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The scourge of human trafficking in India
Measures to control human trafficking have met with little success for a variety of reasons. The law could address not all of these; society has to contribute its mite to address the problem. Fortunately things are looking up!
WHEN MONA was 13 years, her mother died and her father remarried. The stepmother was uncomfortable with Mona and wanted to send her away for some job, where she would be able to look after herself. Along came a ”contractor” who arranged jobs for youngsters as domestic help, etc. He paid a certain sum of money to the stepmother and took Mona to a town far away. He got her a job in a massage parlour as a ‘receptionist’. Even before Mona got to know the work profile, she realized that she had been trapped into sexual exploitation. She had become a sexual slave to the ‘customers’ who frequented the place for full-body massage.
Mona is no exception. She is one of the millions of women and children being trafficked and exploited. Mona’s case presents a typical trafficking scenario. Human trafficking (HT) is one of the gravest violations of human dignity and human rights. Trafficking can be classified under three heads: (a) for commercial sexual exploitation or CSE, (b) for exploitative labour or EL and (c) for other forms of exploitation, like organ sale, camel jockeying, etc.
CSE could take place in a brothel or anywhere else like massage parlours and bars. The cause of trafficking is two-dimensional. One is the demand factor and the other is the vulnerability of the person being victimised. More the demand, more the crime. The vulnerability of the trafficked victim is another dimension. Vulnerability, as often quoted, is not exactly attributable to poverty. It is a culmination of several factors, including awareness of rights, lack of access to rights, illiteracy, disparities of income , the scope for exploitation of the victim, poor law enforcement, lack of public awareness and the ” culture of silence” to violation of rights of others.
Article 23 of the Constitution of India prohibits trafficking in any form. We have special legislations like the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1956, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000. The law enforcement scenario, seen from the traditional viewpoint, presents a dismal picture. Research conducted by the National Human Rights Commission during 2002-2004 shows that the major issues in law enforcement are as follows:
1. Lack of priority-The law enforcement agencies and justice delivery agencies, for various reasons, accord lowest or nil priority to HT issues.
2.  Insensitivity-The lack of sensitivity to human trafficking is a major challenge. It is more of an attitudinal issue.
3. Victimisation of the victim-More often, the trafficked women have been arrested and penalized for ‘soliciting’.
4 Improper Investigation-trafficking involves a long trail, starting from the source point, covering several transit points before terminating at the destination. But the investigation is more or less confined to the place where the victim is rescued. Victims remain more often unheard and unrepresented.
5. Organised crime perspective is lacking in investigation- HT involves several offenders like recruiters, transporters, traffickers, harbourers, exploiters and conspirators. But often, investigation is limited to those present at the scene of rescue. Human trafficking being an organized crime requires sharing of intelligence and an in-depth investigation into all linkages but this is rarely done.
6. Lack of co-ordination-The response to human trafficking requires co-ordination among the various government departments, like police, public welfare, health, women and child. The gap in co-ordination is a major challenge to the response system.
7. Lack of coordination with NGO’s- The ITPA and labour laws do assign specific role to NGO’s; however there is no institutionalized system of co-ordination between the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s.
8. Lack of Appreciation-Several instances of good work done by the police officers, researchers, NGO’s, etc, in controlling human trafficking can be cited. However such actions are not acknowledged and disseminated; often good news is no news and bad news is good news.
 9. Lack of Emphasis on Rehabilitation- This is a major challenge which leads to not only victimization of victims but also re-trafficking of the rescued person. Despite the fact that several corporates set aside large funds for social responsibility, lack of synergy with the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s has been an impediment in effective dovetailing of such sources for rehabilitating the victim.
However, the emerging scenario is certainly positive. There are several initiatives launched across the country to address human trafficking in a comprehensive and effective manner. Some of these initiatives may be initiated by individuals who are committed to the cause and due to their initiatives, such steps are getting institutionalised. In fact, during the last six years of this century, there has been a growing momentum against human trafficking. The reasons may be many. First of all, credit should go to NGOs who have brought the HT issue into the national agenda. Secondly, several law enforcement officers and human rights activists have provided leadership and proper orientation in achieving better results in anti-human trafficking (AHT).
*Increased awareness-There is a national momentum, involving various stake holders, especially the media, the corporates, government agencies including the law-enforcement wing and human rights agencies. One of the best examples is the Global Initiative in Fighting Human Trafficking (GIFT), initiated by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
Holistic approach: Several agencies working together and attending to the issues of ‘PPP’(Prevention, Protection and Prosecution), in a concerted manner has been one of the features of the new response system. While police undertake rescue operations along with NGOs, other government departments immediately move in, to provide interim relief to the victims. The NGOs take over post-rescue care and attention in association with the government agencies concerned.
*Synergy in action: The UNODC, New Delhi, in partnership with the government of India and State government agencies as well as civil society has set up ‘anti-human trafficking units’ (AHTU) in several states. AHTU is a special task force set up under the State police, by involving chosen police officers, NGOs and others who are specially trained for the purpose. UNODC has provided training and empowerment to these officers with focus on knowledge, skills and attitudinal orientation. These units are making a tremendous impact on the law enforcement scenario - for example, in a span of six months, the AHTUs in Andhra Pradesh have rescued more than 700 victims of which more than 100 are children under 18. The rescued victims are being promptly taken care of by the government as well as NGOs, most of them having been rehabilitated with the help of corporate and business houses. Excellent rehabilitation has been achieved through synergetic action.
AHT is an area, which beckons all those who are concerned with human rights. There is much to do and something to be done by everybody. It is everybody’s business. The question is whether one is a part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no third option. Therefore, all who are committed to human rights must join hands in this global initiative to fight human trafficking. We can together ensure that, Mona is safe in our home and community and that Mona lives with dignity, like all of us and it will be so with all the Mona’s.
Achievements of anti-human trafficking measures in five states (Jan-Sep 2007):
1. Trafficking crimes registered: 466             # Rescue Operations: 96
2. NGOs associated in operations: 90 per cent       # Victims rescued: 716
3. Minors rescued: 108                                    # Traffickers arrested: 1020.
4.’Customers’arrested: 332                              #Traffickers convicted: 2
5. Centres of exploitation closed: Andhra Pradesh and Goa.
6. Crimes prevented: numerous, though the numbers are not available.
7. Post-rescue care and attention provided to rescued persons: Cent percent
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