Guwahati: Assam Police has rescued 422 victims of human trafficking, mostly minors, and arrested 281 offenders since 2011, according to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), highlighting the magnitude of this problem in the entire northeastern region.
Official records showed that of the total 93 victims of trafficking in 2011, 36 were minors, and of these 36, 28 were girls.
The number of victims went up to 188 in 2013 and 94 were found to be below 18 years.
"The entire northeast is a major source area for women and child trafficking. Guwahati is the major transit point," said Additional Director General of Police (CID) Mukesh Sahay.
He said most of the people had fallen victim to traffickers after they moved out of the region due to poverty induced by violence, ethnic conflicts or natural disasters such as floods. The police official said many of the girls and children were rescued from Mumbai, Haryana, Chennai and Siliguri.
"While girls are trafficked for prostitution, minor boys are taken out for cheap labour," Sahay said.
He said women and children were taken on the promise of jobs and often fall prey to the sex trade in brothels, spas and beauty parlours in big cities.
He said many women were rescued from Haryana, where there is a demand for girls due to the skewed sex ratio.
Assam at present has 14 anti-human trafficking units including one attached to the Government Railway Police (GRP) to check trafficking.
"We were rewarded Rs.2 lakh by the home ministry in 2012 for our performance in rescuing trafficking victims but we need to improve our conviction. Our conviction rate is not very good as many don't want to be witnesses in court," Sahay said.
He said that recently, 59 minor girls from Assam were rescued from a factory in Mumbai, and a police team has been sent to bring them back.
A study by Unicef recently identified six Assam districts - Sonitpur, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Baksa, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Kamrup as the most vulnerable districts for trafficking.
The Unicef and Assam State Commission for Women Wednesday organised a regional conference on trafficking of women and children in the northeast, including Sikkim.
"Not only poor and illiterate girls have fallen prey to such gangs, educated girls are also becoming targets. Women are now taken out through placement agencies and there is a need to strongly regulate such agencies," the police officer said.
He said traffickers take advantage of violent incidents and riots when both police and the administration are busy in controlling the situation.
They target the displaced people in relief camps during conflicts or floods, he said.