States bordering Nepal look to curb human trafficking post earthquake

Activists say people smuggling has increased after the devastating 25 April earthquake


A file photo of Nepalese villagers including in the earthquake affected village of Sirdibas in Gorkha District. Photo: AFP
A file photo of Nepalese villagers including in the earthquake affected village of Sirdibas in Gorkha District. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Suspecting a recent spike in migration from Nepal to India to be the outcome of human trafficking, Indian states bordering the Himalayan country are putting preventive measures in place, with Uttar Pradesh taking the lead.

Activists say people smuggling has increased after the devastating 25 April earthquake.

With five Indian states sharing the border with Nepal and India being the destination for most of the estimated 15,000 women trafficked every year from Nepal, anti-trafficking campaigners have sounded an alarm here.

According to the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), a large number of victims were stopped along the Raxaul and Jogbani border in Bihar, Rupaidiha and Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh and Jhulaghat in Uttarakhand. The border force also said that trafficking incidents started to rise from around 2 May, a week after the quake. So far, there have been multiple arrests and detentions, all based entirely on suspicion.

The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to install CCTV cameras on crossing points in all the nine districts of the state that border Nepal. Principal secretary (home) Debashish Panda has also held video conferences with the district magistrates, police chiefs, SSB and other anti-trafficking stakeholders. More such inter-district conferences are planned.

“The Nepal tragedy acted as a catalyst for us. UP can be both a target and transit state for trafficking. We had so many facilities and schemes on paper. All we had to do was to bring everything together and form a network. We reactivated the 35 anti trafficking units and are holding training to sensitise the police,” said state home secretary Kamal Saksena.

Alert signs, hoardings with telephone numbers of people who can help, including the police and NGOs, will be displayed at check points on borders and also at places like railway stations, bus stands and police stations. Saksena said the state government is preparing a “capsule” (a human trafficking module) describing various provisions of the law that can be applied.

The capsule will also detail whom to contact first in situations when a victim of trafficking is brought to the police station and what steps should be followed by the police officer. This is not to say that the police is not doing its job, said Saksena, but these are nuances which should be explained in an easier way in the form of a handy document available at police stations.

“Uttar Pradesh is on the top of the list. They are taking initiatives other states should replicate. The chief minister has personally taken interest in the subject and has said that all possible measures should be taken to root out the menace. This is important because steps are being taken before trafficking has actually taken place,” said Rishi Kant from anti-trafficking NGO Shakti Vahini, which helps conduct training sessions in Uttar Pradesh.

An anti-human trafficking unit has been set up in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district which is close to the Nepal border. CCTV cameras have also been installed at five places in Dharchula town, which share borders with Nepal.

West Bengal has also strengthened its border security, and SSB has sounded an alert in areas in Bihar that share their border with Nepal.

Several internal human trafficking cases were reported after natural tragedies in recent years, including the 2001 Bhuj earthquake, the 2004 tsunami and the 2008 Kosi floods.

Vrinda Sahni contributed to this story.

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