Making any realistic assessment of the scale of the problem of trafficking in India is a difficult enterprise. While there are number of laws that are used for prosecution and prevention of trafficking, there appears to be a consensus that these laws are not being implemented well enough. It has been observed that “The Government of India did not provide adequate anti-trafficking law enforcement data; observers noted a lack of progress based on low rates of convictions, with most offenders receiving fines in lieu of imprisonment”. (U.S.Department of State, 2015).

Generating a clear picture of the incidence and rate of child sex trafficking in India is a difficult task as specific data on this issue was not being made available anywhere. The National Crime Records Bureau (hereinafter “NCRB”) publishes the data relating to crimes registered under the IPC and the ITPA. From 2015, the NCRB has been putting together a chapter on Human Trafficking and some data and limited analysis is hence now possible. While data regarding IPC crimes relating to child-victims are available, when it comes to the ITPA, this is not the case. Though there are estimations about the number of children who are being trafficked, the specific data regarding the number of children trafficked into the flesh trade is not clearly discernable from the official data. Making estimations about the magnitude of the problem or studying the effectiveness of prosecutions, based on official data is hence a difficult enterprise. More importantly, the data is based on police records, which is not independently verified or confirmed. The data itself is based on only the number of First Information Reports (FIRs) registered. An assumption that all known instances of trafficking results in an FIR is in itself a flawed one, as it is well known that the police in India often refuse to register an FIR to avoid the liability of investigating an offence.

Number of trafficking related cases registered between 2010- 2014

The latest data from the NCRB clearly reveals that in general, trafficking is on the rise in India and between 2010 and 2014 there has been about 60% increase in trafficking (Crime in India – 2014, 2016). The two tables below represent the general trends in the incidents of trafficking related crimes and the ITPA between 2010 and 2014.

Number of trafficking related cases registered between 2010- 2014

While the number of cases under ITPA and for procuration of minor girls for prostitution has largely remained unchanged, the number of cases under other sections has fallen. The cases under Section 373 and trans-border trafficking into India has fallen considerably – a decline of 58.1% between 2013 and ’14. However, it is not safe to conclude that this is evidence of a decline in cross-border trafficking, as in the absence of any other supporting evidence; this can also be evidence of laxity in law enforcement.

“According to NCRB data, West Bengal was among the top five states in the country in kidnapping and abduction of children and accounts 6% of such cases in the country.West Bengal tops the list as it accounts for 42% of the cases registered under procurement of minor girls in India. Cases related to kidnapping and abduction of minors in the state has grown by 608% over the last five years”.

Human Trafficking and ITPA crimes in West Bengal

Figure 1.3 below plots the data regarding the number of cases of trafficking, charges under the ITPA and those under section 366 (A) of the Penal Code. It is seen that in general, there is a rise in the number of cases that have been reported and registered under all legislations. While on one hand this may point towards increased efforts at law implementation, it also reveals that there are a large number of incidents of traffickingand ITPA related crimes that continue to occur in West Bengal.

The recent report by United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) entitled ‘Anti Human Trafficking , 2013’ discloses that in West Bengal more than 19,000 women and children were reported missing out of which only 6000 could be traced. The state is considered as one of the most vulnerable places for trafficking as it serves as a central location not only for intra and inter-state trafficking but also for international trafficking. Over the last decade, there has been a massive increase in the number of missing reports of minor children as well as women, as mentioned in the statement jointly given by the CID of West Bengal Police and the Union Home Ministry, Govt. of India. The total number of missing children in West Bengal was 368 in 2001 whereas in 2010 the figure touched 8,599 and in 2001 the number of missing women was 196 whereas in 2010 it was 6,514.