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Human trafficking

Bengal trafficking survivors write to Mamata Banerjee on compensation plea, again

The first letter, sent in the third week of August, had attached details of 29 cases

Debraj Mitra | Published 28.01.22, 09:44 AM
Representational image.

Representational image.

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A group of trafficking survivors has written to chief minister Mamata Banerjee seeking her intervention in disbursal of compensation cleared by the state but pending because of lack of funds.

The January 3 correspondence is the second from trafficking survivors to the chief minister in six months. 

The first letter, sent in the third week of August under the banner of three collectives called Utthan, Bijoyini and Bandhanmukti, had attached details of 29 cases — names of the survivors, date and amount of the orders.

The survivors are mostly from South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas districts. 

“There has been no movement since August. Not a single survivor has received compensation. Moreover, we have had more compensation orders since August,” said Sambhu Nanda, a rights activist who works with survivors in North 24-Parganas district.

An official of the West Bengal Legal Services Authority, the custodian of the corpus created by the government for the compensation, admitted the cash crunch.

“We did not have any money in the coffers for a long time last year. Towards the end of the year, we received Rs 50 lakh from the state government. The amount was disbursed accordingly. There are many survivors who have their compensation pending, like survivors of acid attacks, alongside trafficking victims. We have requested the government for more money,” said the official.

The compensation amounts are enablers, said rights activists. Many survivors have started small businesses of their own and the money would be a shot in the arm for them, said rights activists.

A survivor from Bongaon in North 24-Parganas district had a compensation order passed in February 2021. The order awarded her Rs 4.5 lakh. But she is yet to get the money.

The 22-year-old, a minor when she was rescued from Ahmedabad, is trying hard to lead a life of dignity and financial independence. The woman now lives with her husband and a three-year-old son. Two years ago, she started making and selling phenyl.

“I need two employees since the volume of the business has grown. I want to employ survivors like me. The money (from compensation) would have been of great help,” said the woman.

The January 3 letter was more of a reminder about the alleged inaction on the previous correspondence.

“We are very hopeful that you will respond… and ensure a speedy transfer of our victim compensation as soon as possible,” said the letter.

The August 24 letter was much more detailed.

“We decided to put our trust in the law, knowing that it will be difficult and long drawn. Now, at this point when we are told by our state government that they don’t have the funds, it leaves us feeling anxious, angry, and in despair,” the letter said.

“It is during these times of lockdown and pandemic that marginalised communities need the support of government policies the most — not only for immediate financial empowerment but also in order to ensure they don't fall into debt trap. Debt traps are a precursor to many forms of exploitation, trafficking included,” said Pompi Banerjee, psychologist and researcher with Sanjog, an organisation working on intersectional issues of gender, rights, migration and anti-human trafficking.

Last updated on 28.01.22, 09:45 AM
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