A US state department report on human trafficking has placed India on a Tier 2 'watch-list' because of what it said were existing bonded labour practices and the lack of adequate action to effectively end this.
Briefing reporters on the fifth annual report on Trafficking in Persons, released in Washington on Monday, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John Miller said they estimate that hundreds of thousands of Indians were victims of a form of slavery wherein a family is indebted to an employer generation after generation.
The 'Tier 2 Watch-list' includes countries that show signs of falling backwards, but Miller said 'W' also stood for 'worry' and 'warning'.
Four major nations on the watch-list for at least the second year in a row are China, India, Mexico and Russia.
''This has to be a source of concern,'' Miller said, predicting that the four nations could well slip to the least favorable Tier 3 by next year. A Tier 3 assessment could trigger the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance from the United States to that country.
According to the report, India has been placed on the watch-list for a second consecutive year for its inability to show evidence of increased efforts to address trafficking in persons, particularly its lack of progress in forming a national law enforcement response to inter-state and transnational trafficking crimes.
The government, the report said, also lacked a meaningful response to the problem of trafficking-related complexity of law enforcement officials.
The central government needs to designate and empower a national law enforcement entity to carry out investigations and law enforcement operations against trafficking crimes with nation-wide jurisdiction, the report pointed out.
This major deficiency was highlighted by state-level law enforcement officials who, at a 2004 conference, pointed to the difficulty in investigating trafficking crimes across state lines and coordinating with other states' police forces in accounting for the low level of trafficking-related prosecutions and convictions in India.
Overall, Indian anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained weak, though notable progress was seen in particular localities, the report said.
Statistics on trafficking-related investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences were not available, though statistics obtained from several key cities and states showed 195 prosecutions and 82 convictions obtained for offences related to trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2004. An estimated 2,058 prosecutions and 1,051 convictions for child labour offenses were obtained in 2004 throughout India.
Meanwhile, reacting strongly to US observations, Indian government on Tuesday rejected 'judgemental and prescriptive approach of a foreign government' and said it will not help in furthering the dialogue between the two countries on the issue.
New Delhi pointed out that 'active cooperation' between the two countries is not reflected in the state department's annual report.
"The US has a practice of issuing global reports on a wide variety of subjects from human rights and religous freedom to narcotics and trafficking in persons," External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said when asked for comment on the report.
"Such reports are, by their very nature, based on US viewpoints and pre-conceptions," he said.
"On the subject of trafficking in persons, as with other areas, we reject judgemental and prescriptive approach by a foreign government," he asserted.
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