As per a report released by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, about 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in the last year, a rise of nearly 22 per cent from 2015.

The ministry informed the parliament that 19,223 women and children were trafficked last year against 15,448 in 2015. There were 9,104 trafficked children last year – a 27 per cent increase from the previous year.

West Bengal which shares a porous border with Bangladesh and Nepal, and are known as human-trafficking hubs recorded the highest number of trafficked woman and children. Rajasthan showed second-highest trafficked children in 2016, while Maharashtra showed the second-highest number of trafficked women.

However, police officials think this rise is due to the increased awareness among citizens on trafficking related crimes. A senior Delhi police official, who declined to be named, told TOI: “I think more victims are coming forward and reporting because of more information about trafficking,” he further added  “Government and civil society groups are doing campaigns and people are also seeing more cases being reported in the media.”

The official said the genuine figure could be much higher as many victims still do not register a case with the police. There is still ignorance about the laws which protect them or in many cases they fear the traffickers

There is a desperate need to address the situation because South Asia, with India at its heart, is one of the fastest-growing regions for human trafficking in the world.  Thousands of people – largely underprivileged, rural women and children are tempted to leave their homes and go to metropolitan towns every year. Some go missing, and their families cannot trace them. The traffickers — who can be a an uncle, a neighbour, a husband or a father — promise them better life, good jobs, sometimes marriage and sell them into the shackles of this modern-day slavery.  Some end up as domestic workers, or forced to work in small industries such as textile workshops, farming or are even pushed into brothels where they are sexually exploited.  In many cases, they are not paid or are held in debt bondage.