More than eight years after Baina red-light area was razed, the High Court of Bombay at Goa has directed the state government to expedite the process of granting monetary relief and rehabilitation package to sex workers and others affected and complete the process within six months.
The verdict was pronounced by the division bench comprising of Justices V M Kanade and U V Bakre on January 8 on a writ petition filed by NGO Anyay Rahit Zindagi (ARZ) seeking the Court’s intervention to ensure that affected people get compensation, which has been pending since 2005, with the government.
The 2004 demolition carried out in Baina, which was then a synonym for prostitution, was an attempt to wipe out the century old stigma, while it was also a hotspot for AIDS which claimed several lives.
According to the NGO, a survey before and after the demolition found that around 900 prostitution victims and 3000 people, who were not related to prostitution but either residing or had shops were affected due to the demolition.
In its petition to the High Court, ARZ stated that the demolition rendered commercial sex workers and those in legal business, homeless and without any livelihood alternative. The sex workers, who hailed from several neighbouring states went underground and spread all across the state.
The petition further stated that Goa government notified a rehabilitation scheme for the sex workers and those affected in 2005, which included monetary compensation and skill training.
“The houses and the commercial establishment demolished were to be provided alternative residential houses and shops respectively. Even though thousands of people affected due to the demolition, applied in the three categories, not a single person was provided benefit under the scheme,” the ARZ petition had stated.
ARZ had assisted affected persons including sex workers to apply under the rehabilitation scheme.
In the petition, the NGO had also argued that neither any kingpin nor brothel keepers were brought to book, but ironically, only some brothels and bars received compensation whereas sex workers were deprived of any rehabilitation.
In its order, the court asked NGO to produce the applicants before the concerned authorities, along with the required identity documents to avail benefits.
“The government/authority shall complete the proceedings of granting benefit and making payment to the applicants within six months from the date on which documents are produced by the applicants before them in case they are found to be eligible,” the order mandated.
ARZ Director Arun Pandey who had petitioned the court to seek implementation of the relief package, said, “The victim of commercial sexual exploitation and those whose houses and commercial establishment which were not involved in the prostitution activity and were demolished, have suffered a lot in the last eight years. After this judgment I hope that the government will act swiftly and provide rehabilitation as provided in the scheme notified by BJP government in 2005. Proactive action on the part of the government will put an end to the misery of the people affected due to Baina demolition.” [H]