Vijayawada: Andhra Pradesh saw a 39% decrease in human trafficking cases in 2020 compared to 2019. The drop is cases is largely attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown. As per district-wise data, Guntur (urban), Vizag city and West Godavari district stand to be top contributors of trafficking cases.
Conversely, Visakhapatnam (rural), Srikakulam and Vizianagaram have registered the least number of cases in the said. Through the whole of 2020, Andhra Pradesh registered 142 cases under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA). A total of 322 trafficked victims were rescued and 609 traffickers arrested.
Despite the decreasing trend in ITPA cases, it is pertinent to note that Andhra Pradesh ranked second in human trafficking in the country, according to the 2019 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, nearly 100% victims of human trafficking happened to be young girls and women. Data released by state police show that a majority of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation or prostitution. Of all victims trafficked for sexual exploitation, Andhra Pradesh has the third highest number.
A slew of recent incidents in the state exposed the existence of organised child trafficking networks dealing in young girls. Three major bonded labour cases were reported from Guntur, Prakasam and Anantapur, where young girls were found to have been trafficked in recent months.
A recent report released by the Union ministry of women and child development — ‘Commercial sexual exploitation in India’ — revealed that trafficking runs rampant among semi-nomadic tribal communities residing in slums across various towns in the country.
According to data of trafficked children rescued in Andhra Pradesh, around 10% were found to have been forced into bonded labour. A majority, 40%, of trafficked children, were forced into labour whereas 10% were found to have been sexually exploited. Five per cent of trafficked children were engaged in begging while a small number was also found to have been engaged in drug smuggling and theft.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2019, seven per cent of all victims of human trafficking happen to be children. NCRB data showed that 74% of trafficked victims were subject to sexual exploitation while 7% were forced into domestic servitude.
Anti-trafficking activists have demanded that the government set up and activate anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) in all districts according to the advisory from the Union ministry of home affairs.
Meharuneesa, state convenor of Vimukthi, said that the woman safety division of MHA issued an advisory in July 2020 asking ‘all states and union territories to immediately set up AHTUs in all districts to prevent and combat human trafficking during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic’.
“Many sex workers, who are earning members of their families responsible for feeding their children, have been forced to take loans under exorbitant rates during the lockdown period. Local loan sharks not registered under the Money Lenders’ Act, operating in red light areas, are encouraging women to take loans with high interest. This is showing a severe impact,” Meharuneesa said.