ARCHIVE PHOTO: A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
CHENNAI, India,- An Indian court has ordered the state of West Bengal to give trafficking survivors the full compensation they are entitled to without pre-conditions, a ruling lawyers said could help other victims access the money they need to rebuild their lives.
In a first, the Calcutta High Court last week quashed West Bengal’s policy of forcing survivors to put their victim compensation money in a 10-year bank scheme, and only allowing them access to the monthly interest payments.
In it’s ruling, the court said that the amount of money awarded to victims by the government was already “meager and ought not to be further fettered”, while calling on state authorities to end their “big brother” approach.
“The court has empowered survivors,” said policy advocate Kaushik Gupta, who represented the victims in court.
“The state had a very patriarchal and parental approach towards an adult citizen. Survivors should be given financial guidance but their money should not be controlled.”
India reported 3,000 cases of trafficking in 2017, with the victims largely being poor women and children being lured with better jobs and pushed into slavery by traffickers.
West Bengal has traditionally had very high trafficking numbers and has struggled to successfully rehabilitate survivors, anti-trafficking campaigners said.
Currently, less than 1% of India’s trafficking survivors win victim compensation – which is funded by the central government but distributed by states.
Such compensation awards are hindered by low awareness of the schemes and the high burden of proof it takes to succeed, studies have shown.
Every state has its own version of the scheme, with compensation running from 100,000 rupees ($1,400) to 1,000,000 rupees with pre-conditions attached.