NEPAL/INDIA: Human Trafficking a Major Concern

Thursday, June 2, 2011
The Times of India
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Human trafficking and rehabilitation of the rescued have emerged as major concerns for the state government. Though Bihar is one of the few states to have prepared an action plan named 'Astitva' to deal with the issue, it largely remains unimplemented.

'Astitva', the state plan of action with a vision of "Trafficking-Free Bihar," was approved by the state cabinet in 2008.

Indo-Nepal border that has emerged as one major area prone to trafficking of both women and children, poses an alarming situation. Surprisingly, a large number of aged women are illegally slipped out through this border for the purpose of breast feeding.

Since many of those rescued are physically and mentally challenged, whose rehabilitation poses a major problem, a demand to device a mechanism to ensure their rehabilitation was raised by various NGOs during a daylong workshop organized here at a posh hotel jointly by the department of social welfare and Save The Children, an NGO.

Police inaction and apathy was listed as a major problem by the representatives of participating NGOs based in the eight border districts of Purnia, Katihar, Kishanganj, Araria, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, East Champaran and West Champaran, which are more prone to trafficking. To strengthen the strategy to curb trafficking in these districts, department of social welfare has constituted District Level Anti-Human Trafficking Committee (DLAHTC) headed by DMs and State Level Anti-Human Trafficking Committee (SLAHTC) under a principal secretary-rank officer.

Arvind Pandey, IG (weaker sections), home department, assured the gathering of improvement in police alertness and sensitivity towards these social issues.

Social welfare department's minister Parveen Amanullah said cross-border trafficking is a challenging issue that needs immediate action. Inaugurating the workshop, she said utmost care has to be taken to see that the police are forthcoming in support, since that can only ensure proper implementation of the action plan. Even if a change in the law is required for efficient implementation of Astitva, that will be done, assured Amitabh Verma, principal secretary, department of social welfare.

A suggestion to involve the religious groups and spiritual heads in dissemination of relevant information and awareness generation among masses was also mooted at the workshop. Trafficking in the state has mainly been attributed to commercial sexual exploitation of girls and women, said Nikhat Quasim, state consultant, child protection, adding "mistreatment of trafficked women lodged in brothels is common knowledge."

Suman Lal of Prayas Bharati Trust, working for the implementation of Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, noted that a major shift in approach has now come about with respect to trafficked victims in brothels, who are now treated as victims and not as accused. "This makes them entitled for rehabilitation and not liable for punishment," Lal said.

During the workshop, district programme officers, district welfare officers, assistant director, social security of all these districts were trained along with different stake holders from police, prosecution, NGOs and government departments for effective coordination and smooth implementation of 'Astitva'.