Meghalaya ill-equipped to handle human trafficking

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Shillong, May 27 (UNI) Even as heinous crimes against women have doubled in the last five years in Meghalaya, the state government is yet to formulate a comprehensive strategy to check it, with this Northeastern state emerging as a ''source'' for human trafficking.

''Ignorance and lack of proper education among the masses has augmented the situation, with the law enforcers also not fully aware of the sensitive issue of human trafficking,'' Meghalaya Additional Director General of Police, CID, K Krishnan said here today during a discussion on human trafficking issues.

He informed that 70 rape cases were registered in the state in 2007 against 33 cases in 2003, adding that some 25 years ago, hardly a single case of rape was registered annually.

''It could be due to greater awareness that more cases are coming to the police. But again, it is a worrying symptom that crimes against women are increasing, especially in a matrilineal society like in Meghalaya,'' he added.

Human trafficking, especially of women and children, for commercial sex trade and forced labour, is witnessing a sharp rise in the state, Mr Krishnan said, ruing the fact that awareness regarding the problem was limited.

He pointed out that the persons, held in connection with a human trafficking case in Nongpoh recently, were granted bail by the magistrate as the latter was unaware that trafficking was a non-bailable offence.

The entire state of Meghalaya has mere seven women cells at the seven district headquarters, with an apex cell at the CID headquarters here.

''There is not a single shelter home for the rescued women in the state, leaving it upon the NGOs to provide shelter and rehabilitation facilities,'' he said.

Chief of the Women's Human Rights and Human Security Unit, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), New Delhi, Archana Tamang said, ''Anti-human trafficking is itself emerging as a business equivalent to human trafficking, worth over USD nine billion annually.

She maintained that enough funds were being provided to fight human trafficking in India and more specifically the North East, but it depended on the people to ensure that the money reached the proper beneficiaries.

Expressing concern over the emergence of the NE as the latest ''source'' of human trafficking, Ms Tamang said the region was exposed to several challenges that made it more vulnerable.

''Natural disasters like bamboo flowering in Mizoram or floods in Assam, border issues, internal and external peace, among others, are issues confronting the NE and these problems make the region's women and youth more vulnerable to be trafficked,'' she added.

The Additional DGP stressed on the need to develop the infrastructure and provide better health and education facilities to remote areas, which are more vulnerable, in the fight against human trafficking.

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