Guwahati, Sept. 15: Severe floods in Assam have fuelled fears of a spurt in trafficking of women and children from the ravaged areas of the state.
Police and NGOs are keeping vigil in the vulnerable areas since disasters have in the past caused largescale displacement of people, leading to migration, a situation that traffickers try to take maximum advantage of.
Shakti Vahini, an anti-trafficking NGO, said at least five minors from Assam, who were being trafficked to Delhi, have been rescued from trains in West Bengal and Bihar since August.
Deep Banerjee, regional project manager (North Bengal) of Shakti Vahini, told The Telegraph that on August 27 they had rescued a 16-year-old girl from Kokrajhar in Assam at New Jalpaiguri railway station and reunited her with her family.
“Another teenager from Dhubri in Assam was rescued at Katihar railway station in mid-August. At present, she is lodged in a shelter home at Araria since she is not been able to give the correct address of her village which is creating problems in locating her house,” he said.
“On September 3, two girls from Dhubri district, aged 15 and 16, were rescued from New Jalpaiguri railway station while they were being taken to Delhi by a suspected trafficker with the lure of employment. The trafficker managed to escape,” he added.
Banerjee said with floods hitting Assam, there could be a rise in trafficking of women and children from the vulnerable areas of the state. To prevent trafficking, the NGO is maintaining vigil on trains coming from Assam and at New Jalpaiguri, Siliguri junction and Delhi railway stations.
Director-general of police (CID) Mukesh Sahay said trafficking cases have been detected in the state in the past 15 days. He said it has been observed that post-disaster, both natural and manmade ones like riots, which cause displacement, incidents of trafficking are on the rise.
“We are aware of it and directions have already been issued to police, other government agencies concerned and civil society groups to remain alert and look for traffickers and their agents who become active in such situations,” Sahay said.
An official of the state social welfare department said people who have lost their agricultural land and homes due to erosion and floods are most vulnerable to trafficking since it becomes easy to take them to Delhi and other places with the lure of employment.
Digambar Narzary, chairperson of Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based anti-trafficking NGO, said the condition of the tarpaulin-roofed relief camps in Kokrajhar district, which shelter the riot-affected people from Adivasi and Bodo communities, had become pathetic following heavy rainfall in past weeks.
“Inmates of these camps are most vulnerable. Every week, we are getting two to three reported cases of trafficking from these areas,” he said.
Though there has been a steady improvement in the flood situation, even today 1,063 hectares of crop land and 62 villages are under water. Around 62 people have died in the latest wave of floods.
Shakti Vahini spokesperson Rishi Kant said there had been a rise in trafficking from Nepal after the devastating earthquake this year, from the Sundarbans after cyclone Aila hit Bengal in 2009 and the same could happen in Assam if preventive measures are not taken.