Special Correspondent

Trafficking has acquired grave dimensions, gained in sophistication and complexity, says Union Minister Venkatapathy

CHENNAI: There are indications that India is fast becoming not only a source and transit point but also a destination for traffickers from Nepal, Bangladesh and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Union Minister of State for Law and Justice K. Venkatapathy said here on Saturday.

Trafficking is said to have acquired grave dimensions, gained in sophistication and complexity and resulted in the consolidation of networks and penetration of organised crime syndicates, he said at a meeting on ‘Methods to Combat Trafficking of Children and Women for Commercial Sexual Exploitation,’ organised by the State Judicial Academy and the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women.

Referring to missing women and children in India, he said that between 1996 and 2001, more than 1.34 lakh women and 2.66 lakh children were reported missing. “Though there is no evidence, it will not be wrong to presume that most of them would have been victims of trafficking. Thus the situation is really alarming.”

Co-ordination mechanisms

Creating legal awareness, Mr. Venkatapathy said, was one of the most important functions of any social action programme. It would empower people by making them aware of their rights and intolerant of abuse and exploitation. There was an urgent need for co-ordination mechanisms at the national and international levels, Mr. Venkatapathy said, suggesting that India set up a national nodal agency.

Vital link

Chief Justice of the Madras High Court A.K. Ganguly said trafficking was the third largest form of trans-national investment, coming only after trade in arms and drugs. There was a vital link between the three, as children and women trafficked were also used as couriers for drugs and arms that, in turn, funded terrorism.

He wanted the government to pass the Bill on compulsory education for children so as to keep them in school and away from traffickers. Trafficking was only a symptom of such larger problems as illiteracy, poverty and lack of livelihood options, and efforts should be made to combat these.

The government, the police and the judiciary would have to pay attention to the problem. Otherwise it would continue to flourish, Mr. Ganguly warned.

Director-General of Police K.P. Jain said Tamil Nadu was a high supply zone for traffickers. In order to combat trafficking, the help of the panchayats must be sought and mobile counselling initiated in villages. Beat constables should report suspicious movement of people.

Satish Kumar, Regional Representative, UNICEF, said Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu were the high supply zones, providing women and children for commercial exploitation. The best way to combat this would be to keep all children in school and build capacity for delivery of recovery and reintegration services.

“Spread awareness”

D. Murugesan, Judge, Madras High Court, highlighted the need to handle the victims with compassion and respect and spread awareness among them of their legal rights and the facilities available.

K.M. Ramathal, chairperson, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, spoke.