Human trafficking rampant in coastal Andhra

By Sulogna Mehta, Published in The Times Of India

VISAKHAPATNAM: In the last six months alone, eight minor girls were rescued from commercial sex workers’ dens in the city as well as from tribal and coastal areas, while a year ago 22 women and minor girls facing sexual harassment were rescued from a brick kiln in Andhra Odisha border, say NGOs. But shockingly none of these cases either found their way to the police records or none of the culprits were booked under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

Trafficking of children and underage girls is rampant in the coastal districts of AP, especially in Agency and coastal areas. Even though the government officials, NGOs and police unanimously admit to it, most of these cases of exploitation take place on the sly, with the result that no cases have been registered under the ITPA.

This despite the police and women-child welfare officials concerned realizing that it is high time they activate the existing district level committees and anti-trafficking squads to step up vigilance. Currently, the existing committees are allegedly lying in a dormant state and lack the teeth being stringent enough to bring the culprits to book.

Girls from this region are mostly trafficked to Goa and Mumbai and sold in brothels or used in sex tourism. Absence of proper vigil and sensitisation programmes among police and district administration has led to an increase in trafficking even though the heinous crime goes unrecorded,” said B Ramu, executive secretary, Grama Swarajya Samithi (GSS), an NGO that works for women and child welfare. “In fact, even if girls are rescued, the cases are not booked under ITPA but are diluted into offences like creating nuisance etc. Most of the victims also suffer from various sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.” added Ramu.

“Taking advantage of the loss of their traditional occupation (agriculture), debt trap, poverty and unemployment, often pimps in disguise lure them with promise of jobs and marriage. With industrialisation, tourism projects and real estate activities, strangers and outsiders have been coming into the region in the guise of contract workers and migrant labourers and some of them are even indulging in trafficking,” Ramu explained

D Bangarapapa, circle inspector, district crime records bureau admitted that pimps and traffickers frequent the tribal and rural areas in the guise of migrants. “There’s no doubt that such trafficking of children and women is taking place in the vulnerable areas of the city, villages as well as the Agency areas such as Araku and Paderu. But since no complaints are filed, we can’t register cases under ITPA. There is also no active district-level committee to look into this issue,” she said.

Concurring that there’s an urgent need to curb trafficking, especially of underage girls, A E Robert, project director of the women and child welfare department, Vizag, said, “We are soon going to activate community vigilant groups in all villages of the district and sensitise sarpanches, supervisors, police constables as well as self-help groups. Families having many girls will be identified through a survey and made cautious about any strangers coming to the village and luring them with jobs or promise of marriage. The awareness programmes will be taken to the grass-root level and the point emphasized strangers should be questioned.”

Sadly, despite a government order highlighting the need for a comprehensive policy and action plan to combat trafficking of women and children as well as rescue and rehabilitation of victims, no concrete measures have been taken despite industrialization, commercial activities and migration making inroads into the vulnerable areas.


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