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Addressing human trafficking in the wake of the Covid-19 disaster


By Simi Mehta*
Human Trafficking is a deeply engraved issue in the world. This issue isn’t exclusive to any state or region, but South Asia and some parts of the developing world are more deeply impacted by it than anywhere else. It has been stagnant for quite a while without any progress upon the same. The state of human trafficking after a disaster and conflict when the state, police, or the army is in dismay is worth highlighting.
To highlight the issue and deliberate over the book “Disaster and Human Trafficking”, the IMPRI Centre for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a Book Discussion on ‘Disaster and Human Trafficking‘ by Prof Mondira Dutta under #WebPolicyTalk.
The discussion was flagged off by the chair of the session, Prof V. K. Malhotra, Member Secretary, Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi. At the start, he gave a brief about his experiences of working with the author and how passionate and hardworking she is. Further, he gave an insight about the time she was working on the exact book they were going to discuss. He appreciates how she drew a preface by her experiences and included a variety of social issues in the book, which not only made her arguments richer but more comprehensive of issues, which are more exclusive in the South-Asian region.

Inspiration for the Book

The discussion was taken forward by the words of the author, Prof Mondira Dutta, Founder Chairperson and Professor (Retd.), Centre for Inner Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Firstly, she explained how she got the idea and inspiration for writing this book. Additionally, she acknowledged various organizations and individuals who helped her write this book.
She talked about the first project she worked on with the United Nation Human Rights Commission and how it left a grave question in her mind. She explained “how to study trafficking” and how interdisciplinary and complicated it is to understand. She makes understanding how big the issue of trafficking is and what is not being addressed by the nation. Rather, the deeper issue is the fewer data and reporting about it, considering the social contingencies and embarrassment.

Disaster and Human Trafficking

After this, she explained how the situation in a disaster situation gets difficult for everyone, especially the groups which were already vulnerable. She elaborated the situation during the Covid-19 Pandemic in low-income states, where the children are sent away for a little sum of money, or they are used for organ trafficking. For the children who are displaced from their parents in disaster situations, the adoption process is very difficult.
She illustrated various case studies about how children are exploited and trafficked in disaster situations and what terrible situations they are kept in at such a small age. She brought her insights from her experiences by working on various projects around the world and the plight of people around the world, especially the terrible situation of Indians in Maldives and UAE. The most important insight she brought is that we are not ready in case of a disaster and it might lead to huge human rights violations.
She asserted how the government is aware of the issue and having a proper strategy, a human trafficking management program, and an early warning system have helped to resolve the issue much more than before. She suggested that the government should focus on flexible and need-based promoting of laws in disaster-prone areas that could be helpful to the people who are disaster-prone.

Need during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Anju Dubey Pandey, Specialist, Ending Violence against Women, and Team Lead, Gender-Responsive Governance, UN Women India, talked about her experience in helping and assisting the author at various places to author this book. She talked about the current world scenario in the Covid-19 pandemic and how relevant this book becomes in a situation like this. She believes that the issues related to Covid-19 might be brought up again and, in these cases, this book might help to bring on the essentials of stopping human trafficking. Further, she highlighted women’s labour as a subject of human trafficking and what considerable number this group has.
She also brought the topic of gender as a point of the center of issues of discrimination and trafficking. She not only accepted women as ants and survivors but the instruments of change in the position. She extrapolated this change by using insights from the country of Bangladesh. She enlightened about the process of reintegration of the survivors in the society and the importance of their data and experience and using them in our governance and working programs.
She elaborated more about the changes in trafficking laws and legislative actions and how the change is persistent but the issue is intersection about the experience which is not one, but they are indifferent to everyone so it should be more need-based. Finally, she talked about prevention and why it is more important. It is our approach towards human trafficking which needs a legitimate change towards more prevention rather than penalization of the criminals.

Socio-economic Linkages

Dr. Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Acting Principal, Miranda House, University of Delhi, talked about her experiences working on the same issue and the relevant issues which are underscored by the author. Then, she talked about her learnings from the author and her style of research. She focused on her style of quantitative research in various states and how impactful insight she has brought. She has brought light on the interlinkages of gender, age, and region on human trafficking and how it impacts vulnerability studies, and keeping them as a center of focus is important. She also stressed the policy real-life implications this book might bring and how much it could inspire the social sciences aspirants.

The Process of Writing

Nupoor Singh, Editor, Business & Management, Economics, Law, Statistics, Political Science, Springer India, talked about the great scholarship of the author and her insights throughout the book. She highlighted the casual approach towards the idea from the start to a whole well-researched book the journey was inspiring. She further acknowledged the author and Prof Malhotra for being a part of the process. She then talked about the success the book has in this small time and how much it has been recognized.
Prof Mondira Dutta addressed some of the issues and topics she believes are equally important. For instance, the gap between civil society and government: it was seen in various instances in the past decade where the lack of trust was quite evident and the ignorance between the two is quite evident. She spoke about a lot of expenses in the whole nation by which she made the statement of the difference between them both.
She talked about the importance of collaboration and the link between them both and how beneficial it could be at the ground level. She also talked about miscommunication of multiple communication, where the different government bodies talk about different things on one aspect or on one machinery. The discussion was concluded by the chair, followed by a general vote of thanks.

*With IMPRI. Inputs: Rithika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Swati Solanki and Mahima Kapoor. Acknowledgment: Ayush Aggarwal, Research Intern at IMPRI

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