'Not rescue, rehabilitation should be prime focus for human trafficking victims' (July 30 is World Day against Trafficking in Persons)
New Delhi : Human trafficking in India is an organised crime violating basic human rights of an individual. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2016, 63 people are rescued every day on an average from the countrywide racket that knows no frontiers.
However, just rescue is not the end of the story. According to child rights experts the major challenge surfaces rehabilitation of the victims and survivors, particularly of underage victims.
"The pain and trauma a victim goes through has a long term affect which cannot be erased in few months. What required is proper counseling which often goes missing at rehab centres and child care institutes. There is a major vacumm in the rehabilitation approach in India," P.M. Nair, Chair Professor, Tata Institute of Social Science, told IANS.
The new Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 the Lok Sabha passed on Thursday, for the first time has made rehabilitation the right of the victims which was earlier perceived only as a welfare scheme.
And according to the bill, the central or state bodies which will be formed under this law are bound to make sure that a victim is rehabilitated.
However, as per child rights experts, there still remain doubts on how much a rehabilitation centre will turn helpful for the victims.
"What is being currently offered is short-term help. The government needs to think beyond that. Once the child is out from a rehab, it should be centre's responsibility to ensure that the individual is going to lead a normal life and sadly, this concern is still missing," said Prabhat Kumar, Head of Child Protection at NGO Save the Children.
According to the data provided by NCRB, more than 8,000 cases of human trafficking were reported in India in 2016, while 23,000 victims, including 182 foreigners, were rescued during the year.
Of the total 15,379 victims in these cases, 9,034 (58 per cent) were below the age of 18 years, stated the latest NCRB statistics on crime.
According to the experts, even though an adult might succeed in overcoming the traumatic experience, minors are the worst sufferers of human trafficking, especially if a girl has been forced into sex-work.
"A few months stay at rehab centres is not enough for minors. It is a time-consuming process to evolve out of that horrific phase and if good counseling is not offered then there futures are shattered," Nair stated.
Another hurdle that the victims face is going back to the society as most of the families refuse to accept a survivor, particularly those who had been forced into prostitution. Therefore, the experts voiced that there is a need of community awareness as well.
"Since there are no long term solutions which is offered to a victim there always remain an uncertainty about their future. In most cases, the family or society refuses to accept a survivor forcing him or her going back to the same trafficked world," Prabhat Kumar noted.
The experts also pointed out that there are hardly any proper vocational or skill- oriented courses being taught in the rehab centres and therefore, the majority of them fail to secure a sustainable life.
"Institutional approach is very much needed. Where will a survivor go if the society doesn't accept, how will one earn and survive? They need to guided and supported till the time survivors succeed in securing a job," Nair pointed out.
There are many NGOs who are looking after the survivors, but according to the experts, the police prefers to take survivors to shelter homes which are mostly over-crowded and therefore, living in such centres are hardy beneficial.
"Treating a victim requires an empathetic approach; they need proper care and counseling and for that professionals are needed which most of the centres lack. And being over-crowded the counselors often fail to give special attention to the survivors," Nair added.
However, there is a silver lining and experts claimed that the new bill will improve the status of the rehabilitation.
"Since it is being made a right now, there is hope that the prevailing conditions will change and for better. However, proper implementation needs to be ensured or else bringing the new law will be completely futile," Nair said.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)