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    Assam, where flood and human trafficking go together

    The annual deluge in Assam leaves a trail of consequences.

    This year is also not exception. Already 34 people have lost their lives drowning in the floodwaters and counting. Almost 1, 68,110.98 hectares of cropland has already been destroyed leaving over 24, 62,119 people affected in some 28 out of the state’s 33 districts.

    But that’s not all. The tragedy in Assam usually multiplies with another huge humanitarian crisis-the human trafficking.

    Usually, the crisis happens in different stages. The first one starts when these affected people are forced to leave their homes because of the gushing waters triggering a large displacement. With no farming and no source of earning, many then fall in prey to those who send them off on false promises to distant places, where they either end up in petty jobs at shops or becoming domestic helps.

    Then comes the second and the worst stage. The stage when organised gangs of touts from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and other metros start to intervene. This is when the worst forms of exploitation happen. Parents and guardians are paid to give away their children, mostly girls, over to these touts who then send them out of the state in the pretext of marriage or good jobs. In majority of the cases, these girls land up in flesh trade.

    Even the state police have been worried that with the COVID pandemic and the flood, it is a perfect storm that the state faces in this regards. Sharing the concerns, Assam Police Chief Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta recently held a Webinar with the policemen from various districts in order to educate them about the issue and empower them to tackle such cases in the most effective and humane manner.

    Mahanta shared that the data of last few years showed a spike in human trafficking cases. He also mentioned that such spikes are seen mostly during flood and other calamities.

    However, the problem of human trafficking over the years has remained almost unchanged. The efforts of the police, administration and various anti-trafficking groups have though gone up in creating awareness about the human trafficking racket amongst the flood victims, human trafficking from the state continues unabated.

    It is found that the root of the problem is not the flood but the consequences from it. In addition to the misery of these people due to the natural calamity, what works in favour of the racketeers is the contemporary ‘weak’ anti-trafficking law clubbed with a proper policy of rehabilitation of the flood victims.

    If India is politically committed to addressing the problem of trafficking, then it must revisit and strengthen its own domestic labour laws aimed both at internal migration and outward emigration. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has, indeed, recently noted the increasingly significant role of the labour machinery in implementing anti-trafficking laws.

    Until attitudes in India toward women change and poor children gain the skills they need to lead their futures, human trafficking and the damage it inflicts will continue.

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