– Tribal area law to be recast to check trafficking
New Delhi, Dec. 28: A maid hired from a tribal zone without the panchayat’s sanction could bring a legal case of human trafficking if amendments planned to a poorly enforced law are carried through.
The changes are proposed in the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (Pesa), which aims to give tribal communities in 94 districts greater powers over land and resources. The zones are in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
If the amendments are passed, it will become mandatory for all those taking workers, especially unmarried women and minors, outside villages in the designated areas to seek the panchayat’s permission and provide it complete written information on the nature of the job, wages and working conditions. The onus would usually be on the placement agency but employers, too, could get embroiled in case of violations.
“The gram sabha shall be kept informed about workers, including unmarried women and minors, being taken out of their home district by any person for employment,’’ says a draft of the amendment prepared by the panchayati raj ministry.
Complete and correct information will have to be provided about any pre-job agreements. “If they (tribal girls) are to be given an advance sum of money as the condition of going out or otherwise, the amount will have to be given before the gram sabha,’’ says the draft.
The recruiting or placement agency will also have to keep the gram sabha informed from time to time about the well-being of the girls.
The draft says gram sabhas in the designated areas should keep a register of persons going outside their zones. “So far, there is no way to ensure protection of the rights of people who migrate for work, especially those from the tribal belts. There have been innumerable number of trafficking cases. Once the law (amendment) is in place, we hope it could be checked to some extent,’’ said a ministry official.
Asked how the ministry would detect violations, the official put the ball in the states’ court. “The states can check trafficking by insisting that placement agencies get their recruitment forms attested by the local police station.”
But some feared that the changes might prove counter-productive. “At one level, it might work as there will be a system in place to check trafficking of tribal women. But on the other hand, by giving the local panchayat such powers, the law will restrict the mobility of tribal women,’’ said Neetha N. of the Delhi-based Centre for Women’s Development Studies.
Placement agencies also questioned the wisdom of the move. “Most of the gram sabhas that we have come across are defunct. That being the case, all these recommendations are going to be nothing but farcical,’’ said Akash Gover of Maidsforyou, a placement agency which largely brings girls from tribal belts in the country’s eastern region.
Pesa came into effect in 1996 but its implementation has been shoddy. Now, with Maoists active in many of the tribal zones that the act covers, the government has decided to dust the law by planning amendments and giving it more teeth. States, too, are expected to amend their panchayat acts in tune with Pesa.Courtesy:TheTelegraph..