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Anti-trafficking, pro-humanising

 Editorial |  2017-12-28 15:51:25.0

Anti-trafficking, pro-humanising

Heralding a new tomorrow to ensure the safety of all its citizens, the government is scheduled to table an anti-trafficking law that lays down stringent punishment against those caught in "aggravated forms of human trafficking" by listing out a sentence that would imprison the perpetrator between seven to ten years, imposing an additional fine of not less than Rs one lakh. Furthermore, for repeat offenders, the sentence could be increased to life imprisonment. Taking cognizance of the harsh instances of human trafficking that are now rampant in the country, plaguing women, children and even bonded labourers, the government intends to take legal recognition of this heinous crime, where India fairs abysmally on the global map. Human trafficking has been recognised, the world over, as the modern form of slavery, with thousands of impoverished, uneducated individuals being deprived of a dignified livelihood. India, carrying a raging population sustaining below the poverty line along with a looming crisis of infiltrations across the border, is ripe for the pursuit of illegal transactions of human beings for varied purposes, including sex trafficking, forced organ donation, bonded labour, pornography, begging etc. The evil thrives where crisis awakens, to further the aggravation of our society. The NCRB statistics have shown that since 2015 to 2016 there has been a 20 per cent increase in the instances of human trafficking. Where in 2015 there were 6877 recorded cases, in 2016 the official numbers jumped to 8132. However, as experts have suggested, this number is only the tip of the iceberg, with far more illegal transactions unfolding on an everyday basis. The basic tenants of living in our modern society have been diminished, tarnished by evil brokers who capitalise upon the misery and deprivation of those who are accidentally born on the fringes of our society. In 2016, 15,379 victims had been rescued, an appalling tilt towards women with 10,150 of those saved being females who were coerced into trade, sexually exploited, misled with ideas of marriage and forced into business they would have otherwise shunned away from. By formulating a holistic law against human trafficking, the government, for the first time, has taken cognizance of trafficking beyond just sexual exploitation. So forth, trafficking and coercion were recognised under different ministries such as WCD, home, labour, health and external affairs, thereby reducing the administrative efficacy of battling this contingent aberration. The recognition of this problem under a unified law will improve the government's ability to battle human exploitation, which is at the moment on a raging high. However, simple punishment is not the way out, as recognised by the government too. It involves a long procedure of rescue and rehabilitation for victims who have undergone immense mental and physical abuse. Given India's wide territorial scope, aside from a national bureau to tackle trafficking, it is essential to decentralise the process and rope in the assistance of state and district level officers who will work on the ground to ensure that cross-border transfers are hindered. As the law emphasises, there will be decentralisation and state players will participate as effectively. The government aims to end this heinous process that has proactively used the methods of violence, intimidation, inducement, false promises of pay or marriage, deception and coercion to tap on to vulnerable minds, reducing them to pawns in the hands of conniving masters. The process of rehabilitation will possibly be far more challenging than the ordeal of punishment. To rescue those that have been hampered and uplift their condition by providing an equitable means of earning income, requires intense deliberation. Rehabilitation projects often reduce the income of bonded labourers who otherwise earn several times more, despite surviving in abysmal conditions. Given the rampancy of poverty and a dire need to sustain the family—many would choose a higher income above a dignified lifestyle. There is a thin line that distinguishes wishful thinking from coercive dilemma—recognising the ideal between the two could lead to conflict. The government is treading on murky lands, but this is an essential uphill walk, given how our population is proliferating and a refugee crisis is deepening across the continent. Since the Nepal earthquake, hundreds of Nepalese girls have allegedly been smuggled for sex work, as poverty and deprivation of resources left them with no alternative. The Rohingya crisis is paving the way for a similar future for the thousands of homeless Muslim men and women whose condition today compels them to rate economic urgency above bodily ethics. The growing number of vulnerable individuals will only pave the way for the proliferation of evil masterminds who flourish in others' misery. An ethical distinction between the right and wrong, and individual choice and circumstantial compulsion must be drawn before the law is finalised and the vulnerable are further sabotaged.

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