De-fuelling Trafficking

For the third year in a row, the US has placed India on its Special Watch List against trafficking for “failing to comply” with the minimum standards to eliminate the scourge and for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to address trafficking in persons. “The Government of India does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so,” states the report released by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday, June 5.

One of the lacunae appears to be that India lacks a national law enforcement response to any form of trafficking although it may have worked on some measures towards this end. India’s reluctance to take steps to address the issue of bonded labour and other forms of involuntary servitude according to the State Department report likewise raises concern about human rights related problems. However what is most damning in all this is the Indian government has not taken any meaningful steps to address its sizeable trafficking related corruption problem. The deep neck nexus between everyday trafficking and crime syndicates operating on drugs, arms and powerful people merits serious attention if at all the problem of trafficking is to be fought on a war footing. 

It would be only appropriate to mention here that as per a recent study which was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), human trafficking—mostly women and girls—in the northeast is fuelling HIV/AIDS. Further the toxic combination of economic deprivation and conflict situation is stimulating the potential for trafficking in the region and consequently the ever present danger of HIV/AIDS looms large. According to documentary evidence available with Nedan Foundation, which carried out the study, traffickers carry out recruitment drives in populated relief camps of internally displaced persons such as in Kokrajhar in Bodoland Territorial Council, Assam. With nearly 200,000 people living in these camps without proper food, the traffickers make false promises of jobs as domestic help in big cities.

While there are many facets to the problem, what is urgently required is both sensitization of the police force as also their strengthening by way of upgrading technology and improving intelligence gathering. Similarly NGOs working in the specific area of Human Trafficking can likewise be supported by government agencies to undertake more reliable research that can be later shared with enforcing agencies who can then work on a time-bound action plan to track down and uproot such clandestine operations.

Likewise, it is hoped that the key findings of the UNDP sponsored study of the Northeastern States, will prompt the Indian government, as well as local NGOs, to come forward with initiatives to reduce the level of human trafficking in the region and thereby help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. In all this, addressing the issue of poverty has to be the fundamental basis for which welfare measures for the economic upliftment of vulnerable groups must be made an integral component of any action plans. It has to be remembered that though political factors may be behind the problem, at the end of the day for ordinary people who are usually the worst affected, it boils down to the basic issue of food-shelter-clothing and about daily survival.