There is an increase in the incidence of human trafficking in the country and a bill to deal with it better is expected to be passed in the next session of Parliament. The draft of the bill was ready last year and it has now been finalised after consultations among a number of ministries, including the home ministry, and other stakeholders. The consultations took a long time and some very stringent steps have been proposed to curb the problem. It is not a problem limited to India and has assumed dangerous dimensions all over the world. There have been worldwide surveys which express concern over it, and India has come in for special and adverse mention in such surveys. Though the government has not liked such criticism, it has done well to plan better legal measures to tackle the problem.
There are provisions in laws like the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act which can be used to deal with human trafficking. But it is felt that a separate law is needed because of the nature of the problem. Local police forces are often unable to deal with trafficking because the offences are spread across states and national borders. That necessitates investigation of such cases by a nodal agency which has expertise in dealing with offences with wide ramifications. But it is doubtful if the provision in the bill to empower the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate human trafficking cases is well conceived. The NIA has been set up to handle cases related to terrorism and having a bearing on national security. There may be only very few human trafficking cases which may have a terrorism angle. The plan is to form a cell dedicated to human trafficking within the NIA. This would amount to diluting the NIA's nature and brief. There are already charges that the NIA, like the CBI, is being misused by the government. It may be better to set up another agency which has the power and skills to deal with the problem, than burden the NIA with such a responsibility.
The draft law divides offences into "trafficking" and "aggravated trafficking" and prescribes stringent punishment for those found guilty of them. Aggravated trafficking will include trafficking of children and pregnant women and smuggling of drugs and alcohol. While the legal measures have to be tightened, there is the need to deal with the problem in other ways, too. The social and economic conditions that create the environment for human trafficking should also be addressed for best results in the fight against the problem.