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Human Trafficking, the neglected issue in India

Published: 14th Feb, 2022


Operation AAHT has been launched by the Railway Protection Force to curb human trafficking happening through trains.


  • Human Trafficking is a distressing problem faced by many countries of the world including India.
  • Mostly the people that are trafficked are pushed into commercial sex work or forced/bonded labour.
  • The implementation of Operation Aaht by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) is aimed at eliminating the trafficking through network of trains in India that are used for transportation of victims.


Operation Aaht:

  • Trains are considered to be the most reliable mode transportation for the traffickers for human trafficking.
  • Thus, Operation Aaht has been launched to eradicate the use of trains in this heironeous crime.
  • As part of it, the infrastructure and intelligence network of the Railway Protection Force will be used to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc. and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.
  • The Railway Protection Force would act as a bridge cutting across states to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace of human trafficking.

Railway Protection Force

  • It is a security force and a statutory body, established by the Railway Protection Force Act, 1957.
  • It has the power to search, arrest, investigate, and prosecute offenses committed under Railway Property (Unlawful Possession) Act 1966.

What is Human Trafficking?

  • According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Human Trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit”. 

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is an agency of United Nations with headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

It works in preventing the abuse of drugs, organized crime, corruption and terrorism. 

  • The traffickers often use violence or fraudulent employment agencies and fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick and coerce their victims.

It is important to note that in majority of the cases of human trafficking, the traffickers are known to the victims.

Reasons for Human Trafficking to exist?

  • Poverty is the most important reason for human trafficking to be in existence. Traffickers offer money to parents or other family members of victims and thus push them into slavery.
  • Lack of education can lead to decreased opportunities for work at a living wage, and it can also lead to a decreased knowledge in rights. Both outcomes can cause people to be at greater vulnerability for human trafficking.
  • The demands for cheap labour and for commercialized sex leads to opportunities for traffickers to exploit people. Traffickers use these demands conditions to earn profit which is the prime motivation for them to lure victim into been taken away.
  • Social factors and cultural practices also give impetus to the curse of human trafficking. In some parts of India, bonded labour is seen as an acceptable way to pay off debt. In these cases being bonded labourers or trafficking victims is considered to a norm and hence they usually do not speak about the same even to the human rights groups.
  • Conflict and natural disasters can lead to economic instability and lack of human rights, giving traffickers an advantage and making people more vulnerable to human trafficking situations.

Human Trafficking as crime in India:

  • It is considered as the second largest organised crime in India.Human trafficking is a major issue in India, despite the fact that it is banned under the Indian law.
  • As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2016 crime statistics, there were 1,100 cases of trafficking. These numbers stood at 2278 in 2018. There were 2208 cases in 2019 and 1714 in 2020.
  • It is important to note that taming Traffickers in India is difficult due to a lack of legal help for survivors and a lengthy trial.
  • As per a survey conducted by the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation - It was found that 21% of the households are potentially ready to send their children into child labour due to their increased economic vulnerability.
    • About 1/3rd of victims in the cases of human trafficking are women of different age groups.
  • Majority of the victims of human trafficking in India are pushed into either forced labour (many of these cases fall under the category of child labour), prostitution, organ transplant, drug peddling and /or begging.
  • The States Department of US ranks each country in the Trafficking in Person (TIP) report on one of four tiers, as mandated by the TVPA (Victims of trafficking and Violence Protection Act, 2000). This ranking is based on efforts taken by governments around the world for elimination of human trafficking in their individual country. As per this ranking, India is placed amongst the Tier 2 countries.
  • The above finding essentially means that the Indian Government has not been taking enough efforts to put brakes on the practise of human trafficking.

Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalized trafficking offenses that involved exploitation that included any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, and servitude. 


The estimated number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing and the country is not taking proportional concrete actions. There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year. In spite of many laws present in India human trafficking remains an unspoken problem in the country.

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