Over 5,000 children went missing in 2010. But the state doesn’t seem to be bothered.
“During an inquiry we found that Bengal is yet to set up anti-trafficking cells in districts to evolve a foolproof mechanism for combating trafficking. The police administration does not seem concerned even though trafficking of girls is on the rise,” said a CBI official attached to the central agency’s special anti-human trafficking unit. “What is even more disturbing is that policemen normally do not report such crimes. Even if they do, they prefer lodging a general diary instead of registering an FIR, which means no investigation,” the official added. An IPS officer in Bengal said in the past, policemen have even refused to register trafficking cases.
“Things have improved now as the cases are being reported, but merely lodging a diary won’t help,” he said. Rishi Kant of Shakti-Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO working against trafficking, said policemen in Bengal districts had “done nothing” to combat the menace as gangs were running the racket with ease. “The racketeers sell the girls to brothels across the country.”
If Bengal, according to Kant, has “fared badly” when it comes to combating trafficking, it has topped the list of cases where girls have been sold for prostitution. According to figures available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 130 cases of selling of teenaged girls for prostitution were reported across the country during 2010. Bengal accounted for 115 of the 130 cases. The same year, 679 cases of trafficking of minor girls were reported. Bengal topped with 200 cases, followed by Bihar (152). “In 2010 Bengal, which was placed second on the list, accounted for nearly 12.2 per cent of total crimes against women by reporting 26,125 cases,” an NCRB official said.
Sources said trafficking was a major racket in several Bengal districts, including South and North 24-Parganas, Murshidabad and Malda, and several cases went unreported as parents handed over their daughters to traffickers because of acute poverty.
“We do have an anti-human trafficking cell which has its office at Bhabani Bhavan in Calcutta. But to curb trafficking, we need to have such cells in districts for better co-ordination,” the IPS officer said. The anti-trafficking cell was set up about four years ago following a home ministry directive. Last year, the home ministry had called a meeting to draw up plans to combat trafficking. “The home ministry told us it would bear some of the expenses for setting up anti-trafficking cells in districts. The file is still gathering dust at Writers’ Buildings,” the officer added. In a bid to combat trafficking, the CBI has activated a helpline number. Anyone with information on gangs can dial the 011-24368638. The reward for any information leading to arrest and criminal action against traffickers can go up to Rs 2 lakh.