~ Anubhooti Shaw
"What we do see is that the trafficking of children is becoming an income revenue stream for organised crime, for gangs, so where they would typically be selling guns and drugs, they are now turning to the selling the children"
~ Dalia Racine
Children are the purest form of love and innocence. Their presence itself just makes the world a better place. But unfortunately, some people don't see anything but monetary gains through the lens of humanity and suffering. Trafficking is the worst nightmare a child can experience. Therefore, according to the Cambridge dictionary, Trafficking is the act of buying or selling people, or of making money from work they are forced to do, such as sex work. Trafficking in India is mostly either initiated for child labour and sex trade. The socio-economic status of the parents plays one of the important reasons for trafficking children. These exposed vulnerabilities are fed by the traffickers.
CHILD TRAFFICKING BEFORE AND DURING PANDEMIC
Over 2010-2014, out of the 3.85 lakh children who went missing across the country, 61% were girls. For example, the number of missing girls in the state of Andhra Pradesh stands at a shocking 11,625 as against 6,915 missing boys (The Times of India). These girls are often forced into prostitution and begging rackets and are destined for a life of child abuse and exploitation.
According to data submitted by the National Crime Records Bureau to the Supreme Court in 2019, Mumbai and Kolkata had the highest cases of trafficking in women and children, mainly for forced marriage, child labour, domestic help and sexual exploitation. A 2014 data report stated that approximately 16 million women are victims of sex trafficking in India a year, while 40 per cent of them are adolescents and children. And more than 70 per cent of victims are illiterate and 50 per cent of them have a family income of less than $1 per day.
Total 6,616 human trafficking cases came under official light in the subcontinent, which is far higher than the 5,788 cases presented in 2018 and 5,900 cases in 2017. The previous year also witnessed a drop in conviction rates of trafficking cases ranging from 29.4% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.
Delhi had the total of 608 cases registered in 2019 had the second highest number of trafficked minors which was 536. From 2017 to 2019, Delhi reported the second-most cases of trafficking of minors among the states and Union Territories (UTs).
Bengal reported the most children trafficked and stands first in the list which is (3,113) followed by Rajasthan (2,519), Uttar Pradesh (832), and Gujarat (485). West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Odisha are common source areas for trafficking to red-light areas across India, according to the India Country Assessment Report 2013 on anti-human trafficking, brought out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Sexual exploitation for prostitution (22 per cent) was the second major purpose of human trafficking in 2016 in India, after forced labour (45 per cent), the NCRB data based on the statement of rescued victims and the accused show.
More than 23,000 victims were extracted in 2016, from which 61 per cent or 14,183 were children and 39 per cent adults. Of the 14,183 children, 61 per cent were boys and 39 per cent girls. Rajasthan reported the highest number of child rescue cases being 5,626 or 40 per cent of all the victims. Madhya Pradesh (2,653) was next in line which was followed by West Bengal (2,216), UP (852), and Tamil Nadu (648) respectively.
With all the deadly figures presented, COVID-19 has not only affected society and economy but also increased the rate of child trafficking which can never be pardoned in any method. Lost jobs and business losses have compelled the daily wage workers to sell their children either into forceful labour or to traffic them out of the city or state. Forced marriages have also been accelerated so that the family has less stomach to fill.
"Children have never faced such crisis," said 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, whose organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) works to protect vulnerable children. "This is not simply the health crisis or economic crisis. This is the crisis of justice, of humanity, of childhood, of the future of an entire generation."
Between April and September, 1,127 children suspected of being trafficked were rescued across India and 86 alleged traffickers were arrested, according to Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
The fear of losing jobs and woks has been instilled in the people and thereby increasing the rate of trafficking in the last year. The affected vulnerable sections have been shattered bit by bit due to the pandemic. The horrible and never-ending figures have projected their stories to the government to work on as soon as possible. Several NGOs have been making a vast difference in the respective fights of the children. And it is expected from the government to bring a significant change in a way that the future doesn't have to cry on their innocent faces.