Human Trafficking: 4 GH Girls Rescued From Bihar

The Shillong Times

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The Railway Protection Force (RPF) on Sunday rescued four teenage girls of Garo Hills while being trafficked to Muzaffarpur in Bihar. 
North Garo Hills Police has dispatched a women’s team to bring back the four girls to Meghalaya.
The police said illegal trafficking of men and women is a major problem as it continues unabated in Meghalaya.
According to the police, the four girls went missing soon after the New Year celebrations. An unidentified man from North Garo Hills lured the girls to come along with him to Muzaffarpur on the promise of giving them good jobs there with hefty salaries.
One of the parents filed an FIR with Mendipathar police station after receiving a call from his daughter that she was being taken to Muzaffarpur on the promise of a high salaried job.
After the FIR was filed, the police contacted a Church leader of North Garo Hills for help who, in turn, contacted Impulse NGO.
Subsequently, the Commissioner of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and IGP of Delhi Police for NE were contacted to launch a rescue mission.
The Impulse NGO also contacted NGOs and social welfare organisations in West Bengal and Bihar resulting in the rescue of the four girls.


SC glare on Bengal child trafficking

The Telegraph

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The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from all states and Union territories on measures to combat child trafficking, an issue that has pitted Bengal against the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

Observing that the future of the country depends on the character and destiny of children, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra expanded the scope of a special leave petition filed by the national child rights commission and stayed all related proceedings pending before Calcutta High Court.

This includes the high court order passed on August 29, 2017, restraining the national commission from interfering with the issue of child trafficking in Bengal as the state commission was already seized of the issue. “Trafficking of children… has a vital national concern and recognises no boundary. A right of a child in a society is sacred, for the future of the country depends upon the character and the destiny of the child, and the State has a great role in that regard,” the bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, said in an order directing all states and Union territories to submit their responses.

“There shall be a stay on the impugned order and further proceedings before the high court of Calcutta…. Let the matter be listed on 22nd January, 2018. It shall be taken up at 2pm,” the Supreme Court ordered.

The apex court passed the direction after additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta and NCPCR counsel Anindita Pujari assailed the Calcutta High Court order on the ground that it was contrary to the law as the national child rights panel was empowered to deal with trafficking in Bengal even if the state child protection commission was seized of the matter.

Mehta told the top court that there was nothing on record to show that the state commission had taken prior cognisance and that the trafficking of children as young as two or three years “is very grave and has acquired a pan-India nature. It has become a cross-border issue, which a state commission cannot address.”

Mehta cited Rule 17 of the NCPCR, which he said gave absolute power to the national commission to deal with any issue pertaining to violation of child rights, even if the matter was pending before a state commission.

He argued that Calcutta High Court had taken an erroneous view that Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, bars the jurisdiction of the national commission if any issue relating to child abuse or trafficking is being considered by a state panel.

The apex court said: “Be that as it may, the issue relates to trafficking of children. The submission of the learned additional solicitor-general is that in the state of West Bengal, there has been trafficking of orphans and the children are being sold. As the issue pertains to trafficking of children, which has a vital national concern and recognizes no boundary, we think it appropriate to entertain the special leave petition.”

It said it would also examine certain aspects of the protection of human rights as envisaged under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, as it would “include the dignity of the individual and in that compartment dignity of a child deserves to be covered”.


Pimp who ran flesh trade through WhatsApp held

Published in the Asian Age

pexels-photo-568027.jpegMumbai: The anti-human trafficking wing of Thane (rural) police Tuesday evening busted a prostitution racket being operated from a posh housing society in Mira Road.
While the pimp, a 36-year-old woman, has been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA), three young women have been saved from the clutches of the flesh racketeers.

The pimp used to contact potential clients through WhatsApp, where it was convenient for her to send photographs of the girls she had ensnared. The police said that they received a tip-off about women being made available for prostitution from a posh apartment in Ramdev Park, Mira Road.

API Sanjay Bangar said, “Our team, under the instructions of SP Dr Mahesh Patil, established contact and successfully struck a deal with the pimp through a decoy customer.” Following confirmation, police officers led by deputy SP Atul Kulkarni raided the apartment.

Kids among trafficked bonded labourers rescued from Jammu and Kashmir

Greater Kashmir

NCCEBL, a part of Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC), Human Rights Network (HRLN) New Delhi, in coordination with the district authorities, raided illegal brick kilns operating in Reasi and Samba districts and rescued illegally trafficked bonded labourers, said a statement.

Watch: Kids among trafficked bonded labourers rescued from Jammu and Kashmir

Kids among trafficked bonded labourers rescued from Jammu and Kashmir

A team of National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour (NCCEBL) has rescued bonded labourers, including kids, from Reasi and Samba districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

NCCEBL, a part of Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC), Human Rights Network (HRLN) New Delhi, in coordination with the district authorities, raided illegal brick kilns operating in Reasi and Samba districts and rescued illegally trafficked bonded labourers, said a statement.

“These bonded labourers were trafficked from Chhattisgarh by an agent who promised them work and later made them do forced work for contractors operating brick kilns in Anantnag District of Jammu & Kashmir,” it said.

The statement said that these labourers were made to work for 18 hours altogether without proper meals and any wages.

“Even small children were not spared and were made to do work at brick kiln at Bhagwati Brick Kiln in Reasi  and some of them contracted diseases due to lack of any basic amenity. Earlier many of them suffered chest related ailments as they couldn’t bear shivering cold in Kashmir,” it said.

The labourers, it said, were beaten to pulp by the goons of the agent and transported from Anantnag to Reasi and Samba districts after they protested.

“Many of the women bonded labourers were in family ways giving birth braving death as medical avenues were next to impossible and they had not a single penny to spend on themselves,” said the statement.

It added that their rehabilitation was a challenge due to lack of proper mechanisms in India to provide rehabilitation to rescued bonded laboureres.

“Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 does assure same but implementation remains a tough challenge,” it said.

Convener NCCEBL, Nirmal Gorana said: “Thousands of bonded labourers are still doing forced labour in Jammu & Kashmir and there is no mechanism in place for their repatriation and rehabilitation.”

“There is a need to bust this illegal trafficking racket of bonded labourers which includes women and to break this vicious cycle of trafficking and forced labour where agents on allurement of promising work carry these labourers from State to State,” he added.

Pertinently, the United Nations, in a recent report on slavery, highlighted the stark reality of 40 million slaves in India. 25 million among these include forced labour.

Bride-trafficking: Pradhans to keep track of Uttarakhand girls married in other states

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In a unique initiative to clamp down on bride trafficking from Uttarakhand, the state commission for women has roped in village pradhans who will keep track of girls from their respective areas married to men in other states. The pradhans will also submit a “well-being report” of the girls once in three months to the commission. In case the women go “missing”, the rights panel and police will reach out to her in-laws.

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The project has been launched in Uttarkashi whose Moori and Purola blocks see rampant bride trafficking.

Ramindri Mandrawal, secretary, Uttarakhand State Commission For Women, said, “There are some areas of Uttarakhand where daughters are sold by poor parents. In some cases, parents are fooled by traffickers who pose as matchmakers to get the girls married to men in other states. The women are then treated as commodities and slaves. Village pradhans will now keep an eye on this.”

Hundreds of young girls in northern India are lured or sold into involuntary marriage every year, according to a 2015 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The women are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity, and exploited under conditions that amounts to a modern form of slavery. The report cited findings of a study by NGO Shakti Vahini which said that victims were mostly from Uttarakhand, AssamWest BengalJharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

In Uttarakhand, many cases of bride trafficking from the state have come to light in the recent past. Earlier in November, two men from Jammu and one from Nepal were arrested by Pithoragarh police’s anti-human trafficking cell along the Indo-Nepal border for allegedly trafficking a minor Nepalese girl on the pretext of marriage.

Uttarakhand shares a porous 263-km-long India-Nepal border in Pithoragarh and Champawat, and the commission has plans to ask pradhans from these districts as well to help curb bride trafficking.

Meanwhile, many pradhans from villages in Uttarkashi said they were willing to create awareness and “protect” girls from sham marriages. The more forthcoming ones among them said that they would use social media to stay connected to the girls.

Arvind Kumar, pradhan of Math village in Purola block, said, “Keeping tabs on newlyweds may sound awkward but it is only by taking joint responsibility that we can eliminate bad elements from society. The villages here are small and girls are few so it is easy to do this.”

 Another pradhan, Raji Devi from Dhundhi village in Dunda block, added, “Such combined community initiatives will deter traffickers as well as parents who sell their daughters. We will create WhatsApp groups to connect with girls married in other states.”
 Some anti-trafficking experts, however, cautioned that such crimes were highly organized and pradhans should be trained first.
 Anti-human trafficking activist Gyanendra Kumar said, “Bride trafficking is a heinous and organized crime and those trying to put curbs on it need to be trained. In many cases, parents themselves sell off their daughters with local people acting as spotters for them. This network needs to be broken first.”


झारखंड के बच्चों से दिल्ली में चोरी करवा रहा था तस्कर गिरोह, तीन दबोचे

स्लग: शादी समारोह से चोरी कर लौट रहे तीन बच्चे निहाल विहार इलाके में पकड़ाए, चोरी के महंगे मोबाइल बरामद – पूछताछ में बच्चों ने साहिबगंज निवासी बताया, कहा- नौकरी का झांसा देकर लाए थे दिल्ली

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दिल्ली पुलिस ने एक ऐसे मानव तस्कर गिरोह को पकड़ा है, जो झारखंड के बच्चों को नौकरी दिलाने के नाम पर दिल्ली ले जाकर चोरी करवाता था। 10- 11 साल के इन बच्चों से गिरोह के मेंबर्स मॉल, बाजार, दुकानों व शादी समारोहों में चोरी करवाते थे। शादी समारोह से चोरी कर लौट रहे ऐसे ही तीन बच्चों को पुलिस ने निहाल विहार इलाके में चेकिंग के दौरान पकड़ लिया। पुलिस ने इनके पास से चोरी के महंगे मोबाइल फोन भी बरामद किए हैं। कीर्ति नगर थाने की पुलिस ने पूछताछ की तो पता चला मानव तस्कर सभी को झारखंड के साहिबगंज जिले से नौकरी दिलाने के नाम पर लाकर चोरी करवा रहा है। बच्चों के बयान पर पुलिस ने मानव तस्कर गिरोह के तीन बदमाशों को दबोचा.

लंबे समय से चल रहा था गिरोह

मिली जानकारी के मुताबिक, ये गैंग काफी लंबे समय से इलाके में एक्टिव था। बच्चों को झारखंड से 30 हजार रुपए की नौकरी दिलाने के बहाने दिल्ली लेकर आए थे। गैंग के ऊपर चोरी के चार मामले दर्ज हैं। इस गैंग ने इससे पहले भी कितने परिवारों से इसी तरह से बच्चे लाकर अपराध करवाए हैं। पुलिस ने बच्चों की काउंसिलिंग भी करवाई है, जिसमे उन्होंने बताया कि सभी को झारखंड से लाया गया है.


पहले भी पकड़े जा चुके हैं कई मानव तस्कर

दिल्ली पुलिस की क्राइम ब्रांच ने लड़कियों को बेचने वाले गिरोह में शामिल पति- पत्‍‌नी सहित तीन लोगों को गिरफ्तार किया था। ये झारखंड व बिहार से गरीब लड़कियों को बहला- फुसलाकर नशीला पदार्थ खिला देते थे और उत्तर प्रदेश तथा हरियाणा में ले जाकर बेच देते थे। ये गिरोह उन लोगों को लड़कियां बेचते थे, जिनकी शादी नहीं हो पाती थी। गिरोह के सरगना अरविंद और उसकी पत्‍‌नी ने पुलिस को बताया था कि गिरोह अब तक सात लड़कियों का सौदा कर चुका है। गौरतलब हो कि बसिया पुलिस ने नौ माह पूर्व एक नाबालिग बच्ची को दिल्ली में बेचने के आरोप में तीन महिला मानव तस्करों बसंती देवा ग्राम पंथा, शोभा कुमारी ग्राम पतुरा लोंगा दोनों थाना बसिया जिला गुमला व रांची की पूजा देवी को जेल भेज दिया है। इसी कड़ी में पुलिस ने एक ऐसे गिरोह को भी दबोचा, जिसमें अभियुक्त बच्चों का अपहरण कर देश- विदेश में बेचने का काम करते हैं।


राज्य सरकार चाइल्ड ट्रैफिकिंग को लेकर प्रचार- प्रसार कर रही है और इसकी रोकथाम को लेकर बाल संरक्षण आयोग का गठन कर अपनी पीठ भी थपथपा रही है। लेकिन, सरकार की लाख कोशिशों के बावजूद कुछ ट्रैफिकिंग गिरोह अभी भी सक्रिय हैं.

Cross-border Trafficking of Bangladeshi Girls – A Journal by Meha Dixit


India, a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking, does not explicitly recognise and punish all forms of labour trafficking to the extent required by the United Nations Trafficking Protocol. A study conducted on human trafficking in five districts of West Bengal highlights urgent need for cooperation between the governments of India and Bangladesh, for participation of governmental institutions and civil society organisations, the importance of monitoring of the implementation of anti-trafficking laws, and the need for a database of victims as well as the specific safeguards to protect victims, etc.

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The Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram share 4,096.7 km of land border with Bangladesh (MHA 2017). Most of the Indo–Bangladesh border is unfenced and porous, which makes it vulnerable to trafficking in persons and fake currency. Out of the states mentioned above, West Bengal, which shares approximately 2,220 km land border and 259 km riverine border with Bangladesh, is the hub of internal and cross-border human trafficking from Bangladesh.

Defining Human Trafficking

Human trafficking can generally be described as a crime that exploits children, women, and men for a number of purposes, including sex and forced labour. Trafficked persons usually come from the areas “where economic and social difficulties make migration a popular choice” (Friesendorf 2007: 381). Trafficking has frequently “been described as the perfect crime.” The profits are huge and continuing risks of apprehension are extremely low; and prosecutions for this crime are extremely rare (Gallagher 2006: 163). Wheaton et al (2010) assert that like the illicit arms trade and international drug trade, profit is the driving motive for trafficking in persons. Few states have escaped the impact of this increasingly sophisticated and invariably vicious phenomenon (Gallagher 2006: 163). Every state across the globe is affected by human trafficking, whether as a state of origin, transit or destination for victims (UN 2016).

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According to the 2017 report “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage,” at any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people were “in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage” (ILO 2017). The critical issue concerning human trafficking is that while the perpetrators or traffickers may receive modest to no punishment, “trafficked individuals may be victimized twice: first by the traffickers, and second, by the host governments” (Lobasz 2009).

International Law

Instruments that have dealt with the issue of human trafficking have their origins in the abolition of slavery. They include provisions within the Slavery Convention (1926) as well as the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery (1956). Other tools of international law that include segments against human trafficking are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949), the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979). These instruments laid the basis for the contemporary conventions and efforts towards elimination of trafficking (King 2008).

The key instruments of international law on human trafficking are the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two related protocols: the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (also known as the UN Trafficking Protocol or the Palermo Protocol), and the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, which came into force in 2003–04. Until the early 1990s, trafficking was primarily regarded as a form of human smuggling and a kind of illegal migration. As a result of the signing of the UN Trafficking Protocol in 2000, “a more detailed, internationally agreed-upon definition of trafficking is available” today (Laczko and Gramegna 2003).

The UN Trafficking Protocol, to which India is a signatory,is the single-most significant international legal instrument on human trafficking. Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Trafficking Protocol defines trafficking in persons as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (UNODC 2016)

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Therefore, trafficking in persons can be identified by the confluence of three factors: (i) the act (the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons); (ii) the means (by threat or use of force or other forms of coercion); and (iii) the purpose (for the purpose of exploitation). Further, Article 3(c) of the protocol provides a separate definition for trafficking in children which requires elements (i) and (iii) above, but does not require the use or threat of force or coercion in achieving them. Although the protocol offers a rather nuanced definition of trafficking, its purposes are rather general: “to prevent and combat trafficking, to assist victims and to promote and facilitate cooperation among States” (Gallagher 2006: 165). Gallagher rightly notes:

In terms of substance, however, its emphasis is squarely on criminal justice aspects of trafficking. Mandatory obligations are few and relate only to criminalization; investigation and prosecution; cooperation between national law enforcement agencies; border controls; and sanctions on commercial carriers. In relation to victims, the Protocol contains several important provisions but very little in the way of hard obligation. States Parties are enjoined to provide victims with protection, support and remedies but are not required to do so. States Parties are encouraged to avoid involuntary repatriation of victims but, once again, are under no legal obligation in this regard.

However, notwithstanding the shortcomings of the International Law on Trafficking, it may also be pointed out that even countries that are not a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two related protocols “are obligated to protect the rights of trafficked persons under provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which comprises customary international law” (King 2008).

Human Trafficking in India

India is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Majority of trafficking in the country occurs internally (interstate or intra-state), and the rest occurs across national borders. India is a destination for individuals trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, and a transit country for persons being trafficked to West Asia and other countries. Moreover, India serves as a source for individuals trafficked to West Asia, North America and Europe.

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In March 2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 was passed by India. The act amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code and included the country’s first definition of human trafficking based on the UN Trafficking Protocol. Till then, there was no comprehensive definition of human trafficking in the Indian law. Under Article 23 of the Constitution, trafficking in humans is prohibited; however, the article does not define the term. Besides this, various other laws provide police officials with the mandate to undertake activities pertaining to prevention of crimes, prosecution of offenders and protection of the victims of trafficking. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 (as amended in 1986) is a special legislation which addresses the issue of sex trafficking. It provides wide-ranging powers to special police officers as well as other police officers, working on their behalf for carrying out searches, rescue of victims, and arrest of offenders (SSB 2015). However, it does not address the issue of labour trafficking.

The laws in India do not explicitly recognise and punish all forms of labour trafficking to the extent required by the United Nations Trafficking Protocol. The definition of human trafficking in the now-amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code does not include forced labour. Further, other laws which deal with forced labour in the country do not adequately address the complex issues concerning the trafficking of persons for the purpose of labour. In addition, although the 2013 Amendment Act reformed Section 370 to penalise those individuals who engage sex trafficking victims, however, it did not criminalise the acts of those who engage labour trafficking victims (Rhoten et al 2015).

In May 2016, Maneka Gandhi, the Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, released a draft of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill that was referred to as India’s first ever anti-human trafficking law. Its primary objectives are to unify existing laws on human trafficking and extend the definition to include labour trafficking as well. Further, the bill aims at treating “survivors of trafficking as victims in need of assistance and to make rehabilitation a right for those who are rescued” (Sriram 2016). Among others, one of the main criticisms of the bill is that the terms “protection,” “prevention” and “rehabilitation” have not been defined in the draft. This, in turn, leaves it open to subjective interpretation.

From Bangladesh into West Bengal

West Bengal is the hub of internal and cross-border human trafficking in India. Most of the Indo–Bangladesh border is unfenced and porous, which makes it susceptible to trafficking in persons and fake currency. The districts in West Bengal which are most vulnerable to human trafficking include North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Nadia, Malda and Cooch Behar. West Bengal is a source, transit and destination for trafficking in persons. According to a non-government organisation (NGO) working on human trafficking in the state, West Bengal has also become a transit for Bangladeshi girls who are sent to Bengaluru and Hyderabad by both Indian and Bangladeshi traffickers.

Field Research in West Bengal

The fieldwork on human trafficking was conducted in January 2016 in five districts of West Bengal—Kolkata, Howrah, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas. While Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas were selected for their vulnerability to cross-border human trafficking, Kolkata and Howrah were part of the study since the shelter homes in these districts housed a substantial number of trafficked Bangladeshi girls. The respondents included Bangladeshi girls in shelter homes in West Bengal, NGOs working on the issue of trafficking and government and police officials. Due to limited time period of the field research and difficulty in getting access to all the major shelter homes in the state, non-probability sampling was used.

The author interviewed 38 Bangladeshi girls, between the ages of 11 and 23, at three shelter homes in West Bengal. These shelter homes include the government-run Sukanya and Liluah in Kolkata and Howrah, respectively; and the shelter home run by Sanlaap in Kolkata, an NGO which works on human trafficking in West Bengal. Of the 38 girls who were interviewed, 12 were trafficked from different districts in Bangladesh to West Bengal. Further, at Shilayan shelter home in Behrampur, Murshidabad, where the author was unable to get the permission to interview Bangladeshi girls, a senior official told her, “most Bangladeshi girls who are currently lodged at the home were victims of trafficking.”

Due to poverty and rampant unemployment in Bangladesh, and the perception of India as a land of opportunities among many young Bangladeshis from poor backgrounds, human trafficking from Bangladesh to India has become a flourishing trade. Many poor and young Bangladeshis, girls in particular, are falsely promised jobs and are then trafficked to West Bengal. Most trafficking victims who were interviewed came from poor and underprivileged families and were lured by traffickers who promised them jobs in India. However, once both the victim and the trafficker entered the Indian territory, the trafficker sold the girl or sent her to a brothel within West Bengal or some other part of the country.

When the author met her in 2016, Ayesha (a 16-year-old from Dhaka, Bangladesh), had been at Sanlaap shelter home in Kolkata, West Bengal for over one and half year. She was trafficked from Bangladesh and taken to a brothel in Mumbai from where she was rescued by the police. Thereafter, she was sent to Sanlaap in Kolkata. She was awaiting repatriation to Bangladesh. When the author asked her questions about her trafficking to India, she appeared hesitant to explain.

Soniya, a 15-year-old girl from Dhaka, had also been lodged at Sanlaap for over one and half years. She was trafficked from Bangladesh and sent to a hotel in Kolkata, West Bengal. Soniya noted, “the hotel was raided by the police. Thereafter the police and some NGO rescued me and I was sent to Sanlaap.” Soniya was awaiting repatriation to Bangladesh. Like Ayesha, Soniya was also hesitant to speak about how she was trafficked to India.

Once the cross-national victim and the trafficker are arrested, they are both charged under the 14 Foreigners Act 1946 due to their illegal entry into India. According to the Foreigners Act, if an offender is a foreigner, she/he should be charged under this act, punished and then deported. In the case of cross-border trafficking, the victim is mostly revictimised. She/he is treated as a criminal for her/his illegal presence in the country. The perpetrator is merely released after she/he completes the sentence under the act and if the former is a foreigner, she/he is deported after the sentence. However, the victim is sent to a shelter home in India as per the court orders and is required to stay there till the court hearing since she/he is the witness in the case.

The victim is often treated as a criminal despite the Advisory from Ministry of Home Affairs, India on Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking in India—Dealing with Foreign Nationals (MHA 2012) which states:

It is seen that in general, the foreign victims of human trafficking are found without valid passport or visa. If, after investigation, the woman or child is found to be a victim, she should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act. If the investigation reveals that she did not come to India or did not indulge in crime out of her own free will, the state government UT (union territory) Administration may not file a charge sheet against the victim. If the chargesheet has already been filed under the Foreigners Act and other relevant laws of the land, steps may be taken to withdraw the case from prosecution so far as the victim is concerned. Immediate action may be taken to furnish the details of such victims to the Ministry of External Affairs (Consular Division), Patiala House, New Delhi so as to ensure that the person concerned is repatriated to the country of her origin through diplomatic channels.

There is a lack of adequate laws in India which must recognise the trafficked person as a victim and not as a criminal. The Indian laws also do not adequately target traffickers and their associates or punish them effectively. Further, the trafficker can be charged under Section 366 B of the Indian Penal Code according to which importation of a female below the age of 21 years is a punishable offence. However, this legal provision is rarely implemented owing to a lack of its awareness among police officials. The penal clauses are also not used adequately to bring the clients to justice.

Another critical issue concerning the cross-border trafficked victim, as pointed out by a senior official at Sukanya shelter home, is that the verification and confirmation of the addresses of the trafficked victims who are lodged at shelter homes in West Bengal takes a long time (sometimes as long as three years). The reasons for this include delay in confirmation by the Government of Bangladesh or inaccurate, incomplete or vague addresses given by the victims at the shelter home. Riya, an 18-year-old from Dhaka who was falsely promised a job by a trafficker and taken to West Bengal, had been at the Liluah shelter home in the state for over two years and four months after she was rescued by the police. She was awaiting repatriation when the author met her.

Further, Shafi, a 17-year-old and Taslima, a 15-year-old from Bhola district in Bangladesh, who were both falsely promised jobs by a trafficker and taken to West Bengal, had been staying at Sanlaap shelter home for over three years since they are both witnesses in the human trafficking case. They were rescued by an NGO and were thereafter produced before the court. According to the court orders, they were both required to stay at the shelter home till the hearing of the case.

India–Bangladesh Provisions

In June 2015, India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the prevention of human trafficking, especially of women and children. The agreement calls for joint co-ordinated efforts by officials in both states “along with a systematic process of data circulation and coordinated patrolling in the border areas.” “There is also a provision for repatriation and rehabilitation of the victims which will be carried out by their mother territory” (Ray Chaudhary et al 2016). For addressing the various issues pertaining to “prevention of trafficking, victim identification and repatriation” and making the process speedy and victim-friendly between the two countries, a task force has been constituted (MEA 2016).

Cooperation and coordination

Although the MoU envisages collaborated efforts between the two countries, to address the problem of cross-border trafficking from Bangladesh to India, there is anurgent and greater need for cooperation and coordination between the two governments andNGOs on either side of the border. There is also a need for networks between actors pursuing diverse approaches. For instance, good networking betweenNGOs and India’s border guarding forces’ border outposts is required. Further, a number ofNGOs working on the issue of human trafficking in West Bengal noted that Border Security Force (BSF) that guards the Indian side of the border needs todevelop good rapport with childcare and protection agencies. In recent times, there has been increasing cooperation and coordination between theNGOs and BSF on the issue of cross-border trafficking from Bangladesh into West Bengal.

In addition, there is also a need for networking between actors pursuing similar approaches or working on similar objectives. In West Bengal, a number of NGOs deal with internal human trafficking, however, not in a holistic manner. There is a need for coordination among the NGOs working on human trafficking. Moreover, there are very few NGOs in the state that work on cross-border trafficking from Bangladesh. There should be a coordination between NGOs that work on internal trafficking and those which deal with both internal and cross-border trafficking. It is imperative that networking is not “obstructed by red tape, the failure to exchange information, and zero-sum games between networked actors” (Friesendorf 2007: 386). In addition, there is a need for community mobilisation and sensitisation of the BSF on the issue of human trafficking along the border.

Increasing participation

All necessary measures should be adopted to ensure participation of governmental institutions, including national asylum authorities, international organisations as well as civil society organisations where appropriate, in the general assessment of protection needs of trafficking victims. This can help in determining, from a technical and humanitarian perspective, which protection measure is most fitting for each individual case. This would also help ensure that appropriate referral mechanisms are in place where parallel protection regimes exist.

Evaluation and monitoring 

There is also a need for evaluating and monitoring the relationship between the intention of anti-trafficking laws, policies and interventions, and their real impact. In particular, it needs to be ensured that distinctions are made between measures which truly reduce trafficking and measures which may have the effect of transferring the problem from one group or place to another. Moreover, it is imperative to recognize the significant contribution that survivors of trafficking can, on a purely voluntary basis, make to developing and implementing anti-trafficking interventions and evaluating their impact. Further, NGOs can play a central role in improving the law enforcement response to trafficking by providing relevant authorities with information on trafficking incidents and patterns ensuring the privacy of trafficked individuals.

Database on victims 

In a consultation on cross-border trafficking held in May 2017 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), one of the key recommendations was of a country-specific or centralized database on the number of victims awaiting/granted repatriation to be maintained by India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It was also suggested that task forces may beestablished at all levels to ensure that there are no obstacles in the process of repatriation. Further, amonitoring mechanism within each government was also suggested “to track time-bound repatriation and support services provided to the victims” (UNODC 2017). However, as rightly pointed out by a former senior official of BSF, the database should be regional rather than country-specific and it should be accessible to the general public.

Further, there is a need for standardising the collection of statistical information on trafficking and related movements (such as migrant smuggling) that may include a trafficking element. The data concerning trafficked persons should be disaggregated on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity and other relevant attributes.

Transit homes 

During a consultation (May 2017),UNODC noted, the pilot transit home established in West Bengal, and rehabilitation homes in Bihar, are good practice models. However, in case “where no shelters exist at the border, mahila thanas or government barracks with basic amenities may be allotted and equipped for female victims, especially at night.” These may possibly be developed under a public–private partnership (PPP) model. Existing detention centers may also be transformed into shelter homes (UNODC 2017).

Safeguards for victims

Specific safeguards for the protection of girl and boy victims of trafficking should be established including: (a) a formal determination of the best interest of the child; (b) the adoption of child-specific protection measures, such as the appointment of guardians; (c) the collecting of information on the role parents might have played in the trafficking situation of their children; (d) issues of tracing and family reunification, and (e) the observance of specific safeguards in cases of the repatriation of separated or unaccompanied children.

Identification of trafficking victims

Finally, there is a need to augment the existing efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, in particular deportees and undocumented migrants. It may be noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office, on a regular basis, visits holding and detention centers and conducts monitoring missions to evaluate the arrival of refugees within mixed migratory flows, and helps ensure identification of victims of trafficking or individuals at risk of being trafficked in a gender- and age-sensitive manner.