South Asia

Odisha Police Arrest 65 Suspected Traffickers and Rescue 707 People in Three Months

December 2022

ODISHA, INDIA – Human trafficking from the state of Odisha typically reaches a peak during the months of September, October, and November—but this year local police are breaking that cycle and protecting the community like never before.

From September to November 2022, Odisha police intercepted 707 workers from being trafficked and arrested more than 65 traffickers attempting to exploit them.

Their proactive response shows the government’s increasing ownership of the issue of human trafficking and comes at a time when citizens need protection most.

With India’s monsoon season upcoming, labour-intensive industries like brick kilns, farms, and construction sites begin recruiting new workers in massive numbers. Traffickers exploit this busy season by swarming villages in low-income districts offering cash advances and “good jobs” to families in need. They then transport these families in trains and buses and sell them into abusive businesses across the country.

This year, however, trained Odisha police have set up checkpoints at key transit areas to spot human trafficking and intercept vulnerable workers. Odisha police have named this initiative “Mission Uddhar” (meaning “liberation” or “rescue”) and are working simultaneously with UNICEF and Aide et Action on awareness programs in vulnerable districts. Read more here.

Mission Uddhar also builds on trainings from IJM’s team in Odisha, including specialised training for railway police on the signs of human trafficking. Several local railway stations have also been playing awareness announcements based on materials from IJM.

Though labour migration can be helpful for vulnerable families, authorities want to ensure they travel safely.

We are not preventing them from migrating, but they should travel in a dignified manner after getting registered with the Labor Department

Kisalkar Nitin Dagudu, Superintendent of Balangir Police

IJM’s team in Odisha has been thrilled to witness this heartening transformation in the criminal justice system. Balangir Police have shared publicly about their successful operations on social media using #MissionUddhar—marking one of the first times they have discussed the issue of trafficking for bonded labour. In the past, many government agencies were hesitant to discuss labour trafficking openly, but today they are confidently making it a priority.

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