Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Police for investigating human trafficking in India was launched by Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Maken today.
Speaking on the occasion, Maken said that India follows a policy of "Zero Tolerance" against human trafficking in the women and children for sexual exploitation and has adequate Constitutional safeguards and legislation against the crime of human trafficking. Article 23 of the Constitution of India prohibits trafficking in any form.
Maken said that though "Police" and "Public" are essentially State subjects and State Governments are primarily responsible for preventing and combating the crime of human trafficking, the Central Government has taken several measures for combating trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. Some of the initiatives taken at MHA at national are:
Anti-Trafficking Nodal Cell was set up in MHA to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments. On the advice of MHA, all the States have nominated Anti Trafficking Nodal Officers who spearhead the Anti-Trafficking operations at the state level.
A two-year project titled "Strengthening the Law Enforcement Response to Trafficking in Persons in India through Training and Capacity Building" in 5 select States of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar was launched in April, 2006 in partnership with UNODC to develop Protocols and SOPs, and to set up the Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) under the police department. The project has been extended up to July, 2009. The total sanctioned budget for this project is US$ 2.58 million. So far, about 300 training programmes have been conducted in which more than 10,500 persons have been trained.
MHA, NHRC, NCW and M/o WCD are working on updating the existing Plan of Action for Combating Trafficking (1998) and drafting an Integrated National Plan of Action to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in human beings, especially women and children.
A national level "Training for Trainers" Workshop was organized in June 2008. One international level workshop for the officers of SAARC member countries was also organized in May 2009.
A comprehensive scheme on strengthening the law enforcement response to trafficking through "Training for Trainers" programmes and by establishing Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTU), has been proposed by MHA. Such a scheme will ensure will ensure sensitization of grass-root police personnel and provide basic resources for a coordinated approach to preventing and combating trafficking at the district level in all the States.
Delineating the initiatives taken by India at International level, Shri Maken said that :India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC), which has as one of its protocols on the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking in persons, particularly women and children. India is in the process of ratifying the convention.
India has ratified the SAARC Convention on preventing and combating trafficking in women and children for prostitution. Third meeting of SAARC Regional Task Force was held last month where the SOP for implementation of the provisions of the SAARC convention prepared by MHA, GOI has been finalized.
MHA in association with the M/o WCD and UNICEF prepared draft protocol and SOP for dealing with cross border trafficking between India and Bangladesh to address the various issues relating to victim identification and repatriation and make the process speedy and victim-friendly. Two bilateral meetings between India and Bangladesh have already been held to discuss the protocol.
The minister said that the scenario is certainly changing for the positive. In the last six years, there has been a growing momentum against the menace of human trafficking. The credit goes to NGOs, who have brought this issue into the lime-light and on the national agenda. However, we may have to evolve new strategies, bring in radical changes in our approach in dealing with victims etc. There is a need to adopt and strengthen the 'Prevention, Protection and Prosecution" approach in a coordinated manner involving several agencies, he added.
Maken expressed the hope that all law enforcement agencies would like to make use of the SOP released today to take forward its counter-trafficking agenda for creating awareness among stakeholders about the issues that have been well-researched and presented in the manual.
The SOP was prepared by Anju Gupta, an IPS officer of UP cadre in coordination with International Organization for Migration (IOM), Geneva based body which has membership of 125 countries. India formerly joined IOM in June 2008. (ANI)