(Down to Earth: Governance)
March 15: Yes, India can prevent trafficking; here is how – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/governance/yes-india-can-prevent-trafficking-here-is-how-81949
- GS-2: Government schemes and policies
Yes, India can prevent trafficking; here is how
Context: Trafficking continues to adversely influence global harmony and security, disrupting economies and compromising the well-being and security of all countries including India. Trafficking of wildlife, cultural heritage, drugs and humans has been recorded globally.
Trafficking in Wildlife and Biodiversity
Offences related to trafficking of wildlife and biodiversity are often not considered serious despite the fact that poaching and dealing of natural life is seen as a terrible crime. Hence, weaker penal measures are observed.
- This lack of interest and weaker enforcement has prompted tremendous hunting and dealing in wildlife over the last two decades, which permitted business sectors such as the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, to thrive.
- Our ecosystems are being destroyed beyond repair due to such crimes and several wildlife species are being pushed to the edge of extinction.
The Global Illegal Trade in Wildlife
It is now worth $19 billion annually. It is the fourth-biggest illegal market after drugs, counterfeit and human trafficking.
- The trade-chain starts in forests and natural habitats. It includes locals, poachers and transporters, who are responsible for moving the wildlife across and out of a country.
- Interest in curbing illegal wildlife trade and strengthening international frameworks has increased in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent focus on zoonotic diseases. Bats, pangolins and human beings are not natural co-habitants, as all but the latter are wild.
- Systematic action: This illicit trade will continue unless stringent correction measures are taken within the system. The coordination of all agencies and authorities should be the first step. All departments should work efficiently but independently. Unless they pool their operations and make an effective action plan, there will not be any visible change in the current scenario.
- Reliable data: The lack of authentic global data makes it hard for governments and international organisations to battle trafficking successfully. There has to be an immediate strengthening of the information collection system and encouragement of countries to acknowledge and report crimes diligently.
- International cooperation: There must be strong international cooperation between law enforcement agencies of different countries and citizens committed to stopping the illicit trafficking of valuable art and antiquities, in-order to bring to light, various hidden deals. The return of a 900-year-old sculpture to India, by UK authorities, in August 2018, was an excellent example of this.
- Inter-departmental convergence: As the number of investigating departments increase so do gaps in performance. It is difficult to coordinate and perform effectively unless they operate in convergence for all cases. Either a nodal agency to handle all the cases from facts to real time data, or a team comprising one or two members from each investigating authority can be formed for a strategic scrutiny of all cases.
- Stringent punishments: There have to be stringent laws and legal actions against such crimes. The relatively low risk of trials has led to the increase of organised criminal groups utilising the gaps in the legal framework and feeble law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
- Raise awareness: Information available on illicit trade has to be brought to light to alert people of how serious the concern is. This gradually shall enable policymakers and investigation agencies around the globe to create strong foundations of effective policy enforcement and an action plan can be formulated for their immediate response to such crimes accordingly.
- Incentivising communities: There are many small-scale, opportunistic traders who are leads to bigger networks. These local traders are easily recognisable among their community and thus the role of locals and communities is inevitable and can be of great help to identify these networks. Incentivising communities can encourage them to work in association with the authorities and help in making legal efforts more effective.
There is no foolproof action plan yet to stop this illicit trade permanently. Unless all governments come together for the security of their own countries, this illegal trade shall thrive.
- Undoubtedly, all governments have taken sufficient action to fight illicit trade. But they are mostly unorganised or inefficiently executed.
- To add to that, with time, criminal associations and networks have been able to respond swiftly and dynamically to avoid detection and get around law enforcement. Now, it has reached a situation alarming enough for governments to re-evaluate their institutional capacities to counter illicit trade.
These suggestions mentioned are small steps. But they can bring promising change to the current situation and thereby help us reach the goal of recognizing and destroying transnational criminal trade associations and ending this trade chain permanently.