Human trafficking galore in Kerala, activists concerned over ‘unregistered cases’

With 166 cases last year, Kerala is 4th behind Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
illus| express
illus| express

KOZHIKODE:  Though the state has the fourth largest number of human trafficking cases registered in the country last year (166), the issue is yet to get due attention. Activists say it is only the tip of the iceberg as the available data consists only of those cases registered with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the police in each district.

“In Kerala, children are being victimised in 80% of the human trafficking cases. Be it child labour, slavery, escort service or home massaging, exploitation exists in its virulent form,” said Dr P M Nair who was the project director of anti-human trafficking with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, New Delhi from 2006 to ‘08.

“Our main issue is that even a big chunk of the real cases of human trafficking is not available. The cases registered even at the local police stations were not counted. Still we claim human trafficking doesn’t exist in the state,” he said.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau data, Kerala is fourth behind Maharashtra and Telangana (both 184 cases) and Andhra Pradesh (171) in the human trafficking cases in 2020. “The major hurdle is that the public doesn’t believe human trafficking exists here. In 2019, the state government had issued a circular on human trafficking, following which AHTUs were formed in each district. An anti-trafficking club has been formed in more than 30 colleges across the state to identify and curb the menace,” said P K Dineshan, Childline project director in Wayanad.

Activists say that human trafficking is taking place in resorts, among migrant labourers, among the Wayanad tribal labourers who toil in the ginger fields of Kodagu and among the children working as house maids. Agents act as the middle men.

“In 2017, six cases of human trafficking were officially registered in Kannur. The Childline had identified additional 24 children which were unregistered. But strangely, another NGO came up with a staggering 300 victims of human trafficking from the same district which were not in the official records,” said Nair.

To identify and nip the problem in its bud, several NGOs have joined hands to form panchayat-level anti-human trafficking units. It was piloted successfully in Vithura grama panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram and Puthupariyaram in Palakkad last year. On October 21, the initiative was rolled out in Meenangadi, Wayanad as well.

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