WASHINGTON: India made significant efforts towards the elimination of human trafficking in 2019, but did not fully meet the minimum standards, according to a US report. As such India remained on Tier 2 of the Congressional-mandated 2020 Trafficking in Persons report of the state department.
Pakistan has been downgraded to the Tier 2 watch list because the government did not make overall increasing efforts, the report said.
China, on the other hand, has remained on the lowest Tier 3 as it made no significant efforts to eliminate trafficking, according to the report released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the presence of US President Donald Trump's daughter and top White House advisor Ivanka Trump.
"The Communist Party of China (CPC) and its state-owned enterprises often force citizens to work in horrendous conditions on Belt and Road projects," Pompeo told reporters while releasing the report on Thursday.
"India does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore India remained on Tier 2," the report said.
These efforts included convicting traffickers and completing a high-profile investigation into a case that involved officials complicit in trafficking at a government-funded shelter home in Bihar, convicting 19 individuals in the case, including three state officials; an influential former legislator was among the 12 that received life sentences, it said.
According to the report, the government also filed First Information Reports (FIRs) against other government funded shelter homes in Bihar that allegedly abused residents, including trafficking victims. For the first time, the Madras High Court reversed an acquittal in a bonded labour case.
The central government added investigation of inter-state and transnational trafficking cases to the mandate of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which began investigating inter-state trafficking. The government continued to work on its draft anti-trafficking bill and committed to devoting funding to expand its police anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) to all 732 districts, it said.
However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not make serious or sustained efforts to address its consistently large trafficking problem. Overall anti-trafficking efforts, especially against bonded labour, remained inadequate, the report said.
India in the past has rejected the US State Department's annual report on trafficking in persons, which put India on a watch-list, terming it a "judgmental and prescriptive approach by a foreign government".
Observing that traffickers exploit millions of people in flesh trade in India, the report said that traffickers target Indian women and girls but also fraudulently recruit significant numbers of Nepali and Bangladeshi women and girls to India for sex trafficking.
India, it said, is a source for child sex tourists and a destination for child sex tourism. Traffickers kidnap and force Indian and Nepali women and girls to work as "orchestra dancers" in India, especially in Bihar, where girls perform with dance groups until they have repaid fabricated debts. Traffickers exploit women and children in sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centers and in tourist destinations, it said.
According to the report, traffickers force many Indian migrants who willingly seek employment abroad into construction, domestic work, factories, and other low-skilled sectors in many regions, especially Gulf countries and Malaysia, often following recruitment fraud and exorbitant recruitment fees.
"Indian female domestic workers in all Gulf countries, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, consistently report strong indicators of forced labour, including non-payment of wages, refusal to allow workers to leave upon completion of their contracts, and physical abuse," it said.
In the United Arab Emirates, labour traffickers bring Indian workers overseas on tourist visas, withhold their identity documents and wages, and force them to work, especially in construction. Authorities have recently identified Indian forced labour victims in Armenia, Portugal, Gabon, and Zambia, and Indian female sex trafficking victims in Kenya, it said.
"Traffickers exploit Rohingya, Sri Lankan Tamil, and other refugee populations in sex and labour trafficking. Traffickers subject some boys from Assam, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh states to forced labour in Nepal," the report added.