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Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) in Action in West Bengal, India
Contributed by P. M. Nair, Project Coordinator, UNODC and Swasti Rana, Consultant, UNODC
(West Bengal AHTU in Action) The face of the accused had been covered to protect his identity
In a landmark initiative in addressing human trafficking, two units of Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) were set up in the Crime Investigation Department (CID) West Bengal office and were launched by the Chief Minister, West Bengal, on 28 June 2007. These Units are manned by officials of CID and the infrastructure including vehicles, cell phones, computers etc as well as the technical support in the form of training and resource materials have been provided by
UNODC. These Units are functioning under the supervision and control of the Addl DG, CID, West Bengal.
On 20 March 2008, the AHTU acted upon confidential information and intercepted an organized racket indulging in trafficking women for Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE). The raid took place at Ramnagore Bridge under Ramnagore Police Station area. This led to the rescue of five women including three girls, who appeared to be minor. These girls had been procured for the purpose of CSE by the four accused persons apprehended on the spot by the AHTU.
The story line goes like this. One anonymous source called up the AHTU and alerted the AHTU that some traffickers are taking girls from Sonagachi to Digha for CSE. The CID sleuths swiftly acted and, under the supervision of the Special Inspector General of Police (Spl. IG), a plan was devised to intercept the suspected Tata sumo at Ramnagore Bridge, as all the roads to Digha converge on this narrow bridge.
The arrangements made for the pre and post rescue care of the victims, included briefing all the officers about their roles, duties and responsibilities, especially based on the training imparted by
UNODC and as per the
Protocols circulated by UNODC. The team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID (Spl.) Mr. D.N. Basu, reached Ramnagore at about 1600 hrs. Two teams were formed and stationed at two strategic points at both ends of Ramnagore Bridge. A uniformed police team of Ramnagore Police Station (PS) was deployed for frisking the suspected Tata Sumo vehicle bearing license number XYZ and as an additional security measure.
Sub Inspector J. Ganguly of AHTU cell was deployed at the further end of bridge to keep watch on each vehicle passing through this bottle neck. He was located some 20 meters away from the point of interception and was armed with a pre assigned light signal. All officials and NGO representatives were properly briefed. At about 2145 hrs, a Tata Sumo bearing the license number XYZ approached Ramnagore Bridge. Close watch made it clear that this is the suspect vehicle. The intervening officer alerted the party with the light signal. Police swang into action and the uniform local police surrounded the vehicle. The operation moved as scheduled. The victims were segregated from the traffickers and handed over to the NGO for providing counselling and post rescue care. The accused were brought to Ramnagore PS. The operation was accomplished in a short time.
Preliminary investigation revealed that all five victims are Bangladeshi nationals who were trafficked through Bangaon border after being lured by a female pimp MN, who is also a Bangladeshi. The investigation unveiled an organised racket of human trafficking which used to procure vulnerable girls / women from various districts of Bangladesh and sell them at the Sonagachi brothel in Kolkata.
A case has been registered u/s. 4, 5 and 9 Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 & 363, 366A, 366B and 372 Indian Penal Code on the basis of a suo motu complaint from Dy. SP CID (Spl.). Further investigation of the case, being carried out by CID WB, is in progress.
This story presents a true picture of the existing scenario of transborder trafficking, in several respects:
Highlights the fact that 'demand' propels trafficking
Young girls are in high demand
Traffickers are well organized
They use vehicles also as medium of transportation
Public seems to be becoming aware of the issues of human trafficking
Public is coming forward to be 'whistleblowers'
Trained police officers are indeed empowered to act
The trained police officials are delivering their best
Police-NGO synergy is the best mechanism to respond to HT
AHTU has provided the appropriate platform for action