Siliguri, March 9: Bengal has reported the highest number of women and child trafficking cases in the country for the second year in a row and the number of such incidents has increased by around 70 per cent since 2015, the Centre has said.
Krishna Raj, the Union minister of state for women and child development, told the Rajya Sabha today that in 2016, a total of 19,223 women and children had been trafficked from all states and Union territories in the country. Among them, Bengal recorded the highest number of cases at 6,672.
In 2015, the number of trafficked women and children in India was 15,448, and 3,856 of them were from Bengal, the highest in the country.
The data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) comes at a time several cases of child trafficking have been reported in Jalpaiguri in north Bengal and Baduria in the southern part of the state.
In 2016, the number of women and children trafficked from Bengal has increased by 72 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively, compared to the previous year.
The other states that followed Bengal in the number of trafficking cases were Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu (see chart).
"In north Bengal, the most vulnerable are the tea estate dwellers in the Dooars. Human traffickers can easily lure children and women with offers of jobs in other states," said Soumen Nag, a researcher based in Siliguri.
Sources said the actual number of trafficking cases could be much higher than the NCRB figure as many incidents went unreported.
"The alleged sale of babies from an orphanage in Jalpaiguri has recently come to light. If such cases are put together, the figures will go up," a retired administrative official said.
A senior Bengal government official said: "The state lies along both national and international borders. The number of cases of missing persons are more in our state as the government insists on filing an FIR and not a general diary."
Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO working against human trafficking, said more awareness campaigns were needed against trafficking.
"We have been working closely with the police and the government in rescuing victims. We need to move further into the interiors of the state to spread awareness among young girls," said Rishi Kant, an official of the NGO.
Kant said although trafficking cases were higher in Bengal, the rate of recovery by the police had also gone up, pointing to the NCRB figures placed in Lok Sabha on February 7.
Bengal reports some of the highest recovery numbers. In 2014, 5,022 women who had been missing from the state were recovered. In 2015, the figure was 2,864.