Over 30 survivors of various forms of human trafficking – from bonded and child labour to trafficking for sex and forced marriages – have sought the intervention of Members of Parliament to ensure the early passage of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill. The proposed anti-trafficking legislation was approved by the Union Cabinet recently.
The survivors, from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, were in New Delhi this week to press for their demand.
Pointing out the inadequacies of existing legislations, such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1956, and Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, they stated that the new bill will be the first to address the issue of victim rehabilitation.
Unlike ITPA and IPC section 370, which recognise only trafficking for sexual exploitation, the proposed bill looks at trafficking for forced labour, beggary, organ transplant among others.
Madhya Pradesh-based Surekha (33) (name changed), who was trafficked and sexually exploited by a chain of agents before being sold to her ‘husband’ near the Rajasthan border for Rs 2 lakh, said despite being ‘rescued’ her condition had not improved much.
“My parents would not have me back in the house due to stigma, while the police and courts are hostile towards the victims. With the new bill, there is hope that the situation would change for the next generation,” she said.
The 33-year-old added often, in such cases, charges of rape are pressed against the her final buyer, but the many agents who form part of the trafficking chain escape, a wrong that would be remedied by the proposed comprehensive law.
An Adivasi trafficking survivor who was taken from MP to Maharashtra last year, Jaya (24) (name changed) said the insensitivity of law enforcers often meant that police registered complaints from parents of trafficked girls merely as missing persons cases, instead of investigating further.
The delegation met over a host of MPs, including Minister of State for Social Justice from RPI(A) Ramdas Athawale, NCP’s Supriya Sule, Congress’s Jairam Ramesh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, BJP’s Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, BJD’s Jay Panda.
“The present laws have no provision to ensure that the rescued person is given an alternative source of livelihood,” said Hardeep Dholpuria (25), who was born to a Dalit family that worked as bonded labourers after being trafficked from UP to Punjab. The family was forced to serve in a brick kiln for 30 years to repay a debt of Rs 5000, Dholpuria said. He was also forced to work at the brick kiln since the age of 10 and was rescued only in December, 2017, but has received no compensation or vocational rehabilitation since.
His friend Raju Ogar (27), a survivor of bonded labour, said that he has gone back to working in the kiln despite being rescued in 2015 due to lack of any alternative employment.
Kranti Khode of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan, a collective platform for trafficking survivors in India, said: “The draft bill is gender neutral covering transgender persons. It doesn’t criminalise the victims but instead provides them with shelter, compensation, and counseling.”
As per the National Crime Records Bureau data there were more than 20,000 human trafficking survivors in 2016, half of whom were trafficked for forced labour and a third for commercial sex.