New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a comprehensive law to deal with the menace of human trafficking, with Union Minister Maneka Gandhi stating that the legislation does not intend to harass sex workers. For the first time, buying and selling of human beings is being made a cognisable offence, she said.
The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, provides for confidentiality of victims, witnesses and complainants, time-bound trials and repatriation of the victims. "This bill is not intended to harass those social workers who are voluntarily in the profession... This is a bill that has a compassionate view of people who have been victims of sex racket," Gandhi said.
The legislation proposes to create institutional mechanisms at the district, state and central levels. It calls for punishment ranging from 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine not less than Rs 1 lakh.
Besides prevention, rescue and rehabilitation, it covers aggravated forms of trafficking such as forced labour, begging and marriage. "Begging is an aggravated crime. Often we get to see at traffic lights that women are begging holding a baby which is drugged and sleeping and is being fed milk. They are hired on an hourly or daily basis," Gandhi said.
She said a lot of countries have written to India saying that it is a good bill and they will also draft their respective anti-human trafficking law based on this.
A rehabilitation fund with an initial corpus of Rs 10 crore would be created for the first time which will be used for the physical, psychological and social well being of the victims. Also, there would be designated courts in each district for the speedy trial of the cases. Gandhi also assured the members of the House that the amount would increase as and when required.
The Bill provides for attachment and forfeiture of property and also the proceeds of crime. The Minister, however, said that no property would be attached without giving notice.
A National Anti-Trafficking Bureau would be set up to perform functions of international coordination with authorities in foreign countries and international organisations.
Assuring that she would incorporate in the Rules any "lacunae" that the members have pointed out, the Women and Child Development Minister said the bill is intended to go after human traffickers and not the victims. Members cutting across party lines supported the bill.
Even as Congress and CPI(M) demanded that the bill be sent to the standing committee, Gandhi said "the bill is long overdue ... The law is victim-centric and conviction rate will hopefully improve after the bill is enacted".
Gandhi added that the bill is a pathbreaking step and SAARC and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) nations are looking forward to India to take a lead by enacting this law. "The proposed bill will hit organised nexus of trafficking," Gandhi said.