Colloquium On Human Trafficking At Chandigarh Judicial Academy


Chandigarh, July 28- A colloquium on Human Trafficking  is being organized by State Legal Services Authorities of  Haryana, Punjab and Union Territory of  Chandigarh, in collaboration with Governments of Haryana and Punjab at Chandigarh Judicial Academy, here on July 29 at 9:30 a.m.

While stating this here today, an official spokesman said that Dr. P. M. Nair, Special Director General, CRPF would speak on Dimensions Challenges and existing responses on Human Trafficking, Prof. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, New Delhi would speak on Laws and Procedures on Trafficking for Forced Labour, including Child Labour, Ms. Swati Chauhan, Judge, Family Court, Mumbai would speak on Adjudication of  Sexual Offences, Mr. Ravi Kant, President, Shakti Vahini , a NGO,  would speak on Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of trafficked survivors and Mr. Justice Roshan Daivi, Judge, Mumbai High Court would speak on Laws relating to Sexual Exploitation.


U.S. report rues low conviction rates in human trafficking in India


“Challenges remain regarding overall law enforcement efforts against bonded labour and alleged complicity of public officials.”

Although India has made significant efforts in prevention of human trafficking, low conviction rates remain a cause for concern, according to the Trafficking in Persons Report-2012 released by the U.S. Department of State on Wednesday. As part of preventive measures, the Home Ministry has established anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) with the objective of combining law enforcement and rehabilitation efforts. The Central Bureau of Investigation has also set up an anti-trafficking unit. However, the report states that “challenges remain regarding overall law enforcement efforts against bonded labour and the alleged complicity of public officials.”

Comprehensive law needed

The report says India needs to develop a comprehensive anti-trafficking law or amend anti-trafficking legislation to be in line with the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, 2000, with adequate penalties prescribed by the U.N. Transnational Organised Crime Convention.It also recommends prosecution and conviction of officials allegedly involved in trafficking and States encouraged to establish special anti-trafficking courts, besides improvement in the distribution of State and Central government rehabilitation funds to victims under the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act. The report seeks improved protection for victims who testify against traffickers.

Uneven, not stringent

The report recognises the progress made by Indian law enforcement agencies in combating human trafficking in 2011, observing that most forms of forced labour in the country are prohibited under the Indian Penal Code, the Bonded Labour Act, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. It states that these laws are unevenly enforced and the prescribed penalties therein “not sufficiently stringent.” However, the punishment for sex trafficking under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act and the IPC are sufficiently stringent.“The ITPA also criminalises other offences, including prostitution, and has some provisions that are sometimes used to criminalise sex trafficking victims,” says the report.

Corrupt police

“Non-government organisations continued to report that……corrupt law enforcement officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect suspected traffickers and brothel keepers,” alleges the report adding that there is no reported prosecution or conviction of government officials for trafficking-related offences during the reporting period. This, according to NGOs, is due to a lack of sufficient evidence.The government continues to implement its three-year nationwide anti-trafficking effort by disbursing funds to State governments to establish at least 107 new AHTUs.Some NGOs believe that some units are more focused on sex trafficking than labour-related trafficking, while some feel the focus is more on child trafficking, than on both children and adults.

2009 directive

Through a 2009 directive, the Home Ministry has advised the States to use standard operating procedures developed in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to protection services. But the report says its implementation is not known.However, the report recognises that the government continues to fund 100 NGO-run hotlines for vulnerable sections and distributed rehabilitation funds. It also raises issues pertaining to overcrowding, poor hygiene and limited services in the government-run shelter homes.The report points out that 90 per cent of trafficking in the country are internal and it is mostly related to the disadvantaged social strata. “There were increasing reports of females from north-eastern States and Odisha being subjected to servile marriages in States with low female-to-male child sex ratios, including Haryana and Punjab.” Maoist groups forcibly recruited children into their ranks, it says.


Most rescued childeren are never rehabilitated

Most rescued childeren are never rehabilitated

Most rescued childeren are never rehabilitated


NEW DELHI: The teenage help who was rescued from a Dwarka apartment in March is now enrolled in a school in Jharkhand. She has received her wage arrears, besides support from the state. But hers is an exceptional story of rehabilitation. Experts say most trafficked children, even when rescued, lead bleak lives.

Take the case of two girls — aged 12 and 13 — who were brought to Delhi a year ago and sexually assaulted at a placement agency. After their rescue, they were sent to a shelter home in West Bengal, and have not received any significant help.

Experts say care and aid are lavished on victims only after their cases grab media attention. Generally, though, rescued children get trapped in procedural hurdles. The luckier ones are ‘reunited’ with their families but not rehabilitated and, occasionally, children even slip back into the hands of traffickers.

Rishikant, an activist from NGO Shakti Vahini, said, “We get many complaints and some of the offences are grave. The state machinery moves when a case gets highlighted. In most cases, the child welfare committees (CWCs) merely dump the children back home without follow-up,” he said. The chairperson of the Lajpat Nagar CWC said, “Reuniting does not mean rehabilitation.” Shakti Vahini claims that of the 200 children it rescued last year, none has been properly rehabilitated.

In most cases, delays occur due to poor inter-state coordination. “The authorities here are not so concerned as 90% of the cases are from other states. Their attitude is that the other state has to take care of them,” said CWC chairperson Raaj Mangal Prasad. It is also observed that the CWCs of the other states are not so zealous in their work.

Rishi Kant, another Shakti Vahini member, said this hampers follow-up action. “The CWC might pass orders in the city and, to an extent, also recover children’s due wages, but it becomes difficult to follow up on a case on a day-to-day basis.” He suggests that the labour department should act as an intermediary between source states and cities from where children are rescued.

The director for policy and research at Child Rights and You (CRY), Vijaylakshmi Arora, said lack of manpower is another important hurdle in rehabilitation. “If you go to the district level or the CWCs, you don’t find much manpower. It is usually one man taking care of 50 cases. That ratio has to be improved.”

Arora said a system needs to be in place to track each and every child’s case separately “as each child’s case is different and the factors for trafficking are different. This will also keep tabs on children who have been re-trafficked; at present there is no system to monitor that.”

While lack of manpower and poor interstate coordination hinder the process of rehabilitation, Prasad said transferring the monitoring of child labour to the department of women and child development will help. “The Child Labour Act that falls under the labour department does not look into the rehabilitation of a child; this is done by the Juvenile Justice Act that is the responsibility of the department of women and child development,” he said, adding, “Shifting the child labour issue to them would speed up the process”.


Meeting of Central Advisory Committee on Combating Trafficking held

Convergence of Initiatives of Centre, States, and NGOs Stressed upon

A meeting of the Central Advisory Committee (CAC) on Combating Trafficking was held here today. Smt. Neela Ganagadharan, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development chaired the meeting.

Drawing attention to the growing problem of trafficking in the country, the Secretary said that the menace can be effectively handled through convergence of efforts of the Centre, States and civil society organizations. She mentioned that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Bill 2012, which has been passed by the Parliament, will go a long way in combating this problem due to the provisions included in the Bill, which link trafficking with protecting children from sexual offenses. She stated that sufficient legislative and programmatic framework exists to prevent and combat trafficking. Whereas the framework for prevention, protection and penalization is in place, strengthening of systems for their effective implementation is needed to combat this problem, the Secretary noted. Measures of the Ministry of Women and Child Development are supplemented by measures taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Labour Ministry and Ministry of External Affairs, and the States/UTs. She also stated that the efforts of the civil society organizations, many of whom have been working extensively in this area, have helped to combat the problem. She invited suggestions and recommendations from the representatives of the Central and State governments, UNICEF, NGOs and other experts to strengthen the legislative and monitoring measures to combat trafficking. This is the first time when the Women and Child Development departments in the States have been asked to coordinate with the nodal Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) for convergence of initiatives for prevention of trafficking, rescue and rehabilitation.

Elaborating on the initiatives taken up by the WCD Ministry to combat trafficking, the Secretary state that the Ujjwala Scheme was launched in 2008, which is a comprehensive scheme to prevent and combat trafficking, where funds and support is provide to agencies which work in the areas of prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and repatriation of victims of trafficking. Since 2008, 188 Ujjwala projects across 19 states have been sanctioned. She however noted that the States need to be more pro-active to involve the NGOs for ensuring effective implementation of the Scheme. The Secretary stated that the Ministry of WCD is planning to introduce videoconferencing for sanctioning of Ujjwala projects. Participation of the Secretary, Department of WCD in the States will help to ensure participation and increased involvement of State Government in Ujjawala projects.

The Ministry of WCD also made a presentation on the actions taken since the last meeting of the CAC in May 2011. The Ministry is formulating better monitoring mechanism of the Ujjwala scheme. It has asked States to involve district level officers for more effective monitoring. Evaluation study of the scheme has been entrusted to the Programme Evaluation Organisation of the Planning Commission which will review the components of the scheme and make recommendations.

Addressing the meeting, Smt. B. Bhamathi, Additional Secretary, MHA said that several initiatives have been taken by the MHA to combat domestic and cross-border trafficking. Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) have been set up in many States and equipped with infrastructure to assist the States in their efforts. Advisories have been issued to the States from time to time regarding diverse aspects of the trafficking problem. Representative from the Labour Ministry apprised the gathering on the schemes taken up for welfare of working children in areas of high concentration of child labour, schemes for bonded labour and those taken up for generating awareness regarding child labour.

Member Secretary, NCPCR, Sh. Lov Verma was also present during the meeting. Representatives from the department of WCD and police from Assam, Maharashtra, AP, Haryana, New Delhi, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal were also present. Members of several NGOs working in the area of combating trafficking shared their experience regarding this, and made several recommendations to strengthen the coordination between the field level government and police functionaries.

The Central Advisory Committee (CAC) on Combating Trafficking was formed in 1994 with the Secretary, Ministry of WCD as the chairperson. It is the outcome of the Supreme Court Judgment in Vishal Jeet vs Union of India wherein the Supreme Court had directed that a Committee be formed at the Central and State levels to look into the issues of trafficking particularly child trafficking. Gradually the mandate of CAC has grown and it has been expanded to include representatives from all agencies concerned, thereby becoming a forum facilitating interaction between stakeholders to understand issues relating to trafficking and to evolve strategies for combating it.

Apparel exports sector working to remove ‘child labour’ taint

India‘s $14-billion apparel export sector and the Textiles Ministry have begun an initiative to help manufacturers focus on good work practices and prevention of child and trafficked/forced labour. This is part of their efforts to improve India’s image as an ‘ethical sourcing destination’. Significantly, the development follows blacklisting of the sector by countries such as the US and multinational chains (such as Gap Inc, Walmart, Tesco, H&M, Mothercare, C&A and Primark) on the grounds of products being made in units using forced / bonded / child labour.

For instance, the US Department of Labour continues to include India’s apparel export sector under its ‘Executive Order 13126′ List on the “Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labour.”The sector was also listed in the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act meant to combat forced / child labour in foreign countries. The EU also has norms against export of products made using child/forced labour. The US and the EU account for 80 per cent of India’s apparel exports.

In a bid to remove the taint, the Apparel Export Promotion Council has started implementing a pilot programme called ‘DISHA’, or Driving Industry towards Sustainable Human capital Advancement. The Textile Ministry is the main funding source for the DISHA programme.Efforts began on Thursday to constitute a stakeholder forum including international organisations, NGOs, trade unions, third-party accreditation agencies, brands, retailers, buying houses and multi-stakeholder institutions.Such a forum will then come out with a ‘code of ethics’ to prevent child/forced labour and help the sector adopt international best practices, and further to grant certificates for units complying with ethical norms.

The other priority areas of DISHA include ensuring freedom of association in the sector, proper wages and benefits, compliance with all the relevant laws and social justice norms. Around 134 units have so far enrolled for DISHA certification, and 68 units have given their Letter of Intent to comply with the norms. Besides, Self Assessment Tool (SAT) workshops have been conducted for 51 units in Tirupur, Jaipur, Ludhiana and the National Capital Region around Delhi.

The Textiles Ministry has given an allocation of around Rs 6 crore for the first year (2011-12) of the programme, during which it will cover 400 units across the country based on a cluster approach.



Unsafe migration leads to Trafficking. Presently India has a large movement of rural people going to the urban areas. In this stream of migration many children and women are being trafficked for forced labour , child labour , forced marriages, sexual exploitation , bonded labour etc. Many cases of missing children and women have been reported who have subsequently been trafficked. In recent times men, women and children are made false promises of good jobs in the urban areas and made to work in illegal activities.

Thousands of illegal placement agencies flourish in cities like Delhi where there is a high demand of live-in maids who can work even at odd hours according to the schedule of the employers. The employers are also specifically looking for younger children because ‘they are cheaper’, complain less and can be exploited. Apart from this there are those source regions struck by poverty, natural calamities, lack of employment, education where parents are willing to let go off their children in the hope that their child will live a better life in the city and send back some money so that those back home can enjoy two meals a day, but instead what the children go through in these cities is nothing less than hell.

There is also a lot of reporting on the sex abuse of maids. Many cases off such exploitation has been reported. The maids work from dawn till midnight, do all household chores, they are deprived of food, clean clothes, basic sanitation, and what they get is physical, sexual and mental abuse with most or all wages going to the agents operating the placement agencies. The employers don’t think twice before giving their wages to these middlemen who never send back the money home nor do they intimate the families of these maids about the whereabouts of the maids.

 Recently, there has definitely a growth in the number of cases that have come to light. This has been possible as there is an increased partnership between NGOs and Police. With awareness and sensitization programmes being conducted and also with increased media space being provided to such issues there has been an increased public participation in providing information about such violence to NGOs and Police.

With setting up of Anti Human Trafficking Units  (AHTU) there is more exchange of information between source area law enforcement and destination NGOs leading to several joint investigations. The government scheme on setting up Anti Human Trafficking Units has focused on all forms of trafficking. It envisages training law enforcement officials, sensitizing them, rescues and also post rescue initiatives for rehabilitation. It stresses on NGO involvement at every step of a case intervention. The police today are much more aware of the organized gangs involved in trafficking for not only commercial sexual exploitation but also labour and more specifically domestic labour through placement agencies.

Media has been playing a lead role in highlighting the issue. Creating pressure on the government to take action, it has kept the police on its toes. This has led to increased debate on such issues among the general population.

 The government has also playing its part. India recently ratified United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime of which the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children is a part.

 Recent Cases – 2012

 The recent rescue of a 13 years old domestic help from the house of a doctor couple reflects how inhuman an educated employer can be. The Doctor couple had gone to Bangkok after locking up the girl in their second-floor house six days before. The girl was left without food and had been starving for three days. The couple was not paying her any wage and didn’t allow her to leave the house. The girl is from Jharkhand and was brought to Delhi and sold to a placement agency and later sent to the couple’s house to work as a maid. When the couple came to know about the rescue and a case had been registered against them they postponed their return to India from Thailand. In the mean time the police issued lookout circular for the couple. The couple also moved an anticipatory bail application before the court which was strongly opposed by Shakti Vahini. Later the couple was arrested by the police and were in police remand for five days. After that the couple was sent to the judicial custody by the honourable court. Shakti Vahini has been providing legal aid to the victim. The couple is out on bail after staying in Jail for Five days .

 In yet another worst case of exploitation of domestic help of a 14-year-girl was raped and sodomised by her employer for two years before she was rescued from her employer’s house by the joint intervention of Police and Childline. After the accused raped her the first time, he threatened the girl with murder if she told on him.

 In another case an 11-year-old domestic help was rescued from Greater Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, after neighbours said she was being tortured and kept hungry.Police found her with bruises all over her body. Her employers – a golf instructor and an artist – were charged under the Juvenile Justice Act.

In a joint operation by Assam Police, Delhi Police, Crime Branch, Shakti Vahini and Childline 22 minor girls were rescued from different places of National Capital Region. All the girls were trafficked on the pretext of job by one illegally running placement agency under the banner of N. K. Enterprize in Shakurpur area. The placement agency allegedly runs by one Home Singh Pandey. During the time of rescue the girls were found locked outside in the N. K. Enterprise premise in Shakurpur. These girls were brought by the source traffickers and sold to the said Home Singh Pandey. Police arrested Home Singh Pandey and his three associates under FIR no. 14/2012 at Mushalpur Police Station, Dist. Baska, Assam u/s 420/372/366A of IPC. All the accused were produced before the court of Sh. Sumedh Kumar Sethi, Metropolitan Magistrate, Rohini Court on March 15, 2012. The court has granted transit remand and also directed to be produced before the CJM/MM/DMM concerned. As said by the police the Home Singh Pandey came in contact with one Assamese girl as a part of his job in Delhi and married her. With the help of his wife Rupa, in a very organized manner he started bringing girls from Assam with the involvement of the source traffickers. Home Singh Pandey started buying girls from the source traffickers by Rs.5000 each. He then gradually started the Placement Agency in the name of N. K. Enterprise. He along with his associates started employing girls for domestic help by taking Rs.15000 -20000 as security money and every month he used to take salary on the girls’ behalf as Rs.1500-2000. Home Singh Pandey allegedly kidnapped 60 girls from Assam and employed them as domestic helper in Delhi. Police is investigating the matter. Of the 20 girls who were rescued, 8 were from Assam, 7 were from West Bengal and 5 from Jharkhand.

 In another case in which the Crime Branch, AHTU, Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini conducted multiple raids following an order issued by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a bench of Magistrate and targeted the premises of the placement agency in Chirag Delhi and houses where maids were believed to have been supplied. Six girls including two from the houses of their employers and four from the premises of the LG placement agency were rescued on April 4, 2012. The girls had allegedly not been paid by their employers. Most of the girls were trafficked from villages in West Bengal and the agencies allegedly run by two persons named Laxman and Rahu. Police arrested Laxman and sent him to the Judicial Custody as per the order of the honourable court.

 Among the series of cases of the recent past, a 20 year old woman working as domestic help in the capital was beaten up by her employer and sustained a neck fracture.  The woman hailing from Jharkhand was beaten up and forced to do menial jobs by her employer. She was rescued on April 15, 2012 by the police. The victim said that on April 13 she was asked to wash a huge bundle of cloths and when she refused as she was not feeling well, she was beaten up by a bat used to wash cloths. During her service she was suffering from throat infection and though she informed her employer about this, no medical attention was given to her.

 Another incident of girl trafficking for maid has come into light in the capital with the recovery of a teenaged, a native of Jharkhand on April 14. The 18 years old girl was found in a doctor’s clinic where she was allegedly brought for abortion purpose. A well wisher called Shakti Vahini NGO and with the help of the police the case was intervened. During the counselling the girl said that one Rajesh who allegedly raped her in the placement agency premise at Aligaon. After the rape the girl was placed as a domestic help in a house in Gurgaon, where she worked for two months. After two months she came to the agency in a break where she told Rajkumar, the alleged co-owner of the agency about the rape because she had skipped her menstrual cycle but he asked her to keep quiet. Then she was sent to Faridabad for work where also she worked for two months. Her employer was going out of town so she requested Rajkumar to bring her to the agency for a few days. As there was no one at the agency office in Aligaon, Rajkimar brought her to one Pancham’s placement agency in Chirag Delhi. During this time she was allegedly given some pills after which she started bleeding profusely as said by Dr. Advani.  The girl came to Delhi about 6 months back with a Kunti Devi from her village. Kunti Devi promised her a job in Delhi. On coming to Delhi Kunti took Manmeet to a placement agency in Aligaon operated by one Rajesh (Kunti Devi’s husband) and Rajkumar. First she was placed for work in a house in Dwarka where she worked for about two months and came to the placement agency for a 4 day holiday. During this time when everyone was sleeping, Rajesh woke her up and pulled her to another room and raped her. A case was registered in the Sarita Vihar Police Station u/s 376/312/313/201 IPC. The FIR no. is 116/12 and the accused Rajkumar was arrested.

 Earlier Cases of placement Agencies involved in Organised trafficking rackets

In a major breakthrough in the drive against human trafficking, Delhi Police have apprehended one of the kingpins of the racket, Munna Chaudhary, who is the owner of a placement agency. At least nine minor girls have been rescued. An Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Crime Branch under ACP MS Bisht and overall Addl DCP (Crime), PS Kushwah on July 13, based on inputs from Assam Police and accompanied by a team of Shakti Vahini – NGO, raided the premises of Rajdhani Placement Agency at Rajouri Garden, Delhi. Munna Chaudhary (41) owner of the Rajdhani Placement Agency was arrested and subjected to intensive interrogation. He disclosed that he has been running the placement agency for the last six years. He procures minor girls through brokers and agents from rural areas of Assam and after being brought to Delhi, they are employed as domestic help. The minor girls had no knowledge about their salary and they had no contact with their parents after coming to Delhi. All the girls expressed their willingness to go back to their parents. Investigations revealed that brokers and agents of the placement agency indulged in trafficking of minor children from Assam and West Bengal and brought them to Delhi. These brokers and agents contacted poor parents of the children and won their confidence and then lured them by promising a better future for their child and money to them in the form of salary. After being brought to Delhi the minors were handed over to the placement agency. The agents were paid Rs.12, 000 per girl, as commission by the placement agency. The placement agency charged Rs.20, 000 to 25,000 from the employer for providing the girls as domestic help. Thereafter they also collected the salary of the child but it hardly reached the parents.

 The Bengal CID team following a habeas corpus visited Delhi looking for one Sarathi Mondal D/O Deshbandhu Mondal, R/O Sandeshkhali on an FIR no. 157 dated 18.06.2010 u/s 363/363A/368/370/34.  The West Bengal CID Team contacted Shakti Vahini for assisting them in raid and rescue. Shakti Vahini contacted the Crime Branch Delhi Police. The Additional DCP Crime, P.S. Kushwaha directed the district AHTU to coordinate and help in raid and rescue. In the case, there was one Sushma Mistry and a Rajesh involved in keeping the girls in confinement, sexually assaulting them and forcing them to work as domestic help. There was a man called Nimai Sardar who runs Alo Placement Agency who helped with bringing the minor girls to Delhi and putting them for work in people’s houses. According to the Bengal Police Sushma was to be staying in Ghaziabad in the office of the placement agency and Rajesh was living with her there with the other girls. The team had brought with them Saraswati Mondal who was rescued after Babu Mistry’s arrest back in Hingalganj P.S. She was brought to identify the accused and help rescue the victim from the identified locations. The next day the residence and office of Nimai Sardar were raided in RZ A-413, Jai Vihar, Najafgarh are. He lived in a three storey building from where 5 girls were rescued. After the raid at the office which was locked the residence of Rajesh was also raided. Rajesh was seen around his residence the previous day but on that day no whereabouts of the man could not be found. Also, at his residence there was no further clue found about his whereabouts and his wife and elder brother did not cooperate much. The next day the residence and office of Nimai Sardar were raided in RZ A-413, Jai Vihar, Najafgarh are. He lived in a three storey building from where 5 girls were rescued.

 The Way Forward

Though cases are registered many end up in acquittals as the victim is represented by the state through the Public Prosecutor. Shakti Vahini has since the last two years representing and assisting the Public Prosecutors in almost all the cases many of them are in advanced stages of Trial.

 In the recent cases bail applications of the accused have been very strongly opposed by the organization leading to sending of the accused to jails.

Though there is increased focus of the law enforcement agencies through the AHTU Police at the Police Station level still lack the basic skills of identifying a trafficking case which many times hamper in the investigations.

Though the government of India prohibited child labour for domestic work on 10 October 2006  the implementation has also been very slow. With most of the offence being bailable their is no fear of the law in the minds of the people and hence the general opinion is that they get away with such extreme human rights and constitutional rights violation.

A trip to a part of Bengal where humans are bought and sold everyday


Kolkata:  It takes about two hours by road and then a boat to reach Sandeshkhali, an island in the Sunderbans. This area is infamous for the conflict between its residents and tigers. Now, it has a bigger problem to contend with – human trafficking.

In a reply to a Lok Sabha question on missing people last month, the Minister of State for Home Affairs shared some shocking data from across the country. In the last one year, 14,000 adults and children have disappeared from West Bengal. Most of them are believed to have been swallowed up by the huge trafficking trade that is accustomed to treating West Bengal as its catchment area.

The statistics shared by the government: More than 8000 girls have disappeared, another 5500 males have also been reported missing by their families.

Buyers refer to villages like Sandeshkhali as “a source area.”  In the last 10 years, virtually every household has a mother waiting for a daughter to return. Sandeshkhali was devastated by cyclone Aila in 2009. The natural disasters in this area have left it ravaged physically and emotionally. The region has been drenched in poverty for years. That makes it vulnerable to any offer that promises money, even if it entails sending young children to far away cities.

A mother talks to us about her 16-year-old daughter who left home six years ago when she was promised a job in Hyderabad. The family was told by the middlemen who collected the teen that a part of her salary would be sent home every month. They have never heard from their daughter after that. “They took her for a year but Durga Puja came, Kali Puja came… year after year passed but she never returned,” says the woman in a small thatched house. She has four children including two girls at home with her still. Their monthly income is Rs.1000 – an amount that means when the next buyer arrives, it may not be possible to turn him down.

Remote villages like this one have an established kingpin – in this case, a man named Hari – who serves as the middleman between families here and those in cities who will sell the women into prostitution or to agencies that supply domestic help. When confronted, Hari threatened us and tried to take our camera away. Hari sells the girls to the nearest town. From there, they are traded several times over before they arrive in big cities. Those who are not sold to brothels end up with employment agencies who supply domestic help to homes in Delhi. Many agencies ensure they collect the salaries from employers, ensuring that the help receives no money. Without any resources in a strange and large city, there are few ways to return home or seek help for a better living.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has directed state governments to set up special Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in every district. In West Bengal this initiative was meant to begin three years ago. Each unit is supposed to have a minimum of five persons equipped with camera, cellphones and a vehicle. The need for these cells was felt after a report by the National Human Rights Commission which said in 2006 that nearly 45,000 children go missing every year in India.