Human trafficking at Moreh : A concern for North East India

Dinesh Sharma
In one of the biggest human trafficking busts in the Northeast, Manipur Police rescued over 180 Nepali citizens from various locations in Manipur. They were planning to cross the border into Myanmar from where they were scheduled to fly to Dubai and other Gulf countries.
A couple of handlers from Nepal were also arrested at the locations, while the kingpin is still at large.
The rescue operations is significant not because of the number of people rescued, but because it unraveled new routes for human trafficking along the India-Myanmar border, via Moreh, bustling commercial town bordering India and Myanmar and known for its cheap Chinese products and electronic items.
As a border town, Moreh is also a hub for legal trades and smuggling – from cheap Chinese products to precious stones, contraband drugs, teak, gold, and arms.
The rescue mission started after Maiti Nepal, a Nepali NGO working against human trafficking, informed Impulse NGO Network, Shillong that 70 girls trafficked from Nepal were on their way to Myanmar via the Moreh-Manipur international border. On January 30, three Nepali girls rescued in Delhi by the Delhi Women’s Commission (DCW) had informed that a large number of Nepali girls were travelling towards Northeast India to cross the border into Myanmar.
From Myanmar, they would be taken to different South Asian cities before flying to Iraq, Kuwait, and other Middle-Eastern countries illegally.
According to a statement by DCW, the rescued girls in Delhi had neither passports nor tickets with them and were guided over the phone using IMO mobile app.
As revealed by an arrested trafficker, Asha Kali Tamang hailing from Nepal, the girls were sent by a certain Rajiv Sharma from Sunauli, the India-Nepal border town in Uttar Pradesh.
After crossing to Myanmar via Moreh, the people were being smuggled to Iraq, Dubai, and other Middle Eastern countries.
The trafficked people were planning to cross the borders into Myanmar, then fly to Dubai, and from there to various other Gulf countries.
What is not clear to the police and anti-trafficking units is why such large a number of people travelled through this route.
Until now, Human Trafficking had not made it to the list of trade activities in Moreh but with this rescue, new trafficking routes have been revealed. Maiti Nepal, internationally renowned NGO on human trafficking, in its communication, states that “with this rescue operation, newer route of human trafficking has been unravelled. This is a fresh manifestation of human trafficking.” In a normal trail, traffickers would bring the girls from Nepal through the porous borders in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and move towards Delhi, Mumbai, and other Indian cities. The trafficked people are then sent out to their destination countries in the Middle East and other foreign countries by air. But the route was different this time.
The Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR), another organization involved in the rescue revealed that a total of 310 Nepalese women have crossed into Myanmar from Moreh from December 2018 until January.
Nepali girls have long been trafficked into other countries via India, which has over the years worked as a transit point. To curb this, the government, a few years ago, had made it mandatory for every Nepali citizen flying abroad from India to gain a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the Delhi-based Nepali embassy.
The traffickers, on the other hand, seem to have devised their own mechanism to counter government move.
The traffickers are now increasingly opting for land routes as it has become difficult to use air route.
With an increase in trade and mobility between India and South-East Asia through Moreh Integrated Checkpost (ICP), coupled by the promises of India’s Act East Policy, movement and trade activities are only set to increase manifold in the future.
Montu Ahanthem, convenor of the MACR reveals that the North Eastern region along the Indo-Myanmar route is increasingly becoming a gateway to human trafficking. The government must take serious note of the issue and create provisions to curtail them. Besides the Government and NGOs involved in the rescue, it is important that the communities are sensitized about such grave issues surfacing in the region. The Gorkha communities living across the northeast must be made aware of the issue, so that the people do not end up collaborating with such heinous criminals, knowingly or unknowingly. While we must congratulate the Manipur Police and NGOs involved for their successful rescue operation, it is also the community that must shoulder the responsibility of keeping a check on any such suspicious activities in their neighbourhood.
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