Human Trafficking From Assam Worsens During Covid-19 Pandemic: Rights Activists


Meena Ray (name altered) was allegedly abducted from her hamlet in Assam's Kokrajhar region with the expectation of a wedding and trafficked to a prostitute in West Bengal's Siliguri municipality in May 2020, at the height of the nationwide shutdown and restrictions on travel caused by Covid-19.

She eventually was rescued and returned a month later with the assistance of child campaigners and the cops. Ray was contacted on a social networking site by a 35-year-old man from Assam's Bongaigaon region, who was engaged in the farming business and transported her to Siliguri, according to inquiries.

Ray's situation, according to specialists in Assam, was only one of many incidents of trafficking in human beings that occurred in the two years when the Covid-19 outbreak began. Although Assam has previously been a hotspot for trafficking in human beings, the situation is expected to increase as a result of the new disease.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Assam had 308 incidents of trafficking in human beings in 2018, which was the 2nd highest in the nation after Maharashtra with 311. In 2019, the figure fell to 201, third-most after Maharashtra with 282 and Andhra Pradesh with 245. Assam had 124 instances in 2020, ranking seventh following Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, and Rajasthan.

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Trafficking in human beings, particularly adolescent trafficking, persisted throughout the statewide lockdown in 2020, according to Digambar Narzary, chairperson of the Kokrajhar-based Nedan Organization, an anti-trafficking Nonprofit organization. 144 incidences of trafficking in children were registered in the Bodoland Territorial Town's four regions of Baksa, Chirang, Kokrajhar, and Udalguri throughout that year.

He stated that in the four regions of the BTR area exclusively, 156 incidences of child trafficking were registered last year. If the information for the entire state was compiled, the number would be significantly higher.

Large numbers of individuals who left the state for employment in 2020 due to the disease outbreak and shutdown, school closures due to the global epidemic, and an absence of seats in higher education institutions to fit students taking board examinations who were promoted massive numbers without undertaking examinations, according to Narzary, could all be contributing factors to the increase in human trafficking.

He claimed that in BTR, about 50,000 pupils were promoted in 10th class examinations, despite knowing that there were only roughly 26,000 available seats in upper secondary institutions and universities. This resulted in a college seat deficit. When the state's lockdown restrictions were loosened, many students who were unable to acquire seats began joining former migrants who began returning to their jobs outside the state.

The year before, 40 youngsters, 16 females and 24 males were retrieved from Sikkim after being kidnapped from the Baksa area of Assam in 2018-19. When the state administration instructed healthcare and community welfare agencies to report incidents of children disappearing from their homes, the issue of missing children came to light.

According to Narzary, human trafficking will increase in the following months as Covid-19 has completely disrupted people's lifestyles and jobs. Many impoverished families are unable to continue to fund their children's education, particularly those in the senior classes, due to the high cost.