Trafficking is one of India's biggest organized crime rackets
New Delhi: Demonetisation has brought the trafficking of women and girls for sex work to a grinding halt, studies and rescue workers said.
The estimated size of the trafficking industry, as reported in a study by Global March Against Child Labour, varies from Rs1.2 trillion to Rs20 trillion.
Rescue workers on the field said the process of trafficking of women is usually completed by November, after which trafficked women and girls are transported to various parts of the country to be sold to brothels, placement agencies and as child brides. With Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes withdrawn since the 8 November demonetisation announcement and new currency notes in short supply, the trade has hit a dead end, they said.
“Trafficking has stopped completely. Girls are usually trafficked from Guwahati in Assam and Jharkhand in the north and Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad in the south. Over the last one month, not a single girl has been trafficked. This is primarily because there is no liquidity left. All transactions used to happen in cash and now employers have no money to pay the middlemen. All the money that changed hands till now is useless," said Rakesh Senger, a child rights activist with Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO.
In what is one of India’s biggest organized crime rackets, traffickers usually peg the “cost" of a woman or girl at Rs2.5 lakh, made up of the cost of transporting her, paying off local politicians, authorities and police officials and the ultimate cost of grooming her.
However, the actual cost incurred stands at around Rs20,000. The remaining Rs2.3 lakh is pocketed by the trafficker, rescue workers said.
The study said that there are multiple figures that are involved in the trade whose earnings have taken a hit—traffickers, brothel owners, money lenders, law enforcement officials,and members of the judiciary. “The movement of money is quick and creates a mirage for all players involved. Whenever possible individuals peripherally attached to the business, such as law enforcement, judiciary, doctors, and money lenders capitalize on the illegality of the trade."
“A 10-12 year old girl costs Rs5 lakh, while girls between the groups of 13 and 15 cost Rs4 lakh. These transactions are all done in cash, in black money. The brothel owners are now caught in a bind because they can’t convert this cash at the banks. Because the new currency is not readily available, clients have stopped going to brothels and the brothel owners have no money to pay the traffickers," Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi said.
Senior Delhi Police officers said, on condition of anonymity, random checks on trains bound for Delhi from Bengal, Assam and Bihar, failed to unearth trafficked girls.
“Black money is the backbone of the trafficking industry in India. At the moment that structure has been fractured by demonetisation. It is a matter of time before the new currency is back in the system and the trade picks up. We have approached the PM and informed him of this situation as well," Satyarthi added.
Note: This story has been modified from its original version to clarify the estimated size of the trafficking industry.
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