Thirty-eight women, including 22 from Bangladesh, who had been rescued from flesh trade and lodged in a shelter home in Wanawadi run by an NGO, escaped late Tuesday night after vandalising the place and attacking the employees there. Police have traced 19 of them and are searching for the rest.
The shelter in Wanawadi area is run by Rescue Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO. Inspector (Crime) R A Pandit of Wanawadi police station said, “The incident took place around midnight. The women vandalised the office property and overpowered and beat up some of the staffers. They also attacked some other women in the shelter home and fled.”
“When all this was happening, the staffers called the police control room. But by the time we reached, the women had fled. We immediately formed search teams. We also got calls from people who had seen some of these women holding metal rods,” Pandit said.
When a police team reached the spot near railway track in Hadapsar, the women allegedly turned violent and started pelting stones at people trying to approach them. However, seven of them were rounded up from there and another 12 from some other location, said a policeman who was part of the search team. Police have booked these women for vandalism.
Inspector Pandit said, “The women traced by us were produced before the court, which sent them to a similar shelter facility in Baramati.”
Sources said the women alleged in the court that the observation home administration kept them confined inside their rooms for long durations and didn’t provide them food on time. They said they were forced to break the door and escape from the house as there was a fire inside a part of the house and despite them raising an alarm, the warden had locked them down inside.
Police said the guards at the shelter could not control the women because of their sheer number. Ashok Rajgor, who works with the Rescue Foundation, said, “There are several issues about the repatriation of women from Bangladesh. Because of certain delays, some women were here for over two to three years. That may have been reason behind the frustration leading to such act.”
NGO workers blame delays in repatriation of women
A large number of women and minor girls from Bangladesh who illegally enter India via porous borders, or in many cases are trafficked, end up in flesh trade rackets across the country. Once rescued by the police, they are produced before the court and usually lodged in shelter homes.
A woman police officer who has worked with the social security cell of Pune police’s crime branch, says, “As per procedure, these women are again produced before the court after a certain number of days as directed by the court at the time of their first appearance. The court questions the woman and if it is satisfied, it gives a release order.”
“We must understand that this is a complex socio-economic issue and many women end up again in the sex trade. The shelter homes are overcrowded and understaffed. There have been complaints about the ill-treatment of women at these homes,” the officer added.
Rajesh Chaturvedi of Rescue Foundation said, “Most women do not have any passport or visa. So the governments of India and Bangladesh have set a Special Task Force comprising officials from Ministry of Home Affairs and their Bangladeshi counterparts. This task force ensures repatriation of women rescued from trafficking rackets. Earlier, as per the procedure, our sister NGOs used to conduct an investigation of situation at the home of the woman and then give reports on her repatriation.
But now, according to newly brought-in procedures, the investigation by local police has been made mandatory. This is causing serious delays in the process and leading to such situation. An urgent solution is needed on this technical aspect.”