Uttar Pradesh police bust international human-trafficking racket, 12 women brought back to India since April

Nargis (45, name changed) from Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh was living separately from her husband after several years of marriage, along with her two daughters and a son.

Financially weak, the woman came across an opportunity to work as a domestic help in Oman that would help her earn ₹25,000 per month.

In February, with the help of a travel agent based in Kanpur, she reached the Gulf country, only to realise that she had fallen into the trap of a human-trafficking nexus.

“As soon as I reached Oman, my phone was taken away and I was subjected to physical and mental torture. Ayesha, a Sri Lankan woman, was handling me. I begged her to let me return to India, but she demanded ₹4 lakh for my release,” Ms. Nargis told PTI over the phone.

Her daughter Sophia (name changed) said, “Ammi somehow informed us about her ordeal over the phone, after which I reported the matter to the Kanpur police, along with details of the travel agent.” On August 15, as the country marked its 75th Independence Day, Nargis returned home, along with two more women, courtesy the Kanpur police and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

During investigation, the police found a larger human-trafficking nexus spread across several countries and targeting women aged between 24 and 50 years on the pretext of getting them employed as domestic helps for a good salary in Gulf countries such as Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, officials said.

The victims are not only from Uttar Pradesh, but also from other parts of India like Punjab, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, while the nexus has also trapped women from neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan as well as from some African nations, they claimed.

Kanpur’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Salman Taj Patil said the lid blew off the human-trafficking racket when they started investigating a complaint in April from a city resident, who alleged that his wife was “trapped” in Oman, only to uncover the larger international nexus.

“When we extended the scope of the investigation, the officers soon understood that the matter was related to human trafficking. Police Commissioner Asim Arun engaged Kanpur’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit to go deeper in the case, while central agencies like the MEA were also alerted and their help was sought in rescuing the victims.

“In the last four months, 12 such women — six from Kanpur, two each from Punjab and Chennai and one each from Goa and Karnataka — were brought back to the country safely with the MEA’s help,” the officer told PTI.

He said the police investigation has revealed that Ayesha, the Sri Lankan-origin woman in Oman, handles the entire network abroad while her key India stooges, who are based in Bengaluru, have connections with “travel agents” in states who trap women and send them to foreign countries on a “tourist visa”.

During the probe, two Kanpur residents — Muzammil and Ateequr Rahman — who worked as travel agents and had sent some women to Gulf countries were arrested, according to police officials.

The two led the police to the all-India network operated by Bengaluru-based Amin, who too was arrested, they added.

“The gang sent about 18 women from Kanpur and adjoining cities to Gulf countries in the last two years. Most of these women are in the age group of 24 to 40 years and three are in the age group of 40 to 50 years. These women were sent to Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman,” one of the officials said.

On the way ahead in the matter, Commissioner Asim Arun said the Kanpur police is working on two aspects — ensuring the return of the victims to India and legal action against the culprits.

“First and foremost, we want to make sure that all victims of trafficking return home safe and sound. Our focus is on getting separate formal complaints from all victims so that strict legal action could be ensured against the culprits and they be sent to jail,” he told PTI.

The senior IPS officer said he hopes that the police in other States would also follow suit.

He declined to divulge the number of victims in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

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