Both India and Bangladesh need to strengthen cross-border mechanisms to combat human trafficking.
Recently, the Indian investigation team busted a trafficking racket that exposed the displaced Rohingyas along with Bangladeshi girls/women being trafficked to different parts of India. The traffickers involved in this organised crime are associated with other accomplices who are operating from different corners of the two nations. The investigation was eventually initiated as six Rohingyas were detained last year for travelling without any legal credentials. Upon probing this even further, the existing trafficking networks have come to light, and while some traffickers associated with them are arrested, other names are yet to surface. In another incidence, 26 displaced Rohingyas have been captured at the end of May 2022, including 12 minors and eight women who were seeking to travel ultimately to Bangladesh from the refugee camps in Jammu. They are currently placed in a detention centre in Silchar, Assam.
Thousands of people mostly belonging to the underprivileged socio-economic fabric of the society are enticed to Indian capitals and towns annually by traffickers who promise decent jobs but sell them into modern-day slavery.
In 2020, the number of women caught on the International Border between India and Bangladesh was 915 till August. In 2019, the number was 936, 1,107 in 2018, and 572 in 2017. As per a study conducted by Anti-human trafficking NGO Justice and Care, in association with Border Security Force (BSF), more than 5 Lacs Bangladeshi women and children aged between 12 and 30 have been illegally sent to India in the last decade. However, underreporting in such cases is a major hurdle. Family honour, shame, and fear play a significant role in preventing a person from coming forward and sharing their traumatic experiences. As per the police reports, there is a growing network of traffickers who are either women or are using different women to trap their victims. Rohingya women are either abducted or recruited under false job promises or married off and sold. The traffickers organise forged documents for the entry of the victims. In the current reports, it has been mentioned that apart from selling women or girls in the commercial sex business or forced labour, they are also being coerced into the IVF business. However, being stateless adds to the dilemma since they do not receive any protection once caught and remain in prison or shelter homes awaiting proper solutions to come through.
In the current reports, it has been mentioned that apart from selling women or girls in the commercial sex business or forced labour, they are also being coerced into the IVF business.
While both countries have legislative, constitutional, and other forms of legal interventions to address the issues of trafficking, the implementation of these interventions requires equally strenuous efforts. It demands a more efficient and smoother level of cooperation between the various stakeholders involved and offices of authority to ensure the implementation of the protection of the possible victims of such trafficking and the prosecution of the offenders that initiate and propagate the crimes. The MoU signed between New Delhi and Dhaka in 2015 has been a comprehensive approach that seeks to fortify collaboration to thwart all forms of human trafficking, especially trafficking of women and children, their rescue, and recovery. It safeguards the provision for prompt investigation and prosecution of traffickers and organised crime syndicates in either country, including the repatriation of victims. However, the growing number of cases shows the fault lines within the system that needs to be addressed.
The Draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) bill is still underway that hopes to provide holistic preventive measures on trafficking.
Second, the regularity of meetings of the Joint Task Force on India and Bangladesh needs to be improved and increased. This will also help in the dissemination of correct information, protocol adherence, and quick action. Third, funding is necessary for the smooth functioning of the programs and digitization of the process. Fourth, the identification of government employees enmeshed in this trafficking cycle is essential. Designing mechanisms to address corruption like flagging unlawful financial deals will be critical to an effective response. Fifth, victim care is of supreme importance. There is a need to treat the victims with respect and provide proper medical facilities, and protection. Lastly, an integrated SOP between both nations addressing the above issues will be of effectiveness to bring about the desired result. Currently, an SOP is underway but it needs to be presented and ratified soon. Thus, it becomes imperative that both India and Bangladesh urgently address the prevailing gaps in cross-border management by formulating integrated SOPs that facilitate each point to restrict crime.
Despite Rohingyas being allowed by Law to file cases of trafficking, the judiciary machinery disregards these attempts. Consequently, traffickers and offenders in the country find it easy to get away with their activities right under the watch of the officials, owing to such loopholes and gaps in implementation.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.
Sreeparna Banerjee is a Junior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation Kolkata with the Strategic Studies Programme.Read More +