No respite in human trafficking cases, questions raised on state’s preparedness
GUWAHATI: Several cases of human trafficking have come to the fore from across the state over the past three months, shifting the focus back on this sensitive topic and the need for adequate mechanisms to check the rise in the number of such cases.
In a recent case, a 15-year-old girl from Assam was trafficked from Dhubri and sold off in Haryana. She was later rescued by Assam police officials and brought back to the state last week.
She was lured into leaving the state on the false promise of marriage but was later sold off to a human trafficking agent. Her parents had filed a complaint with the police when the girl did not return home.
Reportedly, the girl was taken to Haryana by her “boyfriend” and was later rescued in a joint operation by the anti-human trafficking unit in Haryana and Assam police.
In another case last month, two human traffickers, including a woman, were arrested from the Guwahati railway station and three minor girls rescued, as part of a special drive.
The Quick Response Team of the RPF arrested the two traffickers, hailing from Sivasagar and Tinsukia districts of Assam. The rescued minor girls hailing from Tinsukia district were to be sent to Delhi for Rs 5,000 per head, informed authorities.
Officials say that Guwahati is fast becoming a “source centre” for trafficking girls and children to other states of the northeast as well as places like Haryana, Delhi, Punjab and Kolkata.
Experts believe that it is because of the socio-economic and political realities, such as conflict and marginalisation of communities in hill areas and 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.
Railway stations: Vulnerable locations for human trafficking
Further, railway stations make for easy and vulnerable locations for the traffickers to smuggle out victims from the state.
The Government Railway Police (GRP) successfully rescued 16 children and 9 adults from railway premises like stations and trains, during the period from January to December 2018. 14 human traffickers were also arrested red-handed when they were trying to transport children and women in trains and eight cases have been registered.
Additionally, the GRP has recovered 137 children from the premises, who had been announced missing.
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 1,317 registered cases. The state contributed the highest percentage contribution at 37.7 percent to the all-India total.
Further, the Railway Childline in Guwahati rescued 373 children from Guwahati railway station from April 1, 2018 till January 30, 2019 informed authorities.
According to the data furnished by the Railway Childline officials, a majority of these children rescued by Railway Childline were runaway children who had either fled from an institution or their homes. This also includes the children who were suspected of being trafficked.
“The Guwahati Railway Childline is the only one in the entire northeast. This makes our work a little difficult since the traffickers can easily take a different railway route to traffic children from Assam and the northeast,” Abani Haloi, co-ordinator of Guwahati Railway Childline told G Plus.
Childline is a programme under the Ministry of Women & Child Development (MWCD) meant for safeguard of children in need of care and protection.
Further, Railway Childline is an initiative of the MWCD and the Railways; it works to provide emergency rescue, security and protection services to runaway, orphans, possibly trafficked children and child labourers at railway stations.
Experts call for holistic approach to fight trafficking
Experts working in the field of child rights feel that prevention of human trafficking needs a multi-pronged approach.
Miguel Das Queah, a child rights activist from Guwahati told G Plus, “A lot of socio-economic and political factors are also involved in the aspect of prevention of human trafficking apart from looking into legal and law enforcement aspects.”
He added that the state lacks proper rehabilitation centres for trafficking victims.
“We do not have many institutions for rehabilitation, and the ones which are there are very sub-standard and not of very high quality,” said Queah.
Another official working in the field mentioned that anti-human trafficking units need to have separate infrastructure and specially-trained personnel to respond to trafficking cases. Further, the police must also be sensitised on how to understand and handle cases related to trafficking.
“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,” 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.
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 (SP) 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.