1. Conviction rate in human trafficking cases declining
Activists call for robust inter-State investigations
Twice every week, two women from Basanti in South 24 Parganas of West Bengal, visit a local non-governmental organisation at the subdivision headquarters from their village, seeking details of the investigation in the case relating to their rescue from traffickers. These women in their twenties were rescued four to five years ago, but there has been no conviction of the accused.
The conviction rate in cases of human trafficking has been on the decline, government data show. Details of cases shared in Parliament earlier this month showed that the conviction rate has been declining over the past four years although the number of anti human-trafficking units (AHTU) in the country has increased to 696.
The conviction rate of cases related to human trafficking dropped from 27.8% in 2016 to 10.6% in 2020. Between 2018 and 2019 the conviction rate in such cases increased from 19.4% to 22.5%. The data has been sourced from a reply by Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra to a question in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month.
Tafteesh, a collective action platform, said the fall in conviction rate was due to “absence of a strong and robust mechanism to investigate human trafficking cases that often span across State borders leading to acquittal of traffickers across the country”.
“Though the crime is usually an organised and an inter-State one, the investigation is rarely inter-State. And since this is a case of circumstantial evidence until and unless the chain of circumstance is shown to be completed, conviction cannot be based on such evidence. Therefore, the low conviction rate is due to the problem and fallacies in investigation,” lawyer Kaushik Gupta, a member of Tafteesh, said.
Subhashree Raptan, an activist from Goranbose Gram Bikas Kendra, said that despite orders from Courts, more than a dozen of survivors have not been awarded compensation by the District Legal Service Authorities in South 24 Parganas alone.
“We have to understand that after their rescue, things don’t miraculously fall in place for survivors. In several cases, the survivors are rescued from other States and inter-State investigation falls flat. It is the survivor that has to fight for justice, and compensation is essential for her fight,” Ms. Raptan said.
What is Human Trafficking?
- According to the UNODC, Human Trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, to exploit them for profit.
- Human trafficking involves recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, for exploitation.
- Exploitation includes, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs.
|Severity of the problem (at global level) The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, 2019 shows that 60% of the trafficking occurs internally in a country. As per the UNODC report,90% of the sexual victims are women and girls.In the South Asia region, 85% of the victims are exploited for forced labor.Human trafficking is the third most challenging crime in the world in terms of turnover and human misery. The first is drugs and the second is weapons.|
Causes of trafficking
Some of the causes or reasons for human trafficking are described below.
- Trafficking grows at places where there is widespread poverty.
- Unfortunately, Parents sell their kids because lack of access to income and necessities and this leaves them with no other choice often thinking that selling their children will take them to much better places and where their lives will improve.
- Social factors
- One of the most vulnerable sections of the society that are more prone to trafficking are young women, and this is because in most societies both socially and culturally women are de-valued and unwanted, and as such, they are more vulnerable to the practice of trafficking.
- The yearning to migrate from places where their lives are miserable makes individuals open to approaches from traffickers who in the beginning stages lure them with promises of better lives, but once the victims came under their control, coercive measures are enforced to bend them.
- Other factors
- Other causes are the permeable nature of borders, corrupt government officials, the involvement of international organized criminal groups or nexus, and the limited capacity of or commitment by immigration and law enforcement officers to control borders.
Legal and Constitutional Frameworks to Counter Human Trafficking in India
Constitution of India
- Article 23 prohibits human trafficking and beggar(forced labor without payment).
- Article 24forbids the employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like factories and mines.
Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1986
The purpose of this Act is to give effect to the Trafficking Convention and to prohibit immoral human trafficking.
It constitutes authorities at the centre and state level to combat trafficking. However, it does not elaborate on the role, function, and composition of these authorities
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013
- It has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking.
2. India’s first water taxi service inaugurated in Maharashtra
Project connects Navi Mumbai with the main city
India’s first water taxi service was inaugurated in Maharashtra on Thursday connecting the Navi Mumbai area to mainland Mumbai. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the Belapur jetty while Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbanand Sonowal flagged off the service.
The ₹8.37-crore project will presently operate on three routes and the State and the Centre have shared the expenditure. The three routes include Belapur to Ferry Wharf – the domestic cruise terminal, Belapur to Elephanta Caves and Belapur to JNPT.
In the initial stage, seven speedboats — each with a capacity of 10 to 30 passengers — and one catamaran with passenger capacity of 50 to 60 will run on these routes. The cost per person on a single journey will be between ₹820 to ₹1,200 for speed boats and ₹290 for the catamaran.
Addressing the event, Mr. Sonowal said the Sagarmala project has offered 131 projects worth ₹1.05 lakh crore for Maharashtra. “Financial aid of ₹278 crore for 46 projects will be offered under the project,” he said.
“India’s first train ran between Mumbai and Thane and it expanded throughout the country gradually. What happens in Mumbai spreads across the country,” said Mr. Thackeray.
He said the ease of transport is a key factor for investors to set up businesses in the region.
3. ‘Draft laws on refugee rights need revision’
NHRC member says expert panel could take up task
Model laws on asylum and refugees that were drafted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) decades ago but not implemented by the government could be revised by an expert committee, according to Commission member Justice M.M. Kumar’s suggestion at a recent meeting.
The NHRC held a discussion on “protection of the basic human rights of refugees and asylum seekers in India” on January 20 and many participants raised the issue of India not having a specific law for refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the minutes of the meeting that were published on Thursday.
Though India has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, 1951, Justice Kumar said the refugees and asylum seekers were entitled to the rights in Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Constitution. He highlighted the lack of a specific legislation governing refugees and asylum seekers.
Roshni Shanker, executive director of Migration and Asylum Project, spoke of the NHRC’s contribution in drafting a domestic asylum law and a model law for refugees in the nineties, the minutes of the meeting said. She suggested the drafts needed to be updated and converted into laws.
In his concluding remarks, Justice Kumar highlighted the need to update the two old NHRC documents regarding the domestic asylum laws and model law for refugees. He suggested constituting a panel/committee of scholars and domain experts to update these draft laws, the minutes stated. He also stated that if such laws were enacted, it would give legal sanctity and uniformity, ensuring the protection of human rights.
India’s Refugee Policy
- India lacks specific legislation to address the problem of refugees, in spite of their increasing inflow.
- The Foreigners Act, 1946, fails to address the peculiar problems faced by refugees as a class. It also gives unbridled power to the Central government to deport any foreign citizen.
- Further, the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) strikingly excludes Muslims from its purview and seeks to provide citizenship only to Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, and Buddhist immigrants persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
- Moreover, India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the key legal documents pertaining to refugee protection.
- In spite of not being a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, India has had a stellar record on the issue of refugee protection. India has a moral tradition for assimilating foreign people and culture.
- Further, the constitution of India also respects the life, liberty, and dignity of human beings.
- The Supreme Court in the National Human Rights Commission vs. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996) held that “while all rights are available to citizens, persons including foreign citizens are entitled to the right to equality and the right to life, among others.”
India’s Argument for Not Signing the 1951 Refugee Convention
- The definition of refugees in the 1951 convention only pertains to the violation of civil and political rights, but not economic rights, of individuals.
- For instance, a person, under the definition of the convention, could be considered if he/she is deprived of political rights, but not if he/she is deprived of economic rights.
- If the violation of economic rights were to be included in the definition of a refugee, it would clearly pose a major burden on the developed world.
- On the other hand, this argument, if used in the South Asian context, could be a problematic proposition for India too.
Challenges Associated With India’s Refugee Policy
- Refugees vs. Immigrants: In the recent past, many people from neighboring countries tend to illegally immigrate to India, not because of state persecution but in search of better economic opportunities in India.
- While the reality is that much of the debate in the country is about illegal immigrants, not refugees, the two categories tend to get bunched together.
- Due to this, policies and remedies to deal with these issues suffer from a lack of clarity as well as policy utility.
- Ambiguity in the Framework: The main reason why our policies towards illegal immigrants and refugees are confused is that as per Indian law, both categories of people are viewed as one and the same and are covered under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
- Ad-hocism: The absence of such a legal framework also leads to policy ambiguity whereby India’s refugee policy is guided primarily by ad hocism.
- Ad hoc measures enable the government in office to pick and choose ‘what kind’ of refugees it wants to admit for whatever political or geopolitical reasons.
- This results in a discriminatory action, which tends to be a violation of human rights.
- Discriminatory CAA: The Government of India has passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). CAA envisages providing citizenship to people who are religious minorities in India’s neighborhood and persecuted by the state.
- However, CAA is not the answer to the refugee problem primarily because of its deeply discriminatory nature, as it doesn’t include a particular religion under its ambit.
- Further, many political analysts have dubbed the CAA as an act of refugee avoidance, not refugee protection.