About 89 per cent of NGOs surveyed for a study have said that trafficking of both adults and children for labour will be “one of the biggest threats” in the post-lockdown period as household incomes of the most vulnerable deplete.
The study conducted by the Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation said the non-governmental organisations voiced the concern that “there is a very high likelihood” of an increase in human trafficking in the post-lockdown period for the purpose of labour.
“Seventy-six per cent of the NGOs anticipate human trafficking for the purpose of sexual abuse and child trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation to see an upsurge post the lockdown,” it said.
The study recommended greater surveillance at village level and alertness on the part of law enforcement agencies.
Titled Impact of Lockdown and Economic Disruption on Low-Income Households with Special Reference to Children, the study is based on responses of 53 NGOs (phase-1) and 245 households from the trafficking-prone states (phase-2).
The phase 1 was carried April 27-May 5 and the phase-2 from May 17 to 24.
The responses of NGOs were sought because of their close links at the grassroots level while the household survey was conducted to develop an in-depth understanding of the impact of lockdown on households from the lowest economic strata.
Eighty-one per cent of the NGOs said families may take cash on credit from local money lenders on high interest rates in the post-lockdown period and as a result, a large number of them may get into the trap of debt bondage.
“Sixty-four per cent of all respondent NGOs expressed the opinion that incidence of child marriages would increase post the lockdown period. That child marriages post lockdown will increase was stated more strongly by NGOs operating in north central zone (71 per cent) than those operating in eastern (61 per cent) and south west zone (57 per cent),” it said.
The north central zone has states: Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh while eastern region comprises Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam and Sikkim.
The south west zone comprises Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.
About 85 per cent of all respondent NGOs felt that school dropouts are likely to increase in the post-lockdown period.
About 93 per cent NGOs said the families will soon run out of money and 85 per cent believed they may not even get enough food in a day to fill their bellies, the study said.
During the household survey, it was found that “21 per cent of the households are potentially ready to send their children into child labour due to their increased economic vulnerability”.
“Nearly 85 per cent of the surveyed households reported having absolutely no income at the time of the survey. Before the lockdown, 47 per cent households were in the income range of Rs 3,001-10,000 which came down to 3 per cent during the lockdown,” the study said.
It highlighted that the proportion of those getting less than Rs 1,000, dropped from 12 per cent before the lockdown to 5 per cent at the time of the survey.
“The reduction in income has been the least for agricultural labour who ironically were earning little even before the lockdown. The farmers and non-agricultural labour have suffered substantial reduction in income. Household savings have also been severely impacted.
Before the lockdown, 28 per cent of the respondents reported having no savings which increased sharply to 68 per cent at the time of survey,” it said.
About 6 per cent of the respondents reported that due to their poor financial condition they would not hesitate to withdraw their children from school.
“Another 14 per cent household respondents stated that they were ‘not sure’ as to what will they do. Hence, potentially school going children of 20 per cent households are at the risk of dropping out from schools,” the study said.
The household survey also found that the lockdown has seriously dented the average household savings of most respondent households.
“Before the lockdown, 28 per cent of the respondent households reported having ‘no savings’ this increased sharply to 68 per cent at the time of the survey,” it said.
Out of all those households who reported having food shortage during the lockdown (176 out of 245), 43 per cent said it was ‘severe’ (exhausted all food reserves but managing to get daily meals), while 10 per cent said it was ‘very severe’ (exhausted all food reserves/do not have anything to eat) and for another 13 per cent, it was ‘somewhat severe’ (exhausted all food reserves at some point of time but managed to refill), the study pointed out.
“We anticipate that trafficking is going to be one of the biggest threats post pandemic for the most vulnerable. The children of families who have lost their means of livelihood and are facing hunger and starvation are extremely susceptible to all forms of exploitation, including trafficking. We strongly recommend through our report that a wide safety net (must) be spread in source areas of trafficking to protect children from being trafficked,” said Rakesh Senger, Executive Director,Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.