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Trafficking and human rights violations at the IndoBangladesh border : A Compiled report

Roop Sen


1. An untitled report by Mr Pravin Patkar that looked at existing partnerships on anti-trafficking awareness generation programmes and child protection initiatives and how these can be strengthened in working towards a strategic plan of action at the border to address the issue of trafficking (November 2007) Feasibility Assessment of Cross border civil society partnership in prevention of cross border human trafficking- by Mr. Jatashankar (November 2007) Compilation of the data from border mapping exercises both in India and Bangladesh (2007 2009) The trafficking of adolescent girls and women from Bangladesh to India, by Mr. Swagoto Sarkar, supported by Groupe Developpement in the course of 2007 to 2010 to understand the complexity of cross- border trafficking between India and Bangladesh in general, and that of the border between the two countries in particular


3. 4.

Land boundary between India and Bangladesh : 4096 kms 2217 kms is between West Bengal and Bangladesh. The CBOs mapped a total area of 1229 kms 326 kms is water Rest is land, mostly fenced

India: 1. Barasat Unnayan Prostuti, North 24 Parganas Shamyo Sromojibi Samity, Choruigachi Lighthouse Society, Teghoria Institute for Social Movement, Seth Bagan Mahila Sangha, Gokulpur Seva Sadan, Chuatia Jana Chetana for North 24 Parganas 2. Chapra SEWA for Nadia 3. Suprava Panchasila Mahila Samity (SPMUS) for Murshidabad 4. St Johns Ambulance for North Dinajpur

Border Mapping Exercise

Border Mapping Exercise

Bangladesh 1. Rights Jessore and its 12 partner organizations for the southern districts from Satkhira to Kustia 2. ACD and their associate CBOS for the northern districts from Rajshahi to Panchagarh

There are 6 legal ghats (ports) through which official trade and legal movement of persons occurs. However, the number of illegal ghats also that exist are 337 on the Indian side and 394 on the Bangladesh side Even the legal points can be infiltrated with the right contacts, bribery and corruption

Example of Illegal Ghats : West Bengal

North 24 Parganas Hingalgunj Hasnabad Block Hasnabad, Bailtala, Barmanghai, Taki Basirhat Block Soladhana, Sangrampur, Goja danga, Panitor,Gacha, Nakoadaha, Itinda, Kalapota, Pakhirdanga

Corresponding illegal ghats in Bangladesh

Kaligung Upjela Basantapura Debhata Upjela Khanchi, Bharashimla, Debhata, Noapara, Nangla & Komarpur Satkhira Sadar Upjela Bhomra, Radhanagar, Basukhali, Ghona Patanda, Sakra, Lakhidari, Benebou, Debganga, Mahmudpur, Mrigidanga, Baikari, Kushkhali, Satani Bhadra, Taluicacha

Mobility : Purposes
Some people legally travel daily to tend their land which might fall between the two countries. They leave at 8 or 9 am, leave their ID cards with BSF, return for lunch, then go back finally between 4-5 pm collecting their ID cards on their return. Some travel for short visits for health care, visiting relatives, work for short periods involves both legal & illegal movement Many travel for economic betterment usually to India and mostly illegally

Mobility contd
Mode of illegal travel includes by foot, cycle, cycle van and boat Boatmen can charge up to 7000-8000 BD Takas per group to cross river border Agents charge Rs. 1000 2500 per head for facilitating border crossing No mention in any reports about processes of legal migration

Mobility .. contd
Also, there is little information available on migration of children, with or without family However, there is vast community support for cross border mobility through provision of temporary shelter and other facilities, Men, women and often children are used as carriers

Mobility contd
Economic benefits to local people from illegal mobility is high and is often the main source of income for many families

Mobility : facilitating factors

Close proximity to Kolkata, the state capital of West Bengal and other big towns Improved road and rail communications that facilitate easy movement Infrastructure of transit facilities around the borders small hotels and boarding facilities, agents, support of local residents High density of population on the Indian side making it difficult to distinguish between Indians and Bangladeshi nationals

Mobility : facilitating factors

Placement agencies and recruiters in the border villages to employ cheap labour for metro cities in India for domestic help, cheap labour in construction sites and other industries Little or no control over this

Mobility : vulnerability factors

Poverty Broken families Network of people who form a chain connecting the source, route and destination. victims are transported from their village to the destination along this chain, supervised or guided by various people, all informal mechanisms, no official methods.

Mobility : vulnerability factors

Absence of any governmental welfare schemes for poor families Child marriage, divorce, desertion by husband and the practice of polygamy Traffickers are often insiders from within community including family members, therefore have trust of people

Smuggling: what, how & who?

An estimated 400-500 trucks cross the border on either side, but most are from India to Bangladesh. Before any big consignment is smuggled, the smuggling parties get in touch with the ghat malik, who then organises or activates his/her network and also informs and negotiates with his/her counterpart on the other side of the border. Once the deal is stuck, the ghat malik on the other side activates his/her networks

Smuggling: what, how & who?

From India, the goods include cows, goats, fruits, medicines, fertilizers including urea and potash, pesticide, salt, sugar, bidi (local cigarette), sarees, clothes, DVDs, electronic equipment, cycles, motor cycles and spices (consumer goods), & drugs. From Bangladesh, the demand is for fish, oil, mobile handsets, soaps, metals (general requirements), gold, fake currency, arms.

Every ghat has an owner/controller called ghat malik. loose network of line-men, agents and carriers who facilitate the smuggling of goods across the border. There is also smuggling of humans and this is done through the same network and chains Trafficking is therefore only one part of this entire operation, therefore not particularly highlighted

Smuggling : How ?
Organised and controlled by various syndicates. Big syndicates, usually invisible, control movement of arms, drugs, gold, fake currency Small syndicates involved in smuggling of consumer goods Difference in prices of goods eg sugar across the border results in individuals including women and children in buying goods across the border and selling it in the local market

Smuggling : How?
All very well connected with high levels of political parties, civil administration and police, and their identities are rarely exposed

Smuggling : How?
Each person in network has specific duties to perform, such as crossing borders, receiving goods and people, arranging facilities for people to stay in the village, provide them food, and transportation. Lower level members do not know about bigger players

Smuggling : how?. contd

Men, women and children from local villages are used as carriers Children are less likely to be caught by the border officials and cannot be arrested though maybe put into shelter homes of which there are none at the border

Smuggling : contd..
Lack of coordination of agencies to prosecute smugglers: BSF pass smuggler to Police who do not know what action to take about goods Customs officials take the seized goods and allow the persons to go. Again, the man is soon released or pushed back. No budgetary provision for the BSF to provide the basic amenities to detainees or arrested persons. So it goes on

Border Management
There are 802 BSF Border Outposts on the Indian side of the border, and the Government of India intends to construct a further 383 BOPs in the future

Example of one border outpost

North 24 Parganas in West Bengal: Hingalgung, Hasnabad, Bailtala, Barmanhai, Taki, Khanchi, Debhata, Komarpur, Gojadanga, Pakhirdanga, Koijuri. Duble, Amudia, Tarali, Hakimpur, Bithari, Garjwala

Corresponding BOPs in Bangladesh

Satkhira Mayurespur, Shuilpur, Bhomra, Mahmudpur, Mrigidanga, Baikira, Kushkhali, Satani Bhadra, Taluigacha, Kakbhanga, Chanda, Hijaldi, Gowalpara

Border Management .. contd

On Indian side, each BOP covers short distances of 3-4 kms They are divided into camps for better coordination and patrolling Also patrol adjacent roads, alone or in small groups At night, they are positioned 100 200 metres apart

Border management (contd.)

In contrast, on the Bangladesh side, each BOP is responsible for 5-12 kms Much smaller presence of BDR forces

Border management ..contd

BDR have better relations with local people Incidence of conflict reported is significantly less from BDR However, BSF has alienated itself from local people : language problems, heavy handedness to control smuggling operations where even women and children are involved, harassment of women and girls in particular Both are corrupt though more reference to BSF is mentioned in reports

Border management . contd

One majhi in Rajshahi, BD, stated that physical geography of the area of the riverside border is canals from the river branch out in various directions, including into India. The BDR had established a camp near this canal to monitor the border. The majhi moved the boats through bushes to the canal. He used to manage the BDR to pass bags of goods by offering cash and women. The BDR personnel would sometimes say, Pakhi khawao (feed us with birds, i.e. good-looking young girls), and then the majhi would search for good-looking young girls (SS).

Border management.contd
Women and girls are known to be harassed and verbally abused by BSF Due to legal & illegal ports, presence of border officials, and smuggling operations, prostitution on the border areas is high. Women used as pawns to satisfy border officials, and sex is a form of currency Age group of sex workers is 13 45, therefore many minors involved

Border management and prostitution

Prostitution takes place in local hotels, homes and brothels in the villages closely situated to the border. Some girls are brought in to satisfy the border officials who turn a blind eye to the illicit operations that take place, and they are also known to accept as bribes, money and alcohol.

Non brothel prostitution also takes place in the villages adjacent to the border areas Customers include border police, smugglers, agents and government officials as well. Estimated that more than 100 women and girls are engaged in sex work through out the border of Satkhira. 60 operate near the Bhomra port, a busy area full of truck drivers, custom officials, small hotels, good stalls

Border management & prostitution

Border management & prostitution

This increases risk of women and girls being trafficked across the border. Sarkar quotes a pimp in Matia who states that almost 70% of those trafficked are minors

Prostitution on borders
2800 women and girls (aged 13 45) are in prostitution near the border. The women work out of small to medium hotels, residences of villagers In Hakimpur Municipality and Madhavpara in Dinajpur district, out of 250 sex workers, 220 operate out of their own homes, and another 410 are flying or non brothel based sex workers.

Prostitution on borders
A further 20,000 women and girls are involved in illegal migration and trafficking, many of them also working as prostitutes Women from Bangladesh engaged in prostitution on the Indian side are also involved in facilitating the trafficking of women and girls from Bangladesh to India In stark contrast, the number of arrests reported were 150 165

Prostitution on borders & trafficking

Social tolerance of prostitution by families including male members as a means of livelihood. Many women involved in trafficking of new girls, sometimes to protect themselves and to buy themselves out Newly recruited girls are either kept in the same brothel where these women work or they are sold off to new places


Though responsible for maintaining law & order in border areas, BSF is major part of the problem due to Bribery Corruption Sexual exploitation of girls Tolerance of BSF buying sex (Government funded on HIV prevention for BSF), so sex becomes a currency for negotiation

BSF: Complicity (contd.)

Border has been fenced with barbed wire on the Indian side. There are floodlights along the border. The border is monitored during the day by jawans from the BOPs. In the night, at least 1 person per 300m patrols the border on a bicycle with a torch and a night vision binocular

BSF: Complicity (contd.)

Each jawan works for 6 hours before someone else takes over the charge. The officers sometimes venture out to patrol in a car fitted with searchlight. BSF wields unparallel influence in the border areas. The daily life of villagers those who live right on the border are largely controlled by BSF

BSF: Complicity (contd.)

No control of local people or even politicians and panchayat members over BSFs affairs. So if any BSF official takes bribe and allows trafficking, villagers or even CBOs can do very little about it. Even with the apparent tightening of the border, the number of girls trafficked into India has remain unchanged

Child Protection
Girls face sexual harassment on daily basis Leads to drop out from school and early marriage in turn leading to vulnerability to trafficking Boys also sexually abused by BSF eg boys.. Penetration to forced masturbation and sucking of genitals is very common(CBO report)

Child Protection contd

Girls in prostitution females aged 13 45 at the border Reference to 70% of those trafficked being minors Children used as carriers

Impact on Community
Due to illegal migration, restrictions on their mobility Lack of local infrastructure for legal migration This leads to dependency on local touts and in turn to high risk of exploitation Conflict with BSF results in torture on local people

Impact on Community
Most villages on borders get involved with illegal activities due to lack of employment opportunities. This, and local prostitution, are the main sources of income in the border (SS) Main political concerns at border relates to infiltration, illegal migration and cross border terrorism Media coverage is also on these issues

But behind all this, is a large population whose socio economic needs are neglected leaving them underdeveloped, vulnerable and disconnected from national attention. THEREFORE WHAT CAN WE RECOMMEND AT ALL LEVELS?