Operation AAHT to Curb Human Trafficking

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    In News

    • Recently, Railway Protection Force has launched a nationwide operation named “Operation AAHT” to curb human trafficking

    Objectives and Need 

    • The National Crime Records Bureau registers about 2,200 cases of Human Trafficking cases on an average each year.

    • The Indian Railways is the largest, fastest and most reliable carrier for suspects who trafficked scores of women and children.

      • The RPF personnel had a pan-India presence and were deployed in escorting trains to provide security to railway assets and passengers.

    •  As part of “Operation AAHT ,the RPF could act as a bridge cutting across States to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace. 

    About Operation AAHT:

    • Under this , special teams will be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with a focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.

    • The infrastructure and intelligence network of the RPF could be utilised to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, the identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.

    • The cyber cells would start patrolling the web/social media to look for digital footprints of Human Trafficking to strengthen the intelligence machinery and the action plan to identify, investigate, rescue and rehabilitate victims of the offence.

      • The focus should be more on trains originating from districts bordering Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

    What is Human Trafficking?

    • It is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. 
    • Men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime, which occurs in every region of the world.
    • Human Trafficking, especially of women and children, for sexual exploitation, forced marriage, domestic servitude, organ transplant, drug peddling etc is an organised crime and the most abominable violation of human rights. 

    • Thousands of Indians and persons from neighbouring countries were trafficked every day to some destinations where they were forced to live like slaves. “

    • They are also being trafficked for illegal adoptions, organ transplants, working in circuses, begging and entertainment industry…”

      • The traffickers often use violence or fraudulent employment agencies and fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick and coerce their victims.

    Safeguards available in India

    • The problem of trafficking in human beings by the Government of India is reflected in various legal provisions to counter-trafficking provisions:
      • As enshrined in the Indian Constitution
        • Article 23(1): It prohibits the trafficking of persons.
        • Article 24 (Right Against Exploitation) of the Constitution of India.
      • IPC: 
        • Sections 366(A) of the Indian Penal Code: Prohibits kidnapping and Section 372 of IPC prohibits selling minors into prostitution.
      • Legislations: 
        • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA): It aims to stop immoral trafficking and prostitution in India and is divided into 25 sections and one schedule.
        • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986 
        • Juvenile Justice Act: All of these prohibit bonded and forced labour.
        • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012: It is a special law to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
      • Other Specific Legislation:
        • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
        • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
        • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
        • Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994
        • Specific Sections in the IPC, like Sections 372 and 373 deal with the selling and buying of girls for the purpose of prostitution.
      • Steps by State Governments:
        • States have also enacted specific legislation to deal with the issue, like the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012.

    Other related Initiatives

    • Anti Trafficking Cell (ATC): 
      • It was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2006 to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments to combat the crime of Human Trafficking. 
    • Women help desks were established in 10,000 police stations across the country.
    • MHA under a Comprehensive Scheme Strengthening law enforcement response in India against Trafficking in Persons through Training and Capacity Building has released funds for the establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units for 270 districts of the country.
    • Strengthening the capacity building: 
      • To enhance the capacity building of law enforcement agencies and generate awareness among them.
    • Judicial Colloquium: 
      • In order to train and sensitize the trial court judicial officers, Judicial Colloquium on human trafficking is held at the High court level.
        • The aim is to sensitise the judicial officers about the various issues concerning human trafficking and to ensure a speedy court process.

    Challenges

    • Official complicity in trafficking remains a concern: The success rate in convictions in human trafficking cases is very poor and the acquittal rate for traffickers in India remains high.
    • The police in India continued to file trafficking cases under the Juvenile Justice Act and other sections of the IPC, which criminalised many forms of forced labour.
      • However, these provisions were unevenly enforced and some of their prescribed penalties were not sufficiently stringent, allowing for only fines or short prison sentences. This might be addressed by the Draft Bill.
    • Efforts to audit government-run or -funded shelters remained inadequate and significant shortcomings in protections for victims, especially children, remain unaddressed.
    • Many victims waited years to receive central-government mandated compensation and often state and district legal offices did not proactively request the compensation or assist victims in filing applications.
    • Some foreign trafficking victims remained in state-run shelters for years due to lengthy or non-existent repatriation processes.

    Way Ahead

    • Encourage state and territory compliance with the Supreme Court’s recommendation to audit all government-run and -funded shelter homes.
    • Cease penalisation of trafficking victims.
    • De-link provision of the 2016 bonded labour scheme’s overall victim compensation from conviction of the trafficker.
    • Cease detention of adult trafficking victims in government-run and government-funded shelters.
    • Amend the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC to include labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking crime.
    • Increase oversight of and protections for workers in the informal sector, including home-based workers.
    • Lift bans on female migration through agreements with destination countries that protect Indian workers from human trafficking.
    • Update and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.
    • Provide anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel.
    • Continue to disseminate and implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral, and train officials on their use.
    • Given the heightened vulnerabilities to trafficking due to Covid-19, governments need to work right from seeking “appropriate” compensation for victims to vigorous investigations of all cases of trafficking, including bonded labour, as well as strictly deal with “official complicity”.

    International Conventions on Trafficking Implemented by India

    • UN Conventions
      • India has ratified the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC) which has as one of its Protocols Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons, particularly Women and Children.
      • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the protocol. It offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.
        • Blue Heart Campaign: It is an international anti-trafficking program started by the UNODC.
      • Various actions have been taken to implement the convention and as per Protocol, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 has been enacted wherein human trafficking has specifically been defined.
    • SAARC Conventions
      • India has ratified the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution.
      • A Regional Task Force was constituted to implement the SAARC Convention
    • Bilateral Mechanisms
      • For dealing with cross border trafficking and to address the various issues relating to prevention of trafficking, victim identification and repatriation and make the process speedy and victim-friendly between India and Bangladesh, a Task Force of India and Bangladesh was constituted.
      • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh on Bi-lateral Cooperation for Prevention of Human Trafficking in Women and Children, Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-integration of Victims of Trafficking was signed in June, 2015.
    • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) establishes the right of every human to live with dignity and prohibits slavery. It is a non-binding declaration.
    • Sustainable Development Goals
      • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, 
      • Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all and 
      • Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

    Source:TH