India has been ranked as a “Tier II Watch List” country – only one level better than worst-performing Tier III countries such as Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe – in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) compiled by the State Department.

Given the definition of Tier II Watch List in the TIP, this implies that India ranks among those countries whose governments “do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”

Additionally, one of the three following conditions was found in India: first, that the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking was very significant or was significantly increasing; second, that there was a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or, third, that the determination that India was making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by India itself, to take additional future steps over the next year.

In terms of the definition of trafficking under the TVPA, a person may be a trafficking victim “regardless of whether they once consented, participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked, were transported into the exploitative situation, or were simply born into a state of servitude.”

The TIP adds that at the heart of this phenomenon are the myriad forms of enslavement including forced labour, sex trafficking, bonded labour debt bondage among migrant labourers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labour, child soldiers and child sex trafficking.

While most of South Asia ranks along with India as a Tier II Watch List country, Pakistan is notably ranked as Tier II – one level better than India. Thus while Pakistan’s government did not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, it was making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards – with none of the three additional conditions found in the case of India applicable to Pakistan.

Most developed countries, but even some developing countries such as Colombia and Nigeria, were ranked as Tier I countries in the TIP, that is countries whose governments fully complied with the TVPA’s minimum standards.

Commenting further on the case of India, the TIP noted that the Government of India “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, particularly with regard to the law enforcement response to sex trafficking.”

Yet, the TIP argues, the Indian government did not demonstrate sufficient progress in its law enforcement, protection, or prevention efforts to address labour trafficking, particularly bonded labour. “Therefore India is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the seventh consecutive year,” the report said.

The TIP also noted that there were few criminal convictions of forced labour during the reporting period and police raids of brick kilns, rice mills, factories, brothels, and other places of human trafficking were usually prompted by NGO activists, as were efforts to provide rehabilitation and protective services to the victims removed from human trafficking.

Further, national and state government anti-trafficking infrastructure, and the implementation of the Bonded Labour (System) Abolition Act (BLSA), “remained weak,” the TIP observed, and the number of government shelters increased but some continued to be of poor quality. Some public officials’ complicity in trafficking remained a major problem, the report noted.