Human trafficking cases rapidly rising in Guwahati
GUWAHATI: At least five cases of human trafficking have come to the fore from Guwahati in the last four months where police have arrested alleged traffickers from different parts of the city.
In a recent case, the Basistha police arrested a female trafficker Jupi Boro last week, on 30th September. Boro lured a 24-year-old girl, Sonam (name changed) to Bengaluru on the pretext of offering her a job, and she was later rescued from Tamil Nadu. The girl was a resident of Beharbari in Guwahati.
The victim’s husband and other relatives filed a complaint at the Basistha police station, suspecting foul play after Sonam did not return home one day. The police acted on a tip-off and nabbed the trafficker from Bakrapara, Guwahati.
The police suspects that Boro is possibly part of a wider human trafficking racket that operates with the help of others and has lured many women out of the state.
“Later during the investigation, we came to know that Jupi Boro’s brother-in-law is also involved in the trafficking racket and there could be several other women who have possibly been taken to different cities,” said the officer-in-charge of Basistha police station Nabajit Das Baghri.
He added that the girl had not been sold off till her rescue, and maybe, a deal would have taken place later between Boro and others.
“We are now planning to interrogate Jupi Boro’s husband in order to get further clues about their racket, so that we can nab more culprits,” said Baghri.
The recent arrests and cases of trafficking have once again shifted the spotlight to the issue of human and child trafficking in Assam.
However, experts working in this field say that this is only the tip of the iceberg as there are many cases which go unreported and hence are not registered. The available data on child trafficking, too, paints a grim picture.
According to recent data 8,443 children went missing from the state during the last five years. The number of missing children from Assam has seen a rise from the previous year when 1,839 cases were registered in 2017.
Further, merely 4,377 missing children were recovered in the last five years. This was informed by parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in an assembly reply.
Additionally, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, in 2015, Assam topped the list of states with the highest number of child trafficking cases with a total of 1317 registered cases. The state contributed the highest percent contribution at 37.7 percent to the all India total.
Further, as per the data of Guwahati Childline – a programme under the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) meant for the safeguard of children in need of care and protection — a total of 73 cases were reported under “missing children” in 2017. Another agency for child protection under the state government has been receiving around 15 cases of missing children on an average, every month, and many of these later turn out to be trafficking cases.
Experts believe that it is because of the socio-economic and political realities, such as conflict and marginalisation of communities in hill areas, agricultural crisis and displacement; there are a lot of people – mainly women and children – who are deceitfully trafficked or they go out looking for alternative occupations which finally becomes unsafe migration and they get stuck in this vicious cycle of exploitation.
Officials say that Guwahati is fast becoming a “source centre” for trafficking children to other states of the Northeast as well as places like Haryana, Delhi, Punjab and Kolkata.
Abani Haloi, coordinator of the Guwahati unit of Railway Childline, which works to provide emergency rescue and protection services to children at railway stations, told G Plus that areas with railway connectivity are highly prone to trafficking.
Most child protection agencies starved for resources
Many of the child protection agencies in the state are under-resourced, say authorities. They feel that the shortage of manpower and resources prevent them from fully utilising their potential.
“Anti-human trafficking units do not have adequate manpower and resources. On the other hand, the police have a long way to go to become child-friendly since people are scared to respond in police cases and children are scared to approach the police. So, this is a combination of factors which leads to the breakdown of child protection system of the state, which is why children are very vulnerable,” said an official.
Further, authorities say that the number of cases registered in the city against trafficking of children reflects only a small percentage of the total cases.
“It is difficult to get a fair idea about the nature and extent of trafficking by looking at the number of registered cases since it is carried out mostly in a concealed manner, especially in the remote areas and villages,” said former secretary of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR), Anuja Bhuyan.
According to child protection experts, children who are trafficked or kidnapped, already suffer a vulnerability which might be economic as well as social. Further, children living in tea garden areas, hill areas, conflict areas and places which are prone to floods are more vulnerable to get trafficked since the continued deprivation in these zones makes them hot spots for trafficking.
The state government on its part has established Anti-human trafficking units (AHTU) in all districts of Assam in order to combat human trafficking, especially of women and children. For this, the district superintendents of police have been assigned the task to monitor these units. Officials informed that the SPs work in collaboration with the civil society, NGOs working in the field, panchayat members and government agencies to identify vulnerable areas for human trafficking.