"A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country with West Bengal reporting the highest number of cases (3,579)," said the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in Delhi today, releasing figures for 2016. That's a 44 per cent share of the national total.
Rajasthan is in second position with 1,422 cases or 17.9 per cent cases in the country.
Sanjay Macwan, Regional Director, International Justice Mission, said, "The increasing numbers could be a reflection of greater reporting of the crime of trafficking because of the state's efforts to curb it."
"Trafficking victims are still not coming forward to report the crime, they are still hesitant and stigmatised," said Vivek Chowdhury, judicial secretary, government of West Bengal, adding, "Our chief minister is very keen to stop the crime and the government is geared to it."
The NCRB figures came on a day when a report was released in Kolkata on commercial sexual exploitation of children in and around the city and revealed more minors were involved in the sex trade in private establishments - massage parlours, lodges and residential premises -- than in public ones, the brothels.
The study was conducted by NGO International Justice Mission (IJM) and West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) over the last year in Kolkata, Howrah, North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts.
4143 sex-workers were documented from 451 public and 131 from 40 private establishments.The prevalence of minors in public establishments is 0.8% while in private ones it was a whopping 18 %. The minors observed in private establishments were 15 to 17 years old, all from West Bengal.
"Another unique observation was that 80% of contacts (pimps, madams, traffickers) in private establishments were females. This is different from the stereotypical notion of male-dominated exploiters and pimps. The ages of these contacts ranged from 16 to 58 years," the report said.
What lured the minors? 77% of them were promised a good job before they were forced into sex work. Many were surprised to arrive in Kolkata and none of them had any notion that they were being brought into this trade.
The minors were subject to violence -- multiple rape, beatings and threats of murder. Three survivors had witnessed murders of other sex workers as a warning against resistance.
Indra Chakraborty, the special superintendent of police dealing with trafficking said the crime was the trip of an iceberg and linked to narcotics and illegal firearms and needed to be treated as such. "The dynamics of trafficking are changing and the dynamics of tackling it need to keep pace," he said.