POVERTY AND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING
For the first time the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has tabulated cases relating to human trafficking and the findings reveal the extent of the problem in Assam and Bengal. According to NCRB records, there were 6,877 human trafficking cases in 2015, and in 51 per cent of these cases the victims were minors. States like Assam, Bengal, Haryana and Bihar have earned the dubious distinction of reporting 85 per cent of the offences that can be categorised as child trafficking. Of the cases, 2,641 related to those arrested for trafficking related to prostitution rackets and 3,087 cases involved those arrested for the trafficking of minors. It is in cases relating to procurement of minor girls that these four states have recorded alarming numbers. There were 1,303 cases reported from Assam, 1,003 cases from Bengal, 305 from Bihar and 190 from Haryana. In human trafficking related to prostitution rackets, states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have the most number of cases. The NCRB report also reveals human trafficking to be one criminal offence where the ratio of women offenders is very high, revealing the role played by women in goading and transporting victims to leave their homes. There were 9114 men and 2606 women arrested for human trafficking offences in 2015, and 47,409 men and 9,957 women were standing trial for these offences. The huge number of child trafficking cases reported from Assam and Bengal does not come as a surprise.
Human trafficking cannot be tackled solely as a law and order problem. The inter-state dimension of the human trafficking problem and the lack of coordination has forced the Union health ministry to step forward but here too, the emphasis has been on crime control, though the home ministry told Parliament in December 2014 that anti-human trafficking units were set up in 225 districts, the NCRB report offers ample data for the Centre about which areas require targeted intervention. The decade old Ujjwala scheme of the women and child development ministry has prevention; rescue and rehabilitation provisions but the preventive schemes merely advocate the creation of community vigilance groups and sensitisation programmes. In areas like tea gardens where starvation deaths, rise in dropout rates and extreme malnutrition have been reported, a more robust prevention strategy would be a comprehensive package that creates jobs, puts children back in schools and ensures food security. An estimated eight million people are dependent on the fortunes of the tea industry in Assam and North Bengal. This is also the area which reports some of the worst developmental indices in India. The existing minimum wage of Rs.130 is perhaps the lowest in the country. The Centre has offered Rs.350 as the new minimum wage to mollify trade unions. In contrast, Assam’s tea garden workers are merely seeking a minimum wage of Rs.250. Tea happens to be a staple beverage for a majority of Indians but the all round failure to ensure decent wages to those plucking the tea leaves is putting thousands of children at risk.