Washington: Observing that forced labour constitutes India's largest trafficking problem, the United States on Monday placed India in Tier 2 category of countries in a Congressionally-mandated report which called on the Indian government to cease the penalisation of trafficking victims.
The Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 said 90 per cent of India's trafficking problem is internal, and those from the disadvantaged social strata are the most vulnerable.
The annual report, released by US Secretary of State John Kerry, said trafficking within India continues to rise due to increased mobility and growth in industries utilising forced labour.
Stating that the Indian government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it recommended New Delhi to cease the penalisation of trafficking victims, including restrictions on their travel and increase prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking.
The State Department said reports indicate conditions amounting to forced labour may be present in Sumangali scheme in Tamil Nadu, in which employers pay young women a lump sum to be used for a dowry at the end of a three-year term.
Children, reportedly as young as 6, are forcibly removed from their families and used by terrorist groups such as the Maoists in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Odisha to act as spies and couriers, plant improvised explosive devices, and fight against government.
Boys from Bihar are subjected to forced labour in embroidery factories in Nepal. Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India.
Tier 2 ranking to countries means that they do not fully comply with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards, but were making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking in religious pilgrimage centres and tourist destinations.
A large number of Nepali, Afghan, and Bangladeshi females? the majority of whom are children ? and women and girls from Asia and Eurasia are subjected to sex trafficking in India.
Prime destinations for female trafficking victims include Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, and along the India-Nepal border, the report said.
Traffickers pose as matchmakers, arranging sham marriages within India or to Gulf states, and then subject women and girls to sex trafficking, it said.
West Bengal continues to be a source for trafficking victims, with children more increasingly subjected to sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences than traditional red light districts, it said.
Some corrupt law enforcement officers protect suspected traffickers and brothel owners from enforcement of the law, take bribes from sex trafficking establishments and sexual services from victims, and tip-off sex and labour traffickers to impede rescue efforts, the State Department said.