QUESTION : Discuss the salient features and key issues on the draft anti-trafficking Bill and at the same time justify the role of social media in cyber trafficking.
The Hindu Editorial Topic : A LONG ROAD TO WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST TRAFFICKING
Draft Anti-trafficking Bill and Its Issues
WHY IN NEWS ?
The United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons is observed on July 30. This is the time to reflect on India’s human trafficking crisis. Anti-trafficking policy exists in India but the system is lacking in the implementation of the laws.
STATISTICS OF TRAFFICKING CRISIS :
- An estimated 9000 children have been rescued after being trafficked for labour between April 2020 and June 2021.
o 21 children have been trafficked every day over nearly 15 months.
- The Child-line India helpline received 44 lakh distress calls over 10 months.
- Over a year, 2000 children have arrived at its shelter homes and 800 rescued from hazardous working conditions.
- Children as young as 12 are trafficked across States to work in factories in appalling conditions, where owners are turning to cheap labour.
- There are incidents of death after being trafficked for labour due to injuries from beatings.
- Child marriages are also rampant — over 10,000 cases were tracked between April and August 2020.
INCREASED VULNERABILITY :
Covid-19 and human trafficking:
- Since 2020, there has been an increased vulnerability in the cases of trafficking.
- The corona virus has resulted in loss of income and economic crisis, causing families’ reduced capacity to care for children in the long-term.
- It has caused loss of parental care due to death, illness or separation, thereby placing children at heightened risk for violence, neglect or exploitation.
- These factors are compounded by an erosion of some of the checks against child labour and child marriage provided by law, as well as the scrutiny of schools and society.
Social media and cyber-trafficking:
- The increase in Internet access has also led to cyber-trafficking.
- Popular social media platforms and free messaging apps are often used to contact young people.
- Trafficker or middleman lures the person to a place under the pretext of offering him employment.
- In addition, there is an increased demand for child sexual exploitation material online due to lockdowns.
- Threats of violence from the trafficker and the absence of any identifiable authority to approach other than the police make it nearly impossible for trafficked persons to report the incident.
SCANT DATA AND INSTITUTIONAL GAPS :
- The Government admitted in Parliament in March 2021 that it does not maintain any national-level data specific to cyber trafficking cases.
- India is classified by the U.S. Department of State as a Tier-2 country in its report on global human trafficking.
o This means that the Government does not fully meet the minimum standards under U.S. and international law for eliminating trafficking, but is making significant efforts to comply.
- The lack of implementation is illustrated by the state of the Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs).
- AHTUs are specialised district task forces comprising police and government officials.
o In 2010, it was envisioned that 330 AHTUs would be set up.
o RTI responses in August 2020 showed that about 225 AHTUs had been set up, but only on paper.
- Further trials can drag on for years, with victims sometimes withdrawing their complaints after being intimidated by traffickers.
NEW DRAFT ANTI-TRAFFICKING BILL :
- The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has invited suggestions for the draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021.
- Objective: To prevent and counter-trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them.
KEY ISSUES :
- Significant discussion is required on the provisions of the Bill. This is needed particularly with respect to bringing in the National Investigation Agency and increasing the punishment for offences, including the death penalty as an option in some cases.
- The draft Bill also provides for AHTUs/committees at the national, State and district levels, but as noted, their effective functioning cannot be taken for granted.
- The low conviction rate in the trails of trafficking incidents points to a failure of investigation.
o It cannot be only solved by the draft Bill’s provision that accused traffickers must be presumed guilty unless they can prove the contrary.
CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE PROVISIONS RELATED TO TRAFFICKING IN INDIA :
- Trafficking in Human Beings or Persons is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23 (1).
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
- Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013 has come into force wherein Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has been substituted with Section 370 and 370A IPC which provide for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS ON TRAFFICKING IMPLEMENTED BY INDIA:
- UN Conventions
o India has ratified the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC) which has as one of its Protocols Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons, particularly Women and Children.
o The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the protocol. It offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.
Blue Heart Campaign: It is an international anti-trafficking program started by the UNODC.
o Various actions have been taken to implement the convention and as per Protocol, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 has been enacted wherein human trafficking has specifically been defined.
- SAARC Conventions
o India has ratified the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution.
o A Regional Task Force was constituted to implement the SAARC Convention.
- Bilateral Mechanisms
o For dealing with cross border trafficking and to address the various issues relating to prevention of trafficking, victim identification and repatriation and make the process speedy and victim-friendly between India and Bangladesh, a Task Force of India and Bangladesh was constituted.
o A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh on Bi-lateral Cooperation for Prevention of Human Trafficking in Women and Children, Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-integration of Victims of Trafficking was signed in June, 2015.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) establishes the right of every human to live with dignity and prohibits slavery. It is a non-binding declaration.
- Sustainable Development Goals
o Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,
o Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all and
o Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
WAY FORWARD :
- If properly staffed and funded, Anti-Human Trafficking Units could provide crucial ground-level data on the methods and patterns of traffickers.
- There is a need to strengthen community-based awareness and vigilance activities.
- Proper case management must be introduced to give meaning to the fast-track courts.
- There should be monetary compensation and the lack of consistent access to psychological counselling and rehabilitation of the victims.
- Global practices for ant-trafficking should be encouraged in India, in consonance with a larger framework to protect women and children by incentivising education and creating safe employment opportunities.
- Encourage state and territory compliance with the Supreme Court’s recommendation to audit all government-run and -funded shelter homes.
- Cease penalisation of trafficking victims.
- De-link provision of the 2016 bonded labour scheme’s overall victim compensation from conviction of the trafficker.
- Cease detention of adult trafficking victims in government-run and government-funded shelters.
- Amend the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC to include labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking crime.
- Increase oversight of and protections for workers in the informal sector, including home-based workers.
- Lift bans on female migration through agreements with destination countries that protect Indian workers from human trafficking.
- Update and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.
- Provide anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel.
- Continue to disseminate and implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral, and train officials on their use.
There is no shortage of anti-trafficking policy in India. But legislating without the political will to implement and monitor effectiveness will bear no fruit. There is the need for collective action from all stakeholders and due implementation of the laws.
QUESTION : Analyse the India-US relations have found many reasons for strategic convergence . However, there is also a pressing need to weed out the divergences.
India-US Bilateral Relations
WHY IN NEWS ?
Recent visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Delhi. The visit was meant to prepare the way for more substantive meetings in Washington later this year, including
- US -India “2+2” of Foreign and Defence Ministers
- Quad (India, US, Australia, Japan) summit of its leaders
- Bilateral meeting between PM Modi and U.S. President Joseph Biden.
WHAT IS 2+2 DIALOGUE ?
It is an official format of dialogue where participants are the defence and foreign ministers or secretaries with their counterparts from both participating countries. The goal of 2+2 Ministerial is to facilitate the highest-level dialogue on the bilateral, regional, and global issues between countries.
India holds such talks at the foreign secretary and defence secretary level with Australia but with Japan and the US, these talks were held at the ministerial level.
IMPORTANT TAKEAWAYS OF BLINKEN’S VISIT :
- On Quad: US & India showed full convergence
- On Afghanistan: India said that there were “more convergences than divergences” on the common positions that there is no military solution to conflict, and that neither country would recognise a Taliban regime that takes Kabul by force.
- On Democratic freedom: Both sides maintained there were “shared values” but points of friction existed between two.
DIVERGENCES BETWEEN INDIA AND USA ON AFGHANISTAN :
- U.S. withdrawal will mean a less secure region that also impacts India’s security interests in the region.
- U.S. continues to engage the Taliban in talks for a power-sharing arrangement, despite the Taliban leadership’s refusal to enforce a ceasefire, and stop attacks against civilians in areas they take over. This embolden Taliban who has close ties with Pakistan (against India’s interests)
- Taliban is also trying to squeeze trade and financial supply chains to the Afghanistan government and US is not holding Taliban accountable for its actions.
- Perhaps the greatest worry for India is the U.S.’s refusal to hold Pakistan to account for having given shelter to the Taliban, as this will only embolden Islamabad if the Taliban advance in Afghanistan.
- Another cause of worry is the recent U.S.’s announcement of a new “Quad” with Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan on connectivity.
- US-Pakistan Equation: US has softened its position on Pakistan in the last seven months, due to the role Pakistan can play in the Afghan deal (between the US and the Taliban)
o In return, Pakistan wants the US to engage with India on the Kashmir issue (internationalising the Kashmir issue). Whereas India maintains the view that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and no third party can be engaged in it.
- Internal Issues in India: India-US strong strategic partnership is also based on an idea of “shared values” of democracy, rule of law, religious freedom and protection of minorities. However, the revocation of Article 370, the new citizenship law and the NRC is testing this “shared values” principle.
o Though the US president maintained that these matters are internal to India, criticism from the US Congress and some parts of US civil society is pushing the US administration to tell India to bring Kashmir to normalcy and not go ahead with the new citizenship law followed by the NRC.
POINTS OF FRICTION ON DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS :
- Mr. Blinken met with a “civil society roundtable” wherein internal Indian issues such as minority rights, religious freedoms and curbs on the media and dissent were discussed. This was done in the wake of international criticism against Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 & abrogation of Article 370.
- India’s Minister of External Affairs however countered the allegation of “backslide” in India’s democracy by reiterating that the same standards apply for the U.S. and India and actions by government like CAA & Article 370 was taken to “right historical wrongs”
HOW INDIA AND U.S. CAN CONVERT CONCERNS INTO OPPORTUNITIES :
1) Cooperation in healthcare
- Healthcare is clearly an area that India can play up in bilateral relations.
- The two countries can also work with multilateral agencies across the spectrum of vaccine (including Covid vaccine) development, logistics and distribution.
- India produces around 20 per cent of the global requirement for generic drugs by volume and every third tablet of generics consumed in the US.
- The President-elect has indicated his commitment to providing better and affordable healthcare
- This could be an opportunity for the Indian pharma sector to play a role in reducing health costs of the American consumer.
- India can benefit from advancements in medical technologies, devices, new medicines and R&D capabilities, presenting opportunities for American companies.
2) Job creation through trade and exports
- Biden has set an ambitious target for US-India trade.
- Businesses in both countries are also looking for diversifying their manufacturing supply chains.
- This portends well for the creation of employment in manufacturing.
- An area where strategic considerations and imperatives of job creation converge is defence, especially since India has been designated a Major Defence Partner of the US.
3) Focus on infrastructure in both countries
- For the US, this can mean opportunities in India in transportation, power and other urban amenities.
- The US’s renewed focus on climate change should lead to greater cooperation with India in energy-related areas.
- Cooperation in energy-related areas includes more efficient energy dissemination and management (such as smart grids) to renewable energy technologies.
4) Enhance opportunities in 5G tech
- There is potential to enhance mutual opportunities in the 5G tech sector.
- Increased partnership between the two nations can accelerate the development of technology solutions, promote vendors in the 5G open ecosystem and drive economic growth.
- The two countries should engage in shaping the rules of a new order in this space.
- This also has an important strategic element when seen in the light of developments in the Indo-Pacific as well as China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
5) Multilateralism for cooperation in wider areas
- Once the Biden administration assumes office, we should expect the U.S.’s return to multilateralism.
- The Trans-Pacific Partnership aimed to create a rules-based order that all parties could subscribe to.
- With the ascendancy of the Indo-Pacific paradigm and the Quad and Quad Plus, a successor to the TPP could include a wider canvas.
- For India, this could mean cooperation beyond defence and security, including economics, technology and developments pertaining to the regional order.
Despite the attempt from both sides to paper over the cracks, Democratic freedoms is an issue that they will grapple with in the future even as they build upon the strong “Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership” that the world’s oldest and most populous democracies continue to share.