Noting that the conviction rate, investigations, prosecutions and convictions in India were "disproportionately low" relative to the scale of human trafficking, the United States has continued to place the country in 'Tier 2' of its annual report on trade of humans.
The US State Department in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report for 2018 urged India to increase prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking, including forced and bonded labour, and of officials allegedly complicit in it.
"The government of India does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, therefore India remained on Tier 2," the department said.
The department places each country in this report onto one of four tiers, as mandated by The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 of the US.
Tier 2 suggests that the government of the country does not fully meet the TVPA's minimum standards, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards.
At the same time, the report said India has demonstrated increasing efforts by nearly tripling the number of victims identified and increasing its budget for shelter programmes for female and child trafficking victims.
It also noted that the government's inter-ministerial committee in 2017 to discuss and revise a draft anti-trafficking bill and India's border guard force along its Nepal border conducted several awareness activities on human trafficking for students and border communities.
"However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Overall victim protection remained inadequate and inconsistent and the government sometimes penalised victims through arrests for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking," it said.
As reported over the past five years, the State Department said India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
Forced labour constitutes India's largest trafficking problem.
Men, women, and children in debt bondage -- sometimes inherited from previous generations -- are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, embroidery factories and agriculture, it said.
Most of India's trafficking problem is internal and those from the most disadvantaged social strata -- lowest caste Dalits, members of tribal communities, religious minorities, and women and girls from excluded groups -- are most vulnerable, the report stated.
It added that within India, some are subjected to forced labour in sectors such as construction, steel, garment and textile industries, wire manufacturing for underground cables, biscuit factories, pickling, floriculture, fish farms and ship breaking.
"Workers within India who mine for sand are potentially vulnerable to human trafficking. Thousands of unregulated work placement agencies reportedly lure adults and children under false promises of employment into sex trafficking or forced labour, including domestic servitude," the report said.
Observing that experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India, the report said traffickers use false promises of employment or arrange sham marriages within India or Gulf states and subject women and girls to sex trafficking.
"In addition to traditional red light districts, women and children increasingly endure sex trafficking in small hotels, vehicles, huts, and private residences. Traffickers increasingly use websites, mobile applications," the report said.
Since 2011, India has remained on Tier 2 of the State Department reports on human trafficking.