West Bengal has the infamous title of being the state with the highest number of trafficking cases in India. In fact, it accounts for 44% of all human trafficking cases in the entire country. And local corruption is driving the problem.
Tabassum (not her real name) was only 14 when she was raped by a neighbor. But when she went to the police with her father to report the crime, village councilors and officers said they would not accept her report.
It turned out the man who raped her and his family were members of the local unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which held power in the area. As a result, the police did everything they could to prevent the rapist from being charged.
Incredibly, Tabassum says “They made me marry my rapist so that the charges could not be used against him.”
After marrying the man, she says her in-laws began torturing her to the point that she decided to file a domestic violence case. Yet as she was on the way home after meeting her lawyer a woman befriended her on the train and offered her a glass of water. After drinking it, Tabassum woke up in a brothel in Delhi.
The woman who drugged her told Tabassum that her mother-in-law had sold her for Rs 60,000.
The Asia Times reports that corruption and the lack of government coordination is to blame for low prosecution rates in West Bengal:
It’s just not the sheer number of trafficking cases in West Bengal that is troubling; the abysmally low conviction rate appears to have emboldened those involved to believe they can commit more crimes without serious repercussion.
National Crime Record Bureau data released last October show that of the 1,847 people arrested in the state for human trafficking in 2016, only 11 were convicted.
Roop Sen, a founder of Sanjog, another non-government group, and a researcher on trafficking-related cases, says one of the main reasons for the low rate of human trafficking convictions is the lack of coordination between police in areas where victims were abducted and those in areas where they were sold.
Sen further explained that “The investigating officer in Pune or Delhi will file a case against the brothel manager, but will not see where the girl was brought from. There is no system through which an investigator, for example, from Kamla Nagar police station in Delhi, can communicate with Canning police station in West Bengal.”
Another barrier to police investigations is the financial costs. Sen says police a reluctant to travel to other states to investigate cases because they have to pay upfront for the costs and “sometimes [it] takes years to get reimbursed.”