Human trafficking is the third largest crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe. Millions of men, women and children around the world are bought and sold as commodities into prostitution, forced labour and domestic servitude.According to the definition of the United Nations – “trafficking is any activity leading to recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or a position of vulnerability”. Close to 80% of the human trafficking across the world is done for sexual exploitation and the rest is for bonded labour and India is considered as the hub of this crime in Asia. The Government statistics reveal – in every eight minutes a child goes missing in our country. Modern day slavery is far more widespread than many people suspect in countries like India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Ever wondered when we see the children begging on the roads asking for aids, food and money…Where they come from and where do they go after the city sleeps?
What is the status of the Indian States in regards to Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is one of the major problems in India. The New York Times has reported on the widespread problem of human trafficking in India especially in the state of Jharkhand. In another article published in The Times of India – Karnataka is the third leading state in India for human trafficking. Whereas Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Bihar are few other sought after destinations for human trafficking.
According to the latest report on human trafficking by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reveals that Tamil Nadu has 528 such cases of human trafficking in 2012. The number is really high and more than any other state except for West Bengal being 549.
As per the data from Home Ministry, 1379 cases of human trafficking were reported from Karnataka in the period of four years, in Tamil Nadu the number is 2244 whereas Andhra Pradesh has 2157 cases of human trafficking. Recently, 300 bonded labourers in Bangalore have been rescued.
According to an article in Firstpost, Delhi is the hub of human trafficking trade in India and half of the world’s slaves in India. Delhi is the hotspot for illegal trade of young girls for domestic labour, forced marriage, begging and prostitution. Delhi is also the transit point for human trafficking.
Kids especially girl and young women especially from Northeast are taken from their homes and sold in faraway states of India for sexual exploitation and to work as bonded labour by the agents who lure their parents with education, better life, and money for these kids . Agents do not send these kids to school but sell them to work in brick kilns, carpentry units, as domestic servants, beggars etc. Whereas girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Even these girls are forced to marry in certain regions where female to male sex ratio is highly disturbed. Children from tribal areas are at greater risk of human trafficking.
Why is Human Trafficking increasing in India?
Fundamental theory of demand and supply is applicable to this situation as well. Men for work generally migrate to major commercial cities and from here the demand for commercial sex is created. To fulfill the supply all sorts of efforts are made by the suppliers like abduction etc. Young girls and women belonging to poor families are at higher risk.
Then comes the economic injustice and poverty. If you are born to a poor family in India then you are at a higher risk of being sold. If you are born to a poor family and a girl then these chances further increases. Sometimes parents are also desperate to sell their daughters to earn money.
Social inequality, regional gender preference, imbalance and corruption are the other leading causes of human trafficking in India.
Parents in tribal areas think that sending their kids means a better life in terms of education and safety. Parents also pay about INR 6000-7000 to these agents for food and shelter.
In a study conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Chennai, At least 300,000 children across India are drugged, beaten and forced to beg every day, in what has become a multi-million rupee industry controlled by human trafficking cartels, police and trafficking experts said.
According to the National Human Rights Commission, up to 40,000 children are abducted in India every year, of which at least 11,000 remain untraced. Impediments being “The police don’t think begging is an issue because they assume that the adult with the child is either family or a known person,” said co-author Anita Kanaiya, CEO of The Freedom Project India, which works on trafficking issues. “But for every 50 children rescued there will be at least 10 who are victims of trafficking. And there has to be a constant vigil to identify them,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Children are sometimes maimed or burned to elicit greater sympathy and get more alms, said the report. The money they earn is usually paid to the traffickers, or to buy alcohol and drugs. The report is based on the experiences of police and charities in Bengaluru in Karnataka. There is a seasonal pattern to begging, local police said. Cities like Bengaluru see a sharp rise in the numbers of children wandering the streets just before festivals or after a natural disaster.
In 2011, Bengaluru police launched “Operation Rakshane” (“To Save”). In coordination with various government departments and charities, they drew up a blueprint to help children forced into begging. Months before carrying out a series of rescues, they spread out across the city, taking pictures of children on the street, documenting their daily activities and shadowing them back to their homes. “When we started, we had nothing to prove the connection between begging and trafficking. But we went about meticulously recording any signs of forced labour on the streets of the city,” Kanaiya said. According to inspector general of police, Pronob Mohanty, who spearheaded the operation, teams of police and health workers rescued 300 children on a single day across the city. The traffickers were arrested and later imprisoned. “Operation Rakshane is meant to be a template which can be replicated as a model of inter-agency cooperation,” Mohanty said in the handbook, which includes suggestions for surveillance, data collection and rehabilitation, as well as listing relevant laws. Kanaiya said: “We are now initiating a planned campaign to take the book to every police headquarters in the country and follow it up with a workshop on child (begging) and rescue operations for policemen.”
Girls and women are not only trafficked for prostitution but also bought and sold like commodity in many regions of India where female ratio is less as compared to male due to female infanticide. These are then forced to marry.
Haryana, with the country’s worst sex ratio of 879 girls to 1,000 boys, now has to increasingly import brides from poverty-stricken states such as Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. It’s the same story in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where female foeticide is high and the sex ratio skewed. According to the 2013 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, 24,749 children and women between the ages of 15 and 30 were kidnapped and sold into marriage across the country.
Hundreds of girls and young women are sold into forced marriages in northern India, finds a report by the NGO Shakti Vahini. “They are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity, and exploited under conditions that amount to a modern form of slavery,” the report states.
A field study on the impact of the sex ratio on marriage by NGO Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra that covered over 10,000 households in Haryana found that over 9,000 married women were bought from other states. The study, which covered 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonepat and Mewat districts, said that most people accepted this as a common practice, even though they personally denied having purchased a bride in their family.
“Trafficking for sex and other purposes has always existed in India, but trafficking children for domestic slavery is a relatively new development,” says HS Phoolka, a senior advocate at India’s Supreme Court and a human rights lawyer and activist. “This is due to rising demand for domestic maids due to rising income in urban areas and wide scale poverty … in rural areas. This trafficking shows the rise of massive inequality in India.”
In the village of Kunuri in Chhattisgarh, Deepti Minch, 19, describes her experience of being trafficked into domestic servitude in northern India’s Punjab state. A village agent had visited her family and promised her mother 5,000 rupees a month if she sent Deepti to work in Delhi. Once she reached the capital she was sold off to a family. “It was only after a few years I realized I had been sold,” she recalls. “I was extremely hurt and was in tears. My life was tough. I worked from six in the morning until midnight. I had to cook meals, clean the house, take care of the children and massage the legs of my employers before going to bed. If I didn’t do my job well, they used to scold me.” Deepti eventually managed to run away and make her way back to her family – yet thousands of other children remain unaccounted for.
Rishi Kant, one of India’s leading anti-trafficking activists, says trafficking is still considered a peripheral issue among law enforcement agencies, especially in rural areas such as Chhattisgarh. “The response of states across India to this problem is very poor,” he says. “In states such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, law enforcement is too busy fighting the armed Maoist insurgency or civil unrest. Human trafficking is not a priority.”
In neighbouring Jharkhand state, Aradhana Singh, head of the anti-human trafficking unit in Khundi district, says the police lack both the funds and the will to tackle the problem. “We simply don’t have resources,” she says. “Our phones don’t work; power cuts are so frequent that we cannot use a computer or a fax machine. There is not even office space to offer counselling services. Most [police] don’t see trafficking as a crime. They just see it as poor children migrating for a better livelihood and don’t take these issues seriously. They think I’m dealing with a petty issue.”
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) actively ensures that children are protected and are not vulnerable to being re-trafficked. Rehabilitation measures include eminent support given, like trauma counseling and the care and protection provided in children’s homes and transit rehabilitation centers. At the same time, BBA also ensures compensation and access to government services, including housing and other development schemes.
The combination of illiteracy and poverty is often a determining factor for a child being drawn into child labour or child trafficking. BBA tries to mitigate these factors by ensuring that former child labourers get economic compensation from the employer, trafficker and the state. This compensation is received in the form of backwages as laid down in the 22nd May 2012 judgement, a fine on the employer, guaranteed under the 15th July 2009 judgement and compensation as provided by a rehabilitation package under bonded labour law. There are also centrally sponsored schemes allowing for the rehabilitation of bonded labourers.
Immediately after rescue, a child is taken to a children’s home wherever possible. For Delhi and surrounding areas Mukti Ashram, established on the outskirts of Delhi, is a safe haven.
Founded in 1991, Mukti Ashram was the first center in India for rescued bonded labourers. Since 2007, Mukti Ashram has emerged as a model for providing immediate support and access to services for children rescued from child labour and trafficking. In the short-term home, children receive food, clothing, shelter, medical aid, psychological and legal assistance, recreation and everyday care. BBA ensures that the children get best quality care to overcome the trauma of slavery and servitude.
While at Mukti Ashram, the children receive non-formal education, trauma counseling and rights based empowerment, which eases the process of their reintegration into the society. To ensure that parents do not fall prey to the enticement or the deception of economic gains through child labour, they are also made aware and encouraged to pledge against all forms of child labour and are explained the virtue of education.
Located in Rajasthan and established in 1998, Bal Ashram serves as a long term rehabilitation and training center of Bachpan Bachao Andolan that specializes on the needs of victims of child labour. Nestled amongst the picturesque Aravalli Hills, Bal Ashram’s main focus lies in providing quality education, vocational training and skill development as well as showing compassion and giving love to the children. Bal Ashram is a place where the children can lead a normal, happy and dignified life.
Action against guilty
Under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is penalized. The punishment ranges from seven years’ to life imprisonment. The Bonded Labor Abolition Act, the Child Labor Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act prohibit the bonded and forced labor in India.
Because of the brutal gang rape of December 2012, government has passed a bill in which laws related to sexual violence and making sex trafficking have been amended. But still there is a huge gap between enactment and enforcement of these laws. Because of widespread corruption and bride, it is easy for agents for bring these young boys and girls for their profit. But there should be strict disciplinary action against everybody involved in such a crime then only this problem can be addressed.
Also better education and other facilities should be provided at native places so that parents do not opt these ways for their kids. Above all attitude towards valuable human lives must change.