The landless urban poor are worst hit due to the Covid -19 induced lockdown and restrictions in Assam’s Lakhimpur district.
Apart from being affected by the restrictions imposed by the administration these people are now facing another threat—the traps of being trafficked.
There have been reports of some agents visiting impoverished localities of North Lakhimpur town and in its suburbs in recent times looking for men, women and children for work outside the state.
For many urban poor who have lost their livelihoods during the current Covid wave any opportunity for works is a hope for their sustenance.
Taking the advantage of their desperation the traffickers are active across the district to traffic persons outside the state. Many young daily wage labourers—both male and female, unskilled workers engaged in the unorganized sector are now preparing to leave for outside state for “jobs” as promised by the agents.
They are also ready to send their minors for work outside the state. If unchecked, these activities may lead to a new wave of trafficking of persons from Lakhimpur district and its neighbouring areas due to the impact of Covid pandemic.
Lakhimpur is one of the worst affected districts of Assam in trafficking of persons. The tea garden areas of the district located on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary are the known hotspots of trafficking of mostly girl child.
However recently the trend has included the urban areas of the district where poor and vulnerable people reside in rented houses. These urban poor are not included in any categories of state welfare schemes and migrants from various parts of the state affected by flood, erosion, ethnic conflict etc.
These already affected people are now becoming vulnerable to the economic hardships brought by Covid. Their desperate condition leads to the traps of traffickers who give them for a better life.
The recent arrests of traffickers in the district also prove the activeness of trafficking of persons in Lakhimpur.
On August 7, Lakhimpur Police arrested two child traffickers Tipon Magga and Milan Magga from Dirgha Naharbari area under Bogeenadi Police Station.
On August 1, one Manjit Dutta of Narayanpur Deorigaon was arrested for trafficking two young boys to Arunachal Pradesh. Both the trafficked children were rescued by the police.
Before that two minor girls from Lakhimpur district were rescued from the clutches of traffickers at Gohpur in neighbouring Biswanath district.
The arrested traffickers were identified as Jalaluddin, Mariam Begum and Tiri Narzary. The continuity of train services to Lakhimpur district even during the closure of inter-district travel by road is also contributing the traffickers to move unchecked in these areas.
Apart from the urban landless poor, the traffickers have also been active in taking people to outside Assam from the rural and peripheral Lakhimpur.
The phenomenon also includes bridal trafficking from the vulnerable groups of the district.