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US report questions India’s record in tackling human-trafficking

The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report says that Indian government’s law enforcement progress was unknown as authorities did not provide adequate data.

New Delhi, Jul 28 : A US state department report on Monday faulted India over its failure to check human trafficking and forced labour, saying several of India’s anti-human trafficking units are not functioning while official victim care services are unable to cope with the scale of the problem.

The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report said that the Indian government’s law enforcement progress was unknown as authorities did not provide adequate, disaggregated anti-trafficking data.

“The National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) data released does not specify the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions carried out by the government and potentially included the government’s penalization of victims in the statistics, as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act criminalizes soliciting clients for prostitution and screening for sex-trafficking victims is not consistently applied,” the report said.

India does not make the grade as far as the US’s most comprehensive anti-trafficking law is concerned. The US classes countries that fully comply with its Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards as Tier-I nations. India is among Tier-II countries, which do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

The report said 90% of India’s human trafficking is internal, with lower castes and religious minorities the most vulnerable, and official complicity in such cases remains a serious concern.

“Trafficking within India continues to rise due to increased mobility and growth in industries utilizing forced labour, such as construction, steel, textiles, wire manufacturing for underground cables, biscuit factories, pickling, floriculture, fish farms, and boat cutting,” report said.

The main destinations for trafficking women are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Gujarat and along the Indo-Nepal border.

Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits most forms of sex trafficking and prescribes penalties ranging from seven years to life imprisonment. It also criminalizes government officials’ involvement in human trafficking, prescribing sentences of up to life imprisonment. India also prohibits many forms of forced labour through Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act, and other provisions of the IPC. But the report says, “these provisions were unevenly enforced and their prescribed penalties are not sufficiently stringent.”

Unregulated work placement agencies lure adults and children for sex trafficking or forced labour, including domestic servitude, with false promises of employment. Traffickers also pose as matchmakers, arranging sham marriages within India or in Gulf states, and then subject women and girls to sex trafficking. Nearly 75% of Indian states have what government data define as a “high concentration” of women engaged in sex trade.

A report on labour trafficking by Global March Against Child Labour, a global movement against child labour and trafficking, finds that 60% of rescued victims of commercial sexual exploitation said they had left home in search of jobs. However, 40% were duped with false promises of marriage, love and a better life, or were kidnapped, as quoted by Mint’s series on human trafficking last year.

The US report released on Monday specifically pointed to cases in Tamil Nadu, saying conditions amounting to forced labour may be present in the practice of sumangali, a form of child labour in which employers pay young girls a lump sum to be used as dowry at the end of three years of work. It also said children as young as six, are forcibly removed from their families and used by terrorist groups, such as the Maoists in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Odisha, to act as spies and couriers, plant improvised explosive devices, and fight against government.

“A large number of Nepali, Afghan and Bangladeshi females —the majority of whom are children—and women and girls from Asia and Eurasia are also subjected to sex trafficking in India,” the report said.

The report makes several recommendations to the Indian government, including increasing prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking, increasing prosecutions of officials allegedly complicit in trafficking, and fully capacitating anti-human trafficking units by providing dedicated and trained staff. It also stressed the need to improve central and state government implementation of protection programmes and compensation schemes to ensure victims receive benefits and rehabilitation funds.
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