8 States including Maharashtra did not set single Anti Human Trafficking cell during COVID-19

Mumbai: The Ministry of Home Affairs directed states to set up Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in every district on – most urgent basis. However, the eight states, including COVID-19 hotspot Maharashtra and UP, and J&K are yet to put these units in place.

Earlier, 3 months ago, the Ministry of Home Affairs sent an advisory to all states laying down several markers to combat human trafficking and set AHTU for every district. This was especially brought to light for the children from families left in the lurch by the economic distress triggered by the lockdown.

The 8 states listed as per the media report are J&K,  Jharkhand, UP, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Nagaland  have not set up a single unit since March, when the lockdown was imposed. According to data, UP and Maharashtra are among six states in this group that have not reached a basic norm first mapped out ten years ago: set up AHTUs in at least 50 % of police districts. UP had only 35 units for 75 districts, and Maharashtra just 12 for 36 districts.

Child trafficking has surged over this period, one of the reasons for the rise in number is due to inaction on the cases.  The Childline’s 1098, the national helpline in those six months received  27 lakh distress calls, 1.92 lakh intervened by rescuers and law agencies between March and August.

The Home Ministry issued a letter, which stated, “An amount of Rs 25.16 crore was released to states from 2010 to 2019 for setting up AHTUs in 332 districts. Recently, a decision was taken to establish AHTUs in all districts of states and UTs and also establish AHTUs under the border guarding forces such as BSF and SSB in border areas to check and curb transnational trafficking. Rs 100 crore were allocated from the Nirbhaya Fund for setting up new AHTUs and for strengthening existing AHTUs, covering all districts of states/UTs”.

In its letter to states, the Home Ministry wrote: “States/UTs are advised to immediately set up new AHTUs and upgrade the infrastructure of existing AHTUs in all districts of their state with the financial assistance provided by the Central government and make these units functional on a ‘most urgent basis’.”

Maharashtra

Districts: 36. AHTUs: 12

Units since March: 0

According to official Pratap Dighavkar, special IG (Prevention of Atrocities Against Women), “We sent a proposal to set up six more AHTUs four months ago. Another proposal was sent two weeks ago to set up 29 more units after the central government released funds of Rs 4.62 crore”.  The officials also said,  “the state plans to have 47 AHTUs in place that will cover commissionerates in cities as well as the 36 districts”.

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