A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases
Forty-four percent of the nation’s trafficking victims are from West Bengal, according to fresh data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Though the data also showed a rise in the number of rescues and arrests in such cases, experts called for more grassroots intervention by the state government and NGOs.
After West Bengal, Rajasthan is a distant second at 17.49 per cent. A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases.
After Rajasthan (5767) and Madhya Pradesh (4817), Bengal recorded the third highest number of victims rescued by police, at 2,793 (77 per cent). Of those rescued, 2,323 are females whereas 470 are males. The numbers of persons arrested in West Bengal in connection with sex trafficking (1,847) is also the highest in the country. The police were also able to charge a large number of those arrested (1,795). However, in 2016, only 11 were convicted, while 224 were acquitted or discharged by court.
“Somewhere, government and NGOs are failing to identify the vulnerability in villages. We are all to blame for this. (That) West Bengal contributes 44% of the nation’s trafficking victims is alarming. Also is the fact that these are registered cases and just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Bahini, an NGO that works towards rescue and rehabilitation across the country, while speaking to The Indian Express from New Delhi.
“Police seem to be playing a proactive role with a large number of arrests and rescues in 2016. But the district administration and NGOs, which are supposed to reach out to vulnerable families, are not doing their job to a satisfactory level. Bengal remains the hotbed for trafficking,” added Kant.
Experts said poorer sections of society in villages are most vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers have a good network in villages through touts and utilise poverty and lack of jobs as bait to lure victims. According to the NCRB report, sexual exploitation, prostitution and forced marriage remain the main purposes of trafficking.
“It is mainly through marriages and lure of jobs that girls are trafficked out of Bengal. There is a need of a placement agency Act in the state. The Act will enable proper tracking of agencies (many of which operate from outside Bengal) and whoever they have placed for jobs (possible victims). Secondly, more awareness is necessary to prevent child marriages. Early marriages are still a menace in Bengal. A number of initiatives have been taken like Kanyashree in Bengal, which has been beneficial,” said Chittapriyo Sadhu, general manager, state programme (West Bengal and Assam).
“The modus operandi of traffickers has also changed as compared to five years ago. Also is the fact that more cases are reported now by parents of victims,” added Sadhu. “We are trying our best to rescue girls when a case is reported. In many cases, family members do not report it, mostly when victims are lured for jobs. There is a need for NGOs, civil society, panchayats, police and government to come together for prevention of the menace,” said a senior police officer.