Are the West Bengal Police stalling to protect Human traffickers? Trafficking survivors in 24 Parganas think so.
Unsatisfied and disappointed with the pace of investigation by the local police station, trafficking survivors in West Bengal are seeking a probe by Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) to ensure that the traffickers are arrested.
In February 2020, a woman who was rescued in 2017 from Pune, approached senior police officers of Baruipur police district in South 24 Parganas demanding that the case be transferred from the local police station to AHTU.
It was after the unit took over the probe, that the policemen accompanied her to Pune and got four of the accused arrested.
In at least two cases in 2019, the survivors from South 24 Parganas approached the Calcutta High Court and got necessary directions for AHTU to investigate the matter.
Selima (name changed) was kidnapped in 2012. After being rescued from Pune, she kept following the status of her case. A chargesheet was filed by the local police in September 2017. She, however, was not satisfied with the probe and sought the help of Calcutta High Court so that the probe was handed over to the state AHTU.
Another survivor Nilima ( name changed) was also upset that the traffickers who took her away from the State did not figure in the police investigation and approached the Calcutta High Court on the issue. The High Court in both the cases directed that a probe by AHTU should be conducted.
Both Selima and Nilima were successful in getting the probe conducted by the AHTU, and accompanied the police team when it carried out raids in Pune in 2019. One of the accused in Selima’s case was arrested during the raids.
Delhi isn’t the only trafficking destination
Subhasree Raptan of Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra (GGBK), an organisation working with survivors of trafficking in south Bengal, said that the three cases highlight the need for inter-State investigation in cases of traffickin,.
“In most of the cases of trafficking we come across, the survivors are rescued from a different State. In almost every case, there is need for inter-State investigation. The local police despite best efforts cannot ensure that,” Ms. Raptan told the Hindu newspaper
The activist said that after Delhi, Pune has emerged as a destination where lots of girls from Bengal are being rescued. “In the past few years we have seen 20 to 25 cases where girls have been rescued from Pune,” she said.
Activists have been working to combat trafficking of women and girls in Bengal, which for years has remained the hub of trafficking. There is little clarity on which wing of the police should deal with such cases or what charges must be pressed. On many occasions when children go missing sections of kidnapping of Indian Penal Code instead of trafficking are pressed by the police.
While the latest reports of the National Crime Reports Bureau NCRB (for 2017 and 2018) reflect a drop in the number of trafficking cases in Bengal, the data on missing children indicate that the State is a hotspot for children gone missing. The NCRB Report of 2017 had stated that one in every six missing children is from Bengal.