Babies are often sold, and in many cases, snatched or kidnapped. According to reports from Assam, two families sold their babies because the lockdown had reduced them to penury. Trafficking happens not only in babies. Older children, especially girls, and women are major targets.
There are organised trafficking networks and gangs operating at national and international levels. The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes has estimated that 70% of trafficking victims are women and girl children.
According to other estimates, every 30 seconds, a child is trafficked for sex, slavery, or organ harvesting. The World Day Against Human Trafficking, which was observed last week, put the spotlight on various aspects of trafficking and the challenges in eliminating it.
The Centre has recently brought to the attention of state governments through the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) the possibility of an increase in trafficking and told them to involve local bodies in mapping the “vulnerability of households” so that parents are not forced to “sell” their children to meet financial needs.
The NCPCR has adopted a methodology for a “family-centric approach to counter child-trafficking” and identified hotspots where social attention has to be paid. According to the National Human Rights Commission, 40,000 children are abducted in the country every year, and 11,000 of them are untraced.
There is a view that this is an underestimate. Worse, it is a matter of serious concern that 25% of the trafficked children are not found at all. The situation becomes murkier if trafficking in women is also taken into consideration. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of missing women increased in the country from 1,74,021 in 2016 to 2,23,621 in 2018.
India does not have a sound and adequate legal framework to deal with trafficking. The Trafficking Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, was passed by the Lok Sabha but lapsed because the Rajya Sabha could not consider it. While the law has to be put in place, there is the need to prioritise the protection of women and children from trafficking.
A concerted effort by law enforcement authorities, local self-government institutions, government departments, NGOs and the civil society is needed for this. There should be increased vigil and efforts against all trafficking in the coming weeks and months.