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A Critical Appraisal of the Ujjawala Scheme

Even after being a country with well established democratic values and human rights, human trafficking and commercial exploitation of women and children has become an important challenge to the legal setup of Indian constitution. Human trafficking and commercialization of women and children is a clear cut violation of the human rights. Though towards this problem many legal regulations and policies have been implemented, they haven’t been much successful to the expected result. Even after all these laws, still it couldn’t prevent more than lakhs of women and children from being trafficked across the international borders. Sadly, most of the women and children end up in forced sex work. India has risen to the level of one of the Asian countries where the trafficking rate has reached to an alarming rate. Given this background, the Ministry of Women and Child Development under the Government of India has initiated a comprehensive scheme for Prevention of Trafficking and Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation, called the Ujjawala scheme.

The important constitutional and legislative provisions regarding human trafficking in India consists of Article 23(1), Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA), Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 etc. One of the important aspect for the success or the popularity of the Ujjawala scheme is its decentralized operation. Operating far away from the realm of legal framework, the Ujjawala scheme has been more efficient in reaching to a wide set of population that is largely exploited by the acts of trafficking, abduction and forced sex work.

The Ujjawala scheme operates at the Panchayat level with mass support from the central and state governments. As a result of this, there is a very higher level of penetration of the benefits among the victims. The chief body of this scheme involves a woman representative especially from the very own local area makes the scheme more approachable. A completely centralized approach could make it inefficient. Since this involves local level participation, it helps in preventing the possibility of exploitation and also facilitates an easy identification of the victims.

Further, the Ujjawala scheme to a very large extent has been able to provide awareness through seminars and workshops especially in the rural areas. As of today, more than 286 Ujjawala projects have been initiated in the country including more than 200 rescue and rehabilitative homes. Though the legal sanctions have largely focused only on prevention of trafficking, Ujjawala served as a platform for rescue, rehabilitation as well as for re-integration purposes. The victims of trafficking and forced sex work have a great level of psychological and social barriers to survive. The societal norms and beliefs don’t serve as an easily conceivable platform for the victims. Ujjawala thus tries to break all these barriers through counseling, awareness and providing opportunities as well.

Apart from this the scheme also provides basic amenities like food shelter and also provides medical facilities. The professional counseling section of Ujjawala has also helped many to change their outlook towards life. The scheme also provides educational opportunities for children and vocational training for women to have an easy integration to a normal life. The re-integration objective has largely helped in integrating these victims to a normal family life. The repatriation program has enabled for a safe transfer of cross border victims to their native place. Further, the government, especially the ministry, has laid down strict regulation for organizations to be registered under the Ujjawala scheme to reduce any scope of malfunctioning.

On an overall scale, though the program was successful just like any other government programs, Ujjawala also suffered from criticisms arising out of lags in implementation. Though the scheme has covered a wide section of the society, security and risk associated with rescue and rehabilitation is reported to be very high. This has led to large scale dismantling of the program by many agencies. Recently, the Hindu newspaper has reported the shying away of NGOs from taking up the Ujjawala scheme. The main aspect for this is the increasing security concerns and increasing cost of rehabilitation and re-integration. Dealing with trafficking involves facing notorious and powerful mafia group. At present there are only six NGOs working in the field of trafficking under the Ujjawala scheme.

Moreover, how much ever legal sanctions are introduced, matters like trafficking involve great risk as well as corruption. Also, in many cases the fund allotted for Ujjawala seems to be comparatively very less. The grant and release of the fund involve great time lag. Also, chances of exploitation by the very authorities is another criticism associated with this scheme.
The Ujjawala scheme on an average can be evaluated as a quite successful scheme in the domain of women and child welfare schemes. The Finance Minister has recently included Ujjawala scheme under the budgetary benefits for better operation and efficiency.

However, the policy has to be strengthened further through better management and implementation of the scheme. The security and risk concerns related to the program require adequate emphasis and importance. Strict regulation must be enforced in Ujjawala centers especially the private ones, ensuring the safety and dignity of women and children. Thus, a more centrally reviewed, collectively motivated and responsible behavior can add up to the further success of the program.

Picture Courtesy : indiahub



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