new approach, based on training through NGOs and government organisations to impart entrepreneurial skills and handling of jobs in BPOs and retail stores, would focus on Bengal, Andhra, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. A similar scheme, Himayat, has been launched in Jammu and Kashmir.

The initiative assumes significance in the backdrop of high prevalence of trafficking of women from eastern and southern states who are pushed into forced labour or flesh trade in other states.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Bengal accounted for 87 of 113 reported cases of selling of girls for prostitution in 2011. The NCRB data for the same year suggested 2,435 girls were victims of immoral trafficking. Girls from Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra, Jharkhand, Odisha and Tamil Nadu accounted for 80 per cent cases.

“The main reasons for trafficking are poverty and poor law enforcement. The move to have a focused NRLM to provide employment opportunities for girls will definitely improve their economic condition and enable them to take informed decisions,” said Ravi Kant, a member of a panel appointed by the Supreme Court to suggest rehab measures for trafficked women and sex workers.

Professor G.G. Wankhede, of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, said rehabilitation of manual scavengers through alternative employment opportunities was important. But the “mindset of people has to change also”, he said.