Pandemic and Aftermath
The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified all existing inequalities. ‘We were not equal before the pandemic, and we have not been equal in the face of it. Those who were poor before it have become poorer; those who were disadvantaged now face even greater disadvantages.’ Disadvantages have become prominent, according to various segments of the population. The case of older people is emblematic. Health vulnerabilities, changed social setting, lockdown measures have further isolated them from families, and their immediate community. The children are the worst sufferers. Now where is the right of the child? Their right to school, right to play, right to food, and protection and safety of their childhood are derided. Their mental health is badly affected. They are now victims of domestic violence. The children from poor families are today further involved in various informal work. Number of child labour is daily increasing. It has been noticed that the National Child Labour project of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India is no more functioning. Consequently, their retention to work and out of learning has become prominent. But no one is concerned about this. Everybody is trying to save from the virus. But what would be the scenario in the future? The children of better-off families are in both physical and psychological crisis. They are victims of obesity disorder and they are in depression and anxiety. It results their inattentiveness, arrogance, and impatience in their daily life.

The pandemic has also exposed the ubiquity of gender inequality. Domestic violence increases in their daily lives. Women are kept in subordinate role. One can see ‘the persistence of violence against women and the increasing attempts to limit women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, which are the result of ingrained patterns of inequalities between women and men.’ Now, there is need for better rights, for their better survival.

People of India (both in organised and unorganised section) have lost their workers’ right. Hunger and other discomforts for minimal standard of living are disrupted. But there is no need-based action taken by the responsible democratic government.
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

Sex Trafficking
On 14 July 2021 Border Security Force, Frontier Head Quarter North Bengal, Siliguri released one press statement with proud that their troops of 61 Battalion BSF apprehended a Bangladeshi woman namely Halima Begum, aged about 35 years, daughter of Abdul Hanib, resident of village Hamar, Madanpur Bhogduma, P.O. & P.S. Birganj, Dist. Danajpur, Bangladesh during the time of crossing international border from India to Bangladesh through unfenced area of Hili Border Out Post. In the said press release it was officially informed to the public that the victim woman was trafficked fifteen years ago through Malda border with the help of an Indian tout namely Samrat resident of Bihar. Smrat took her to district Mansa, Punjab where the victim was sold to an Indian national namely Mr. Sarjit Singh for Rs. 10,000/- who exploited and kept the victim at his home for eleven years and gave birth to a child. The victim somehow escaped from the house of Sarjit Singh and reached Mansa bus stand where she met an unknown lady who handed over her to one Mr. Tota Singh and he also exploited her. The victim was managed to escape from his house and somehow reached Hili, South Dinajpur district in West Bengal to cross the international border with intention to meet her family in Bangladesh and that time she was apprehended by the BSF and handed over to Hili Police Station for legal action.

From this official statement of the BSF, Frontier Head Quarter North Bengal with pictures and documents released for Press, it is revealed that victim had no intention or purpose to illegally enter in India rather she is a victim of sex trafficking and for last fifteen years she was exploited by two Indians and gave birth one child.

BSF 61 Battalion apprehended the victim lady and handed over to the Hili Police station for registration a case. Here again Border Security Force authority and police officials of Hili Police Station violates the advisory issued by the Government of India vide office memorandum No. 14051/14/2011-F.VI of Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) Govern-ment of India dated 1st May, 2012 where it was clearly stated that the foreign victims of human trafficking are found without valid passport or visa and where woman or child is found to be a victim, she should not be prosecuted under Foreigners Act and immediate action must be taken to repatriate the victim.
Kirity Roy
Secretary, MASUM &
National Convener, PACTI

Permanent Lock-Down
'I am no stranger to lockdowns. They were the norm while I was growing up in Kashmir. I was seven when I experienced the first set of sweeping restrictions put on our movement. The curbs were imposed in January 1990 to stem further protests after scores protesting against overnight house-to-house searches were hemmed in and shot dead on a bridge over the Jhelum. It was the first of the many massacres that year, which fuelled the ongoing insurrection. We were confined to our houses in its aftermath for three weeks. Shoot-at-sight orders were in place and our neighbourhoods were suddenly swarmed by men in khaki from all over India. A cousin had a narrow escape when he was fired upon for stepping out during the lockdown. No one dared to venture out thereafter to even get essentials. We fell back on our winter stocks and were forced to survive for the longest time in recent memory on lentils'.
Sameer Arshad Khatlani
New Delhi

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Vol. 54, No. 9, Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2021