A study conducted by an NGO, Global Organisation for Life
Development (GOLD), found that 48 per cent of sex workers at Khalpara in
Siliguri were from Assam and three per cent from the other Northeastern states.
Traffickers ensnare an estimated 500 women, including minors,
every year from Assam alone and the situation might actually worsen in the next
few years, said Assam's inspector general of police (CID) G Bhuyan.
The police faced a Herculean task of nabbing the culprits as
only a miniscule percentage of such crimes were reported to the police, he said.
In the last five years, only 22 cases were registered with the police and based
on these 44 people were arrested, Bhuyan, who is also the nodal officer for the
anti-trafficking programme in Assam, said.
We have to receive complaints to make arrests as it is
difficult to just go and arrest somebody without proper information. We send
teams to different parts of the country--mainly to New Delhi, Haryana, Mumbai
and Siliguri--as and when we get information on trafficked women," he said.
Traffickers generally target girls from poor families living
along the rivers who are displaced by regular floods, take them outside the
state and force them into prostitution. Bhuyan said human trafficking is more
serious where minor girls are involved and NGOs should focus on how to stop them
from falling victims.
NGOs could play a critical role in understanding the real
magnitude of the problem, informing the public and the media, as well as
prompting the police to act against those involved in trafficking, said Ajit
Joy, project coordinator in the victim-support and human trafficking wing of the
United Nations office on drug and crime.
Human trafficking is the third largest organised crime in the
world after arms and narcotics but there is little information and systematic
study on this issue, he said. The issue of trafficking was low on the priority
list of the police and this is particularly more in the extremist-infested
states as it is not a law and order problem for them, Joy said.
A NHRC survey had revealed that only 40 per cent of policemen
were aware of human trafficking and only six per cent had any kind of training
to deal with the problem.
Joy said there was a need for better collaboration among
police, community and NGOs and also to be forewarned about the issue so that it
can be effectively tackled. Assam Director General of Police P V Sumant said the
need of the moment was proper training for police personnel.
President of Impulse NGO network, Meghalaya Hasina Kharbhigh
said they are organising consultations among the stakeholders to build a
framework to tackle the problem. She pointed out that besides sexual
exploitation, children and young women are also trafficked for cheap labour and
organ transplants. Kharbhigh said prevention of trafficking must be the prime
objective of the stakeholders but what was equally important was the
rehabilitation of the rescued victims.