Prayagraj (UP): The sessions court in Prayagraj has awarded rigorous imprisonment to 41 accused, found involved in human trafficking and flesh trade racket busted in Meerganj in Prayagraj in a major police operation conducted on May 1, 2016.
Additional sessions judge (ASJ) Rachna Singh awarded 14 year’s rigorous imprisonment to all the 15 accused of human trafficking while the remaining 26 accused of flesh trade were given 10 years’ sentence.
Earlier, on January 18, 2022, the additional sessions judge had convicted as many as 41 persons found to be involved in flesh trade and human trafficking, which at one time was going on in Meerganj.
The ASJ had convicted the accused on the basis of facts and evidence available against them. Thereafter, the sentence was awarded on Tuesday after hearing defence counsels and the district government counsel (criminal), Gulab Chandra Agrahri, who appeared on behalf of the prosecution.
It is alleged that these accused persons, while taking advantage of the poverty and other compulsions of girl children, used to entice them away from their native places. Thereafter, they used to sell them in the red-light area of Meerganj, where they were ultimately forced into flesh trade.
Some social organisations and activists had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the high court, which directed the authorities concerned to take appropriate steps to remove the illegal flesh trade and human trafficking going on in the heart of the city.
Acting on the direction of the high court, the district administration and the police department launched a massive ‘operation freedom’ on Labour Day on May 1, 2016 and several girls, many of whom were minors, were rescued from the brothel.
During the operation, as many as 48 persons were arrested and a criminal case was registered against them.
Senior IAS officer Sanjay Kumar, who was the district magistrate of Prayagraj (then Allahabad) when the racket was busted in 2016, recalls how it the operation was planned and executed
“I and the then SSP Sunil Emannuael, worked for over a month gathering data with just three-four officers to understand the whole situation on ground, alongside a local NGO Gudia. I even went on rickshaw and bike wearing casuals and hats a few times to recce the area,” he said.
He said that even the rescue centre was planned in advance with a full team of doctors, food and lodging facilities till the rescued victims were produced in court and investigated.