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Fight against human trafficking requires society's participation

By VIVEK ANANTH, 15 SEPTEMBER 2015

Panel discussion on Human Trafficking at Christ University, Bangalore

The establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) hasn’t bridged the gap between the civil society and victims of trafficking, according to a panel discussion on Social Policy and Civil Society at the National Research Conference on Human Trafficking.

The conference was organized by the Department of Social Work, Christ University in collaboration with International Justice Mission on September 14th and 15th.

An AHTU has four parts. One is the investigating officers, second is the NGOs, third is the prosecutor and fourth is the government official from the respective department, explained Dr. P.M. Nair a former IPS officer and now a professor at Tata Institute of Social Science.
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“It is a problem of priority,” said Dr. Soumendra Mukherjee, a former IPS officer from Karnataka. “From the perspective of the police, it is still a problem of priorities. We are struggling with resources and manpower. These offences weren’t a priority.  After the amendment of section 370 of the Indian Penal Code, the offences have become relevant.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs of the central government has funded the establishment of trafficking units in the country, said Dr. Mukherjee.

The NHRC insisted that there should be a convergence system in the fight against human trafficking, said Dr. P. M. Nair. There are many notable examples of civil society linkage with the law enforcement system in the country and AHTUs have been given legal mandate under the law, he added.

“The responsibility given to the AHTU is over and above their normal duties. Many times the NGOs and the AHTUs don’t know each other,” said Dr. Mukherjee. “We have to go beyond the AHTU. If we have to rely entirely on AHTUs, it will not take us too far. An AHTU isn’t a police station. A case still has to be registered in a police station,” he added.

Dr. Brinda Adige, director Global Concerns India, said that it is very important to disseminate knowledge to the community. 

“The community should also understand that they have the right and duty to walk into a police station and ask questions of the police. The time and space has come for us to address the prevention (of the crime),” said Dr. Adige. AHTU police officers should be given a special status so that the can file a complaint in the police station based on the information that they have, she added.

On designating AHTUs as police stations, Esther Daniel of International Justice Mission said that it is time we designated the AHTUs as police stations. Dr. Mukherjee said that he didn’t agree. He said that this would overburden the AHTUs with all the documentation requirements of running a police station.

“They should do the field work. AHTUs should follow up on the progress of the cases where they have rescued people,” said Dr. Mukherjee.

“AHTUs shouldn’t be notified as police stations for two reasons. One, if they are designated as such, then victims would be sent to that designated police station every time they wanted to register a case. Second, the prosecutor and the NGOs will say that they don’t want to be part of a police station,” said Dr. Nair.

“Karnataka is the source and destination of human trafficking. Bangalore acts a transit point. We have to address the source,” said Dr.Mukherjee.

 

 
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