Winning the battle against trafficking


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Article 23

Mains level: Paper 2- Preventing trafficking in human


July 30 is United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons. It is also a time to reflect on India’s human trafficking crisis.

What are factors increasing vulnerability?

  • Between April 2020 and June 2021, an estimated 9,000 children have been rescued after being trafficked for labour, according to a child rights non-governmental organisation (NGO).
  • Economic distress due to pandemic: The pandemic has resulted in the loss of income and economic crisis.
  • Loss of parental care: It has also caused, in some instances, loss of parental care due to death, illness or separation.
  • Relaxing of legal provision: These factors are compounded by an erosion of some of the checks against child labour and child marriage provided by law, as well as the scrutiny of schools and society.
  • Child marriages are also rampant — over 10,000 cases were tracked between April and August 2020.
  • Internet access: The increase in Internet access in current times has also led to cyber-trafficking.
  • A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on the effects of the pandemic on trafficking echoes these findings.

Challenges in dealing with the issue

  • Lack of national-level data: The Government admitted in Parliament as recently as March 2021 that it does not maintain any national-level data specific to cyber trafficking cases.
  • India does not meet the minimum standards: India is still classified by the U.S. Department of State as a Tier-2 country in its  report on global human trafficking.
  • This means that the Government does not fully meet the minimum standards under U.S. and international law for eliminating trafficking, but is making significant efforts to comply.
  • Lack of implementation: The Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) are specialised district task forces comprising police and government officials.
  • In 2010, it was envisioned that 330 AHTUs would be set up.
  • RTI responses in August 2020 showed that about 225 AHTUs had been set up, but only on paper.

Way forward

  • AHTU: If properly staffed and funded, AHTUs could provide crucial ground-level data on the methods and patterns of traffickers.
  • This, in turn, can strengthen community-based awareness and vigilance activities.
  • Incentivise education and provide safe employment: Global practices such as in Nigeria, Africa, should be encouraged in India, in consonance with a larger framework to protect women and children by incentivising education and creating safe employment opportunities.
  • Implementation of laws: There is no shortage of anti-trafficking policy in India.
  • Where the system is found lacking is in the implementation of the laws.
  • Take preventive action: The failure of existing institutional mechanisms to foresee the present crisis should spur the Government and other stakeholders to take preventive action now.

Discussion needed on the provision of draft anti-trafficking Bill

  • Significant discussion is required on the provisions of the Bill, particularly with respect to bringing in the National Investigation Agency and increasing the punishment for offences, including the death penalty.
  • Ensure effective functioning of AHTUs: The draft Bill also provides for AHTUs/committees at the national, State and district levels, but as noted, their effective functioning cannot be taken for granted.
  • Challenges faced by prosecutors and judges: There were 140 acquittals and only 38 convictions in 2019, according to government data.
  • This points to a failure of investigation and cannot be solved by the draft Bill’s provision that accused traffickers must be presumed guilty unless they can prove the contrary.
  • Case management: Trials can drag on for years, with victims sometimes withdrawing their complaints after being intimidated by traffickers.
  • Proper case management must be introduced to give meaning to the “fast track” courts.
  • Compensation and counselling: Other problems include the low number of beneficiaries of monetary compensation and the lack of consistent access to psychological counselling.
  • Parts of the draft Bill recognise the importance of rehabilitation, but implementation is key.


Effective implementation of the legal provision and discussion on the various provisions of the draft law is required to deal with the menace of trafficking in persons.

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