Amid Covid-19 crisis that left many jobless across the world and led to spurt in human trafficking, the Border Security Force (BSF) at India-Bangladesh border turned 'saviour' for 17 people being trafficked to India with lucrative job offers.
The BSF rescued these people during 11 operations between June 19 and August 26.
These Bangladeshis were held while either being trafficked from Bangladesh to India or vice-versa. The BSF during this period also nabbed two touts -- one Indian and another Bangladeshi -- and handed them over to the police from that respective state. They are the members of various active human trafficking gangs operating from both India and Bangladesh sides.
Of the 17 Bangladeshis rescued by the alert BSF troops near 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border, 10 were women, seven men and 2 children -- including one female child. Eight of these Bangladeshis were held while entering Indian territory from Bangladesh while 11 were caught when they were going back to their country.
An Indian Home Ministry data revealed the details which were shared with its border management wing earlier this month by the BSF -- a 2.65 lakh personnel strong force which is mandated to guard India-Bangladesh as well as 3,323 km India-Pakistan borders.
As per the secret border management details, which are submitted to the Home Ministry by the BSF on regular intervals, maximum of the illegal Bangladeshi migrants were trafficked by touts through South Bengal frontier.
The paramilitary force has noticed some innovative methods to push the poor and vulnerable from across the border by luring them with job opportunities in cities like Kolkata, Guwahati, Bengaluru and some other towns in north-east India and as far as Delhi and Mumbai, a senior BSF official told IANS requesting anonymity.
"Aimed at rescuing poor and needy people from human trafficking gangs, the BSF has been focusing on to curb the illegal trend since June 19. All innocent trafficked people caught so far are under state police protection. They will be repatriated soon as per legal provisions. The BSF has 'zero tolerance' towards human trafficking," the officer said.
At least five Bangladeshis were nabbed by the BSF in less than two weeks, between June 19-29, from railway wagons that entered India via Petrapole in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. The wagons either contained bags of chilli or were empty, the officer said.
The age group of the five males ranged between 12-25 years and their preliminary questioning by the force personnel revealed that they were trafficked by touts from the other side with help from local trafficking syndicates on this side, the officer said.
It is understood that job loss due to the Covid-19 lockdown and less work opportunities due to the ongoing pandemic were the reasons that these gullible people got lured and trafficked across the border, they said.
As per the MHA data, a total of 2,940 people have so far caught while entering in India from Bangladesh and returning back to their country after spending some time in India. Of them 2,394 were held at South Bengal frontier, 167 from Guwahati, 150 from Meghalaya, 135 from North Bengal, 75 from Tripura and 19 from Mizoram and Cachar frontiers along India-Bangladesh border.
The data said a total of 527 people have so far apprehended on India-Bangladesh border from January 1 to August 26 this year while entering into Indian territory. They all are indulge in smuggling, human trafficking and other activities. Of them 419 were caught while entering through South Bengal frontier of the International Border along the two countries, 37 from North Bengal frontier, 29 from Tripura, 24 from Meghalaya, 16 from Guwahati and two from Mizoram and Cachar frontiers. A total of five children were among the people held.
The data revealed that a total of 2,413 Bangladeshis were caught so far at the India-Bangladesh border during the same period while entering to Bangladesh. Of them, 1975 were held from South Bengal frontier, 151 from Guwahati, 126 from Meghalaya, 98 from North Bengal, 46 from Tripura and 17 from Mizoram and Cachar frontiers. A total of 26 Bangladeshi children were held while going back to their country from India.
While the border front under the 913 km long south Bengal front of the BSF is prone to maximum instances of trans-border crimes, human trafficking and smuggling of cattle and narcotics, attempts to illegally push humans have been noticed at few other locations of this border since the outbreak of coronavirus, another BSF officer told IANS.
The force has, therefore, alerted all its border posts to keep an enhanced vigil against human trafficking instances that, as per multiple intelligence inputs, is expected to witness a spurt owing to the loss of job opportunities and lockdown imposed in both the countries to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection.
Senior BSF officers are in coordinating with their counterparts Border Guard Bangladesh on these issues and they are jointly trying to maintain the sanctity of the border and ensure crime free border, another BSF official said.