New Delhi: Only three out of 429 human traffickers in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have been convicted in the past 10 years, according to a new study that analysed case documents such as charge sheets, FIRs and police general diaries related to 198 such cases.The study was conducted by several NGOs such as HELP in Andhra Pradesh, Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra and Partners for Anti-Trafficking (PAT) – a consortium of eight community-based organisations in West Bengal. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’It found that 68 human traffickers have been given bail, and investigation linked to five accused have been continuing for over a decade now. The study also revealed that 31 out of the 429 human traffickers appear to be repeat offenders who are accused in multiple cases of human trafficking, and all their victims were children and adolescents. These 31 have committed 91 (or 19 per cent) of total crimes analysed for this research. The study found that out of the 429 named offenders only three have been convicted with punishments ranging between five to seven years of imprisonment, whereas 10 have been acquitted due to lack of evidence in cases that continued over several years. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KInvestigation in the rest of the cases is underway. “The low conviction and high acquittal figures found in the research cast doubts in the efficacy of investigation by law-enforcement agencies in human trafficking cases,” said Snigdha Sen, who conducted the analysis by studying legal documents availed from courts and police stations. Sen, who is also an activist, studied these cases that involved more than 173 survivors of human trafficking from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. “The findings reaffirm the belief that traffickers enjoy a high degree of impunity because of the lacklustre investigation, and lack of retribution encourages them to carry on with their crimes that leads to surge in incidents of human trafficking,” she added. The research indicated that currently, traffickers – who are in the business of recruiting girls and young women and selling them off in Maharashtra, Delhi, Telangana or Goa – have little accountability to the system. “As they grow wealthier, they recruit others to join them in spotting, recruiting and trafficking other vulnerable children and adolescents. The reason these investigations are so prolonged and prosecutions are so weak is that over 99 per cent of these cases are investigated by police of local police stations, who have restricted time and resources for their investigation,” said co-researcher Roop Sen, a human rights activist who has been working on the issue for over 20 years.
TORONTO – A unilateral decision by Premier Doug Ford to slash the size of Toronto’s city council in half has dismayed at least one other big city mayor in Ontario.In an interview from Hamilton, Mayor Fred Eisenberger denounced Ford for announcing out of the blue his plan to legislate the change in the province’s largest city without any feedback from either local politicians or citizens just months before municipal elections take place.“I’m shocked and surprised that at this late hour, that such a dramatic change was proposed or was to be made, certainly without any public consultation, which is the most egregious part,” Eisenberger said in an interview on Friday.“Just to do this, without any of that, seems to me undemocratic and unhelpful in terms of providing the public at large an opportunity to have their say.”Like many other local governments in Ontario, including Toronto, Hamilton has been through amalgamation and ward changes, the mayor said. The city, after amalgamation in 2000, went from 78 councillors in six municipalities to 16 — including the mayor — in one. For the coming election, one ward has been scrapped and another created.All of this was done only after “extensive” public engagement, Eisenberger said.Under planned and approved ward changes, Toronto was to have had 47 councillors after October’s election, up from 44. The change would have left undisturbed the approximate ratio of one councillor to roughly 61,000 residents.Ford, who never mentioned the Toronto plan during last month’s provincial election, said on Friday that for Toronto to have nearly four dozen councillors is excessive and that he would legislate the number at 25 — almost doubling the ratio of councillor to resident to well over 100,000 — far higher than say the one-to-45,000 in Hamilton.The Progressive Conservative premier said it would make the city run more efficiently and save millions of taxpayer dollars.Toronto Mayor John Tory called Ford’s action an affront to democracy and said the change was being “rammed down our throats.”Eisenberger said cutting the number of Toronto councillors makes some practical sense in terms of governance.“Sixteen is difficult enough; working with 47 would be virtually impossible,” he said. “The way it’s been done, though, and not giving the people an opportunity to have their voice heard on that issue is undemocratic and unfortunate.”The Association of Municipalities of Ontario refused to comment on Ford’s planned course of action, saying it didn’t discuss issues related to individual local governments, and that Toronto has its own special relationship with the province.Eisenberger said he hoped Ford’s declaration didn’t mean the all-important working relationship between municipalities and the provincial government to which they are largely beholden was headed for difficult times.“I would hope it’s not a dictatorial approach but a collaborative one,” Eisenberger said. “Signs like these aren’t positive ones in terms of that direction.”