Author: Vinisha Bhavnani
II Year | KC Law College, Mumbai
Trafficking of human beings is an old concept that has been in India for many years and continues to grow. It is in general unacceptable. However, the trafficking of children is one of the gravest forms of violation. It hinders the realisation of human rights and deprives children of their childhood. In addition, children are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Hence, they are more exposed to the crime of trafficking. Further, they are also forced into exploitative work like begging, mining and prostitution.
India had 38,503 victims of trafficking between the 2011 to 2019 period. Further, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Maharashtra have reported the highest number of child trafficking cases.  In the same vein, a report by the United States Department of State states that India is a source country for the cross-border trafficking of children. Primarily, child trafficking in India either happens for sexual trade or child labour. The major reason behind child trafficking is also the poor socio-economic position of their parents which forces them to sell their children.
This article analyses the menace of child trafficking in the city of Mumbai. It discusses recent cases, the racket, as well as how the situation worsened during the pandemic. The author provides a critical review of the situation.
Child Trafficking in Mumbai:
It is an undeniable fact that child trafficking is demand-driven, and exploiters such as traffickers know how to create this demand. According to the National Crime Bureau, there had been a 95.5% rise in child trafficking cases between 2011 and 2015. Particularly, the sex trade in Mumbai is flourishing and well known.
International Justice Mission and the Maharashtra State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights found in a research that the engagement of minors in commercial sexual exploitation in public establishments was an estimated 5.5%. For instance, public places like Borivali, Thane, Mira Road, and Andheri, and Panvel emerged as the hot spot of trafficking. Out of a total of 214 commercial sexual workers, the International Justice Mission observed at-least 25 of these to be minors.
Mumbai has been a hotspot for sex trafficking where women are tempted into job opportunities but sold into sex slavery or prostitution instead. Consequently, India’s financial capital has emerged as one of the major global destinations for sex.
Mumbai Child Trafficking Racket:
In one of such cases, the Mumbai police busted a trafficking racket, last year in July. A boy along with five others, aged between seven months to five years, was allegedly sold by his biological Mumbai-based parents, to a Delhi couple when he was just a few days old in 2016.
The Mumbai police also arrested the alleged mastermind behind this operation, Pawan Sharma, with nine others. However, Pawan Sharma, the intermediaries, and the six couples who bought the children are currently out on bail. Overall, in three out of these six cases, the families did not have any children. Regardless, the rest put forth the reason for the pressure put on them by their families to have a male child. For instance, a taxi-driver from Bhiwandi was under pressure from his family to deliver a male child. Moreover, one of the accused persons offered the child to this taxi-driver for Rs 3.84 Lakh.
In another case of child trafficking, the police busted a trafficking racket where 17 minors were sent to the USA and Mexico from Mumbai’s airport along with the accused’s wife. The accused and his wife were also residents of Borivali. Unfortunately, the children trafficked have not returned to Mumbai to date. Police have said that the accused was a carrier and also, he received Rs 3 Lakh for every child he sent.
Deterioration during the Lockdown:
Due to the lockdown, children lost their jobs and were not provided mid-day meals at school. Consequently, traffickers took full advantage of this situation, by targeting such financially challenged families. According to Bachpan Bachao Andolan, 1,123 children were rescued from trafficking across India and 86 alleged traffickers were arrested.
Firstly, the experts said that economic crisis and poverty are the key reasons for families pushing their children into trafficking. In a plea filed by this NGO in the Supreme Court, it was suggested that the nation-wide lockdown would cause a spike in child trafficking cases because of the pandemic-influenced socio-economic crisis. Further, it warned that the number of underage girls forced into prostitution, and street children pushed into begging will also spike up. Lastly, factory- owners will find ways to cover up their losses suffered by hiring cheap labour. Consequently, trafficking of children to provide labour after the pandemic can be predicted.
There are several Non-Governmental Organisations like Child Rights and You (CRY), Kranti, and Prerana which operate in the red-light areas of Mumbai. Among other things, these organisations also fight against child trafficking. The general aim of such NGOs is to protect the vulnerable. For example, the women and the children who are victims of trafficking, by offering them opportunities and education facilities. Moreover, they also deal with aspects of rescuing and rehabilitation of the trafficked victims.
In conclusion, the author suggests that child protection laws should be introduced to the public. Certainly, public awareness is a must for combating child trafficking in our country. Overall, the exploitation of thousands of children not only deprives children of their rights and childhood but also hinders the overall growth and development of the country.
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Editor | Ananya Shukla