The human trafficking industry, one of India's biggest organised crime syndicate, has been severely affected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive.
The process of trafficking women and girl child usually completes by November after which they are sold to brothels, placement agencies and as child brides, rescue workers told Livemint.
However, with the high denomination currency out of circulation, the whole trade has come to a grinding halt, according to them.
“Trafficking has stopped completely. Girls are usually trafficked from Guwahati in Assam and Jharkhand in the north and Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad in the south. Over the last one month, not a single girl has been trafficked. This is primarily because there is no liquidity left. All transactions used to happen in cash and now employers have no money to pay the middlemen. All the money that changed hands till now is useless,” Livemint quoted said Rakesh Sengar, a child rights activist with Bachpan Bachao Andolan, as saying.
A study by Global March against Child Labour, a network of trade unions, teachers and civil society organisations, pegs the annual figure in India at a little over Rs18.6 trillion.
"A 10-12 year old girl costs Rs5 lakh, while girls between the groups of 13 and 15 cost Rs4 lakh. These transactions are all done in cash, in black money. The brothel owners are now caught in a bind because they can’t convert this cash at the banks. Because the new currency is not readily available, clients have stopped going to brothels and the brothel owners have no money to pay the traffickers,” Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi told the daily.
However, he also said with new money back in circulation, the old trade will pick up again.
“Black money is the backbone of the trafficking industry in India. At the moment that structure has been fractured by demonetisation. It is a matter of time before the new currency is back in the system and the trade picks up. We have approached the PM and informed him of this situation as well,” Satyarthi added.