The recent repatriation of 10 Manipuri children from some privately run orphanages in Kerala has once again brought to the fore the issue of child trafficking in the state. The 10 children including nine girls from Imphal East District and a boy from Thoubal District have been brought back to the state from Calicut, Kerala. The nine girls were inmates of Ciesco Girls Home and the boy was an inmate of Calicut Orphanage. They were repatriated back to the state vide order of the Child Welfare Committee, Kozhikode, Kerala. All of them happened to be from the Meitei Pangal community and in fact, they were not orphans. The matter does not end with handing over the children with their respective parents and further inquiry is required to determine how these children ended up in Kerala. The complicity of the parents in the whole episode seems to be apparent and the circumstances need to be investigated fully whether the cause is poverty related.
It is a known fact that, such incidents have happened in the past few years also among the impoverished families of other communities. In Bishnupur district sometime back, children of some impoverished families were lured with the promise of education by some Christian pastors with the full knowledge of the parents and ended up in shelter homes outside the state.
In 2010, 16 Manipuri children who were rescued from a horror house of Immanuel, head of Reach Home Children Foundation, an unregistered NGO in Chennai Central and brought back to Manipur. These children were lured with the promise of good education and future employment.
Child trafficking is rampant in Manipur for years altogether. Cases of children especially girls being trafficked and forced into menial jobs and prostitution in other states of the country and outside the country had been reported in the past. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) from 2018, almost 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in 2016, a rise of nearly 25 per cent compared to 2015. India is home to the largest number of slaves globally, with 8 million, followed by China (3.86 million), Pakistan (3.19 million) and North Korea (2.64 million), a Reuters report said. Statistics from the Ministry of Women and Child Development state that 19,223 women and children were trafficked in 2016 against 15,448 in 2015, with the highest number of victims being recorded in West Bengal.
Another interesting angle in the realm of child trafficking is that Manipur has emerged as the new source of cross-border human trafficking in India. A human trafficking network in Moreh was busted by the police. Six traffickers were arrested. Hundred and thirty-six girls have been rescued. Thirty-one were found at Imphal airport. Forty girls from those rescued are from Nepal. The girls were going to be taken to Arab ports. Prima facie it appears that the traffickers were running an international network. CRY in a report said that young Indian boys and girls were being trafficked via Myamar to countries like Singapore after luring them with lucrative job offers. Manipur has become not only a source state for cross-border human trafficking but it is also being used as an easy transit route. Children are soft and easy target. The report citing the data on missing children by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said 1.11 lakh children were reported missing in 2016 and 55,625 of them remained untraced.
The data analysis by CRY suggests that more than half of all missing children in the country are concentrated in just West Bengal, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. The report said the organized crime of trafficking was next largest form of trans-national illegal trade after arms and drugs. India is no exception as it is rapidly 'gaining' the status of a vast and 'low risk' market for the procurement and use of children for a range of exploitative needs, from organ trade and child labour to commercial sexual exploitation.