Open trafficking

Employment opportunities should be created in Nepal to prevent cross-border trafficking between Nepal and India

January 17, 2018 12:15 am | Updated 12:15 am IST

Following the 2015 Nepal earthquake, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that human trafficking from Nepal to India witnessed “a three-fold jump”. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) reported that most of the victims were minors, with girls and boys in equal numbers, and many were from the earthquake-affected districts of Nepal. In Dhangadhi and Rupandehi districts of Nepal, representatives of NGOs working on human trafficking said that quake-affected Sindhupalchowck district was among the key source districts for cross-border trafficking to India. A large number of women from this district left the country after the earthquake to find employment abroad, either through Rasuwagadhi or some other transit point along the India-Nepal border, said Asha from an NGO. “The destination countries for most of them were Kyrgyzstan, Israel, West Asia, and India. Many have also left for Kathmandu,” she said.

But identifying cases of human trafficking is not easy. Pancha Kumar Bakhu, who is Inspector, Area Police Office, Barabise in Sindhupalchowk, said: “No case of human trafficking has been registered since 2015, but ‘love affair’ (elopement) cases have been registered.” It is often difficult to identify a human trafficking case at the source since the victim may have been lured through the false promise of marriage or a job, said advocate Adrian Phillips from Justice and Care, an NGO that works on human trafficking.

The Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950 provides for an open border between Nepal and India. At the Gauriphanta border in Lakhimpur Kheri district and Sanuali border in Maharajganj district of U.P. bordering Nepal, I discovered how easy it was to cross over to Nepal. An official from SSB at Gauriphanta, which guards the Indian side of the border, said that those entering India are not stopped, but “those with luggage are stopped and questioned.” As I crossed over to Dhangadi in Nepal from Gauriphanta, an official from the Armed Police Force, which guards the Nepali side, said that individuals are stopped on the basis of “suspicion, intelligence or information from family members or relatives.” The SSB also profiles victims and suspects.

Closing the border may prevent cross-border trafficking, but it could also engender or accentuate economic vulnerabilities for those who have jobs or own businesses along the border. Poverty and unemployment in Sindhupalchowck have left young people vulnerable to internal and cross-border trafficking through the Rasuwagadi-Kerung border. It is imperative to create economic opportunities, particularly for the youth, within the country. Further, the Nepal-India border needs to be equipped with enhanced intelligence networks and effective monitoring mechanisms.

Meha Dixit has a PhD in International Politics from JNU and has taught at Kashmir University

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