Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - India

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 14 June 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - India, 14 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c1883ec32.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

INDIA (Tier 2 Watch List)

India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. In late 2009, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs assessed India's human trafficking problem as including commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and bonded labor. The forced labor within the country of millions of citizens constitutes India's largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. Ninety percent of trafficking in India is internal, and those from India's most disadvantaged social economic strata are particularly vulnerable to forced or bonded labor and sex trafficking. Children are also subjected to forced labor as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agricultural workers. Forced domestic work is a problem in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa.

Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Major cities and towns with tourist attractions continue to be hubs of child sex tourism, and this phenomenon also takes place in religious pilgrim centers such as Tirupati, Guruvayoor, and Puri. Indian nationals engage in child sex tourism within the country and, to a lesser extent, in Nepal.NGO reports indicate that an increasing number of girls from the northeast – including those with education – are duped with promises of well-paid employment in large cities and then forced into prostitution, or forced into marriage in Haryana and Punjab. Women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh are also subjected to forced prostitution in India. Maoist armed groups known as the Naxalites forcibly recruited children into their ranks.

There are also victims of labor trafficking among the hundreds of thousands of Indians who migrate willingly every year to the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, Europe and the United States, for work as domestic servants and low-skilled laborers. In some cases, such workers are the victims of fraudulent recruitment practices committed in India leading them directly to situations of forced labor, including debt bondage; in other cases, high debts incurred to pay recruitment fees leave them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers in the destination countries, where some are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment of wages, restrictions on movement, unlawful withholding of passports, and physical or sexual abuse. An NGO reported that fishermen in Tamil Nadu appear to be increasingly migrating to the Gulf and subsequently falling victim to forced labor on fishing boats. Men and women from Bangladesh and Nepal are trafficked through India for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation in the Middle East.

The Government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, particularly with regard to the law enforcement response to sex trafficking. Despite these efforts, the Indian government has not demonstrated sufficient progress in its law enforcement, protection, or prevention efforts to address labor trafficking, particularly bonded labor; therefore India is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the seventh consecutive year. There were few criminal convictions of forced labor during the reporting period. Police raids of brick kilns, rice mills, factories, brothels, and other places of human trafficking were usually prompted by NGO activists, as were efforts to provide rehabilitation and protective services to the victims removed from human trafficking. National and state government anti-trafficking infrastructure, and the implementation of the Bonded Labor (System) Abolition Act (BLSA), remained weak. The number of government shelters increased but some continued to be of poor quality. Some public officials' complicity in trafficking remained a major problem. During the reporting period, the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh state governments dramatically improved law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking. The central government encouraged the expansion of the number of Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) at the state and district levels; these units, if dedicated exclusively to combating all forms of human trafficking, have the potential to substantially increase law enforcement activities. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and the Indian embassy in Oman began to address the issue of migrant workers subjected to forced labor in other countries.

Recommendations for India: Strengthen central and state government law enforcement capacity to conduct intrastate and interstate law enforcement activities against labor trafficking (including bonded labor) and sex trafficking; encourage state and district governments to file bonded labor cases under the appropriate criminal statutes to facilitate speedier justice and limit traffickers' opportunities for bail; encourage other states to establish Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act courts like the one in Mumbai; significantly increase law enforcement efforts to decrease official complicity in trafficking, including prosecuting, convicting, and punishing complicit officials with imprisonment; improve distribution of state and central government rehabilitation funds to victims under the BLSA; empower AHTUs through full financing and encourage them to address labor trafficking; improve central and state government implementation of protection programs and compensation schemes to ensure that certified trafficking victims actually receive benefits, including compensation for victims of forced child labor and bonded labor, to which they are entitled under national and state law; target welfare schemes and laws – such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the new primary education law – to communities that are specifically vulnerable to trafficking and to rescued victims; increase the quantity and breadth of public awareness and related programs to prevent both trafficking for labor and commercial sex; ensure that migrant worker centers in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh adequately address recruitment fees levied by both legal recruitment agencies and illegal sub-agents; and work with the UN Special Rapporteur for Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

Prosecution

Government authorities made little progress in obtaining convictions in bonded labor cases, though government authorities in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh made significant progress against sex trafficking during the year. The government prohibits forms of sex trafficking through the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA). Prescribed penalties under the ITPA, ranging from seven years' to life imprisonment, are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. India also prohibits bonded and forced labor through the BLSA, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, and the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986. These laws were ineffectively enforced, and their prescribed penalties – a maximum of three years in prison – are not sufficiently stringent. Moreover, these criminal penalties were rarely imposed on offenders. Indian authorities also used Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibit kidnapping and selling children into prostitution, respectively, to arrest and prosecute sex traffickers. Penalties prescribed under these provisions are a maximum of ten years' imprisonment and a fine. Section 8 of the ITPA prohibits the act of solicitation for prostitution, and this was used in some states to detain and penalize women in prostitution, including trafficking victims, though several state governments – such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu – discouraged its use. The Indian cabinet continued to debate proposed amendments to the ITPA to give trafficking victims greater protections and eliminate Section 8. The state of Goa has its own laws prohibiting child trafficking; prescribed penalties under the 2003 Goa Children's Act include imprisonment of no less than three months and/or a fine for child labor trafficking, and imprisonment for one year and a fine for child sex trafficking.

In 2009, an NGO reported it worked with police to facilitate the conviction of five bonded labor offenders under the BLSA. Sentences for these five traffickers, however, were only one or two days' imprisonment and a fine of the equivalent of $45. Another NGO reported that it assisted local government officials in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to prosecute 17 bonded labor cases. The Indian government's law enforcement raids were largely due to proactive efforts by NGOs. Police and NGO officials in New Delhi and Tamil Nadu rescued 161 bonded child laborers, mainly under the BLSA. While all of these children were sent to shelters for rehabilitation, and some of them received part of their statutory rehabilitation packages, there were no convictions of the labor traffickers. The Delhi High Court issued a judgment in July 2009 resulting in the investigation, rescue, and rehabilitation of 66 bonded child laborers. The children were awarded release certificates under the BSLA though it was not clear if the children were awarded rehabilitation funds as mandated under the BLSA and, while traffickers were arrested, they were not prosecuted. Police and NGO officials rescued 364 bonded laborers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar during the reporting period. One hundred eighty-five received or are in the process of receiving their rehabilitation packages, totaling approximately $78,000 in government rehabilitation funds. None of these traffickers were convicted by the end of the reporting period. The police and NGOs rescued a number of child laborers in the reporting period. Some of these children may have been trafficking victims. However, it is unclear whether any offenders were prosecuted or convicted.

The city of Mumbai and the state of Andhra Pradesh made significant law enforcement strides against sex trafficking, but prosecutions and convictions of sex trafficking offenders in other parts of India were minimal. In Mumbai, the special anti-trafficking court recorded convictions in at least 81 cases under the ITPA, many of which had multiple defendants. This court was additionally remarkable in eliminating the backlog of old cases. Some of these 81 cases included convictions of "clients" as well as sex trafficking victims. Sentences ranged from $2 fines under the solicitation provision of the ITPA to three-year prison terms for traffickers and clients. Mumbai police, working with an NGO, rescued 22 children and eight adults in 2009, and helped secure the convictions of eight sex traffickers in the Mumbai Sessions Court under the ITPA and the IPC. One sex trafficker received a sentence of three years' imprisonment; four received sentences of five-years' imprisonment, and three each received a one year sentence. From October 2008 to February 2010, the Andhra Pradesh court convicted 55 convicted sex traffickers and "clients" and sentenced them to four to 14 years' imprisonment. These convictions were under Penal Code 366A, 372, 273, and 376(2).

The states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh convicted a significant number of sex trafficking offenders; in other states, there were substantially fewer convictions of sex trafficking offenders.

In May 2009, a Delhi court sentenced a sex trafficker to nine years' imprisonment, and ordered the trafficker to pay approximately $24,000 to the underage victim. Obtaining convictions in most parts of India was difficult due to many causes, including overburdened courts and a lack of commitment by some local authorities. Numerous sources indicated that some states continued to charge and prosecute significant numbers of females in prostitution, including trafficking victims, under section 8 of the ITPA – which prohibits solicitation for prostitution. Delhi and Sikkim police and NGO officials rescued three girls forced into prostitution. One investigation started, but there were no prosecutions. From February to October 2009, Chennai police rescued seven Bangladeshi women, and they were sent to a shelter. The police arrested several customers during the raid at the brothel but they were released on bail after a few days. Implementation of the BLSA remained weak during the year. The BLSA mandates the creation of vigilance committees in each of India's 626 districts, though the ILO has publicly noted that committees in many states are not operational and the BLSA remains largely unimplemented in spite of a large bonded labor problem throughout the nation. Additionally, law enforcement efforts against bonded labor were hampered by instances of police complicity, traffickers escaping during raids or on bail, or cases dropped by officials for a variety of reasons, including insufficient evidence and intimidation by traffickers.

The Government of India established 38 AHTUs in police departments, compared with nine existing at the start of the reporting period, and made an initial investment of approximately $19 million for the purpose of expanding the number of these units. AHTUs are task forces created within local law enforcement agencies. They are responsible for investigating human trafficking cases, and are meant to be comprised of specially-trained police officers. In practice, the units are likely more focused on sex trafficking, as opposed to the more significant problem of labor trafficking. It is unclear whether any AHTU has yet contributed to a labor trafficking prosecution. The Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu police have established AHTUs, but their effectiveness is not yet clear. A few NGOs claim that some AHTUs lack support personnel and funding.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), and other government agencies led training courses, seminars, workshops, and "training of trainers" trafficking awareness programs for at least 300 law enforcement officials during the reporting period. At least some of these training programs emphasized sex trafficking. The BPRD also prepared a syllabus and training manual on sex trafficking, which is being used in police training colleges and institutes. The impact of anti-trafficking law enforcement training, which remained largely confined to training related to sex trafficking, was difficult to measure – the quality of training varied from state to state. While NGOs in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh saw law enforcement progress, NGOs in other states perceived little tangible results from law enforcement training.

The involvement of some public officials in human trafficking remained a significant problem, which went largely unaddressed by central and state governments during the reporting period. Corrupt law enforcement officers reportedly continued to facilitate the movement of sex trafficking victims, protect brothels that exploit victims, and protect traffickers and brothel keepers from arrest and other threats of enforcement. Some owners of brothels, rice mills, brick kilns, and stone quarries are reportedly politically connected. Rehabilitation funds under the BLSA were sometimes embezzled by public officials who denied the funds to needy victims. One NGO indicated that in six to seven recent cases, lawyers representing pimps, brothel managers, and corrupt police officers successfully petitioned for the release of child sex trafficking victims from shelters. The girls were subsequently re-trafficked, and their debts owed to traffickers increased due to the petitioners' fees. India reported no convictions or sentences of government officials for trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. In November 2009, a team from the National Commission for Women exposed a large trafficking ring in Uttar Pradesh, through which traffickers sent women from areas along the border of Nepal to the Middle East, with the collusion of corrupt police officials. There were no prosecutions under this case. Under the Indian constitution, states have the primary responsibility for law enforcement, and state-level authorities are limited in their abilities to effectively confront interstate and transnational trafficking crimes.

Protection

India made limited and uneven efforts to ensure that all identified victims of human trafficking received access to necessary services during the reporting period. Indian law enforcement and immigration officials continued to lack formal procedures for proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as children at work sites, females in prostitution, or members of low and "scheduled" castes in rural industries. In general, however, NGOs helped ensure sex trafficking victims from these raids were assisted in NGO or government shelters; there were no shelters reportedly available for adult male victims of trafficking. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) funded 314 "Swadhar" projects – which covers female victims of violence, including sex trafficking – 96 projects under the Ujjuwala scheme – which is meant to protect and rehabilitate female trafficking victims – and 210 women's helplines. Some NGOs have cited difficulty in receiving timely disbursements of national government funding of their shelters under the Ujjuwala scheme. India does not have specialized care for adult male trafficking victims. Foreign victims can access these shelters.

Conditions of government shelter homes under the MWCD varied from state to state. Many shelters functioned beyond capacity, were unhygienic, offered poor food, and provided limited, if any, psychiatric and medical services, although NGOs provided some of those services. Some shelters did not permit child victims to leave the shelters – including for school – to prevent their re-trafficking. An NGO reported some government shelters did not proactively repatriate sex trafficking victims either to their home state or country. In previous years, traffickers re-trafficked victims by approaching shelter managers and pretending to be family members in order to have the victims released to them. While this declined due to government-run awareness programs and the Juvenile Justice Act, it was still a problem.

On the state level, both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh made comparatively better efforts to protect sex trafficking victims. Tamil Nadu's Department of Social Welfare provided some in-kind contributions for UNODC-funded programs on capacity building, counseling, and vocational training for livelihood programs, primarily for trafficking victims. Tamil Nadu also provided free legal aid and substance abuse counseling services in state shelters, some of which included sex trafficking victims. In 2009, the Andhra Pradesh state's Department of Women and Child Development disbursed $10,435 in interim relief to 48 sex trafficking victims for travel, clothing, medicine, and other necessities. Many Indian diplomatic missions in destination countries, especially those in the Middle East, provided services, including temporary shelters to Indian migrant laborers, some of whom were victims of trafficking.

Although each government-recognized victim of bonded labor is entitled to 20,000 rupees (about $450) under the BLSA from the state and central government, disbursement of rehabilitation funds was sporadic. NGOs generally identified bonded laborers and then helped local authorities rescue them. A modest number of bonded labor release certificates issued by some state governments to victims of bonded labor were often done after the encouragement of NGO activists. An NGO indicated the central government had not released any rehabilitation funding to the state of Karnataka since 2007 due to the failure of that state government to submit required documentation to the central government. State governments were more willing to issue release certificates if the victims were from another state, since a victim's state of origin was responsible for providing the rehabilitation assistance. Weak coordination among government officials at all levels, capacity constraints, cumbersome government procedures, and vacancies in some vigilance committees contributed to these problems. In many cases, NGOs' efforts continued to be necessary for bonded laborers to receive their release certificates and release funds. However, the NGOs had difficulties securing rehabilitation funds except in a few districts with proactive government officials. NGOs also provided the bulk of protection services to bonded labor victims. When disbursed, funds were distributed so slowly – usually in tranches – that they may not provide for effective rehabilitation. NGOs reported some corrupt local officials took unlawful "commissions" from the rehabilitation packages.

The level to which government officials encouraged victims to cooperate with law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of traffickers was inconsistent and depended on the quality of governance in individual states and local jurisdictions. NGOs often filled the crucial role of assisting rescued victims to provide evidence to prosecute traffickers. Many victims declined to testify against their traffickers due to the fear of retribution by traffickers and India's sluggish and overburdened judicial system. Victims have historically been unnecessarily detained and sometimes prosecuted for violations of other laws. While this may have declined slightly, it was still a significant problem in the reporting period. Reports indicated foreign victims continued to be charged under the Foreigners' Act for undocumented status, and then pushed back across the border at night without protective services. During the reporting period, seven rescued Bangladeshi sex trafficking victims remained in a shelter in Chennai – some for as long as a year – while awaiting for the Bangladesh government to give permission for repatriation.

After these women reportedly became frustrated at their situation and violently protested in the shelter, authorities subsequently imprisoned them. However, a state official was trying to release them from the prison and return them to the shelter. NGOs asserted that Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Bihar, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal continued to make progress in not criminalizing sex trafficking victims; however, Section 8 of the ITPA (solicitation) and Section 294 of IPC (obscenity in public places) continued to be widely used in other states. In many cases, police could not differentiate between victims and traffickers, due in part to a lack of awareness and training; identification efforts were often NGO-driven. One NGO indicated it faced this problem when working in new areas and cited an example in rural Maharashtra where police officers stopped charging adult women with solicitation or obscenity in public places in collaboration with that NGO.

Foreign trafficking victims were not offered special immigration benefits such as temporary or permanent residency status. The government reported it worked in conjunction with NGOs to place victims in a shelter in their home country in the case of deportation; however, there were no reports this happened in practice. Foreign victims are not offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The Government of India made efforts to prevent human trafficking, although the effect of many of these efforts is unclear. The Ministry of Home Affairs expanded its Anti-Human Trafficking Cell (AHTC) from a staff of six officials to ten. During the reporting period, the AHTC drafted and disseminated an advisory on human trafficking – including forced and bonded labor – to raise awareness of, and give guidance on, all forms of human trafficking to Indian states and union territories. States were required to submit quarterly reports to the AHTC; some states complied with this requirement. Through the Ujjawala scheme, the MWCD held quarterly stakeholder meetings with representatives from other ministries and outside NGOs to discuss its efforts against trafficking. The MWCD chaired quarterly Central Advisory Committee meetings, whichinclude officials from the federal and state governments, NGOs, and international organizations. However, an NGO who is a part of the committee raised questions about the usefulness of these meetings. The MHA provided $73,300 to fund a conference for SAARC member countries about strengthening trafficking-related law enforcement. In February 2010, in response to a complaint about bonded labor, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) censured a district administration in Uttar Pradesh for its slow approach in monitoring working conditions in approximately 425 brick kilns. Following this intervention, the district administration admitted 113 of the brick kilns violated various laws, including the BLSA, filed charges against 24 brick kiln owners, and fined 30 others. It is unclear how many, if any, people were rescued from these government efforts. The central government reported that it released $100,000 to fund a survey of bonded laborers in 23 districts of Madhya Pradesh. The NHRC conducted four workshops on bonded labor in Patna, Raipur, Bhubaneshwar, and Ahmedabad reaching a total audience of 400 state officials. In December 2009, the Minister of Home Affairs launched a new book written by a counter-trafficking expert on trafficking and strongly urged states to set up AHTUs in each district. He stated: "The scale of human trafficking in India is not clear, but it is a fair assumption that it is on a very large scale ... . It is the most grievous and pernicious of crimes. The victims are mostly women and children. There are a variety of reasons for human trafficking but mostly it is sex trade. It is a crime against humanity." State governments undertook prevention efforts, but the impact of these efforts were difficult to determine. Tamil Nadu directed district collectors to inspect and register child care homes – some of which have been known to traffic children – and launched pilot anti-TIP drives in select districts; results of these initiatives were not confirmed. The Bihar state government published newspaper ads asking migrant laborers to approach state offices if "they are being used as forced or bonded labor, anywhere in the country," and assured them of transport home under government expense. Illiteracy and lack of freedom of movement may have hindered this initiative's effectiveness. Bihar also hired an NGO to educate villagers about the dangers of sex trafficking through community theater, and to train local women's groups. The Delhi government marked "Global Day Against Child Trafficking" on December 12 with meetings and seminars.

The government took efforts to prevent transnational trafficking, but the impact of these efforts was difficult to determine. The Indian embassy in Muscat introduced several measures to improve the welfare of Indian workers in Oman, including free legal counseling sessions, and the requirement that passports for migrant workers be issued only for one year; the effects of this measure are not yet known. The Migrant Resource Center in Kerala counseled more than 2,900 potential migrants on legal, organized, and humane migration in 2009. In December 2009, the Andhra Pradesh state government, in collaboration with IOM, launched the country's second center in Hyderabad. The central government increased application fees and security deposits for labor recruitment agents in an attempt to discourage illegitimate recruiters from applying for registration; however, the results of this measure are not yet known. According to a Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) official, India holds joint working groups on labor once a year to review complaints received by Indian embassies. The NHRC conducted four workshops on bonded labor, reaching a total audience of 400 state officials. The government does not permit its female nationals under the age of 40 to engage in domestic work in the Middle East due to the high incidence of physical abuse; evidence suggests such restrictions on migration do not have a positive effect on preventing human trafficking. According to the government, the MOIA blacklisted 400 Middle Eastern companies – it was unclear, however, how this blacklist was enforced and advertised. According to an NGO, the government blacklisted only two or three recruitment agencies. Indian embassies in the Middle East housed Indian Worker Resource Centers. During a February 2010 visit by Prime Minister Singh to Riyadh, India and Saudi Arabia agreed to enhance cooperation and information exchange on transnational crimes, including human trafficking; details of the agreement are not known.

The government reduced the demand for commercial sex acts in the reporting period by convicting clients of prostitution. However, while India does not have a major problem of its nationals participating in child sex tourism abroad, there are no known efforts to curtail Indians from participating in local child sex tourism. Despite a 1969 law mandating the registration of the birth of a child, this does not often happen in practice. Data from India's last social survey indicates approximately 60 percent of births were unregistered; such a lack of identify documentation contributes to vulnerability to trafficking. The 2010 federal budget set aside $413 million to the Unique Identification Authority of India to issue a single, unique identification number to each resident of India within the next few years. According to a counter-trafficking expert, training for Indian soldiers deployed in peacekeeping missions included awareness about trafficking. The Congolese government, who accused Indian peacekeepers of paying girls for sex in 2008, withdrew its protest from the UN and apologized to the Indian government after an internal UN investigation cleared approximately 100 soldiers of all charges. India is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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