Patna: Authorities in Bihar have stepped up vigil along the vast Indo-Nepal border fearing the Nepali residents losing everything in the deadly earthquake could fall prey to human trafficking gangs. Past studies have shown natural disasters often act as a triggers with women and children being the most vulnerable to the trafficking.

“We have directed all police chiefs of the border districts to keep a strict vigil along the Indo-border to thwart human trafficking. We apprehend the human trafficking gangs may target the families losing everything in the quake and now battling hard for survival,” state’s additional director general of police (weaker section) Arvind Pandey told the media on Sunday.

There are at least a dozen districts in Bihar which either border Nepal or are close to the international border. They include East Champaran, West Champaran, Araria, Supaul, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Kishanganj, Saharsa, Purnia and Kahitihar. The police chiefs of all these districts have now been asked to review the anti-human trafficking campaigns and act in proper coordination with the government and nongovernment agencies, Armed Border Forces and railway police.

According to an official report, more than 50,000 people have fled Nepal to reach their homes in India through the Indo-Nepal border at Raxaul in East Champaran. Apart from the Indian citizens, a large number of Nepali citizens too are reportedly entering into the Indian territories looking for shelter and food. Although the state government has launched massive relief works and set up relief camps along the border to provide free food and shelter to the people fleeing Nepal but the relief camps may not last too long and it will have to be wound up some day. It is this fleeing population which may ultimately fall into the net of human traffickers, authorities fear.

Nepal has, for long, been a hub of human trafficking, and as per a study conducted by Maiti Nepal, an NGO, there are some 150,000-400,000 Nepali girls and women are in Indian brothels. According to the research, traffickers in India prefer girls with features prevalent in people from lower castes in Nepal.

“All are fleeing from the quake-ravaged Nepal. They already have lost everything in the disaster and now don’t want to lose their lives too,” said Vijay Vir, a resident of Uttar Pradesh fled Nepal.

Officials said buses, cars and autorickshaws reaching the border continue jam-packed with the fleeing quake victims even eight days after the deadly quake caused extensive damage to the Nepal. What has prompted further mass exodus are the continuous tremors being experienced in quake-hit region, coupled with scarcity of food, water and lurking outbreak of epidemics as the bodies under the rubbles have now began rotting.

Many said they survived on eating barely biscuits for six days since nothing was available to eat in Kathmandu after the quake as most of the markets were shut. Even this biscuit was not easily available and they had to cough up Rs100 for a small packet containing 10-12 pieces only. “We ate biscuits for six days to stay alive but even this was not easily available,” said Shiv Shankar Prasad, a resident Forbesganj town in Araria district. Shiv Shankar, who reached his home yesterday, said he had to pay Rs140,000 (Dh8,000) to a private transport vehicle to get out of Kathmanu and reach his home safely.