As hundreds took to the streets to run the Tata Steel Kolkata Marathon, a group of survivors of human trafficking joined them seeking passage of the Trafficking of Persons Bill 2018 in the Rajya Sabha.
Nearly 50 survivors of trafficking and activists associated with several grassroots and community-based organisations working on the issue in West Bengal participated in the "Ananda Run" category of the marathon on Sunday.
Their objective was to deliver the message that human trafficking is a very serious issue not only in the state but across the country, and a stronger and comprehensive legislation was needed to combat the crime.
"We want the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 which is pending its passage in the Rajya Sabha to become a law since it not just recommends stringent punishment for traffickers, but also provides for time-bound trials, repatriation and rehabilitation of the victims," a survivor said.
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament in July.
If passed, it will be India's first comprehensive law that would address all forms of trafficking, be it for forced labour, slavery or servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation, and the Central government will monitor interstate and transnational investigation of cases.
The survivors, who are associated with an anti-trafficking project called 'Tafteesh', also raised several other issues impacting their lives such as proper rehabilitation services, legal services for victim compensation, protection from traffickers, health services for recovery.
"It was a great platform for the survivors," said Shaswati Mallick, a leader from Goranbose Gram Bikash Kendra, who also ran with the survivors in the marathon.