Sattaru Umapathi, an Andhra Pradesh police officer who has led numerous operations across India to rescue victims of human trafficking, has been hailed as a hero by the US state department.
Umapathi, the anti-human trafficking officer of the Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department, is among nine heroes "around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking" named in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 released Monday.
The annual report has placed India on its Tier 2 Watch List for the seventh consecutive year saying "the Indian government has not demonstrated sufficient progress in its law enforcement, protection, or prevention efforts to address labour trafficking, particularly bonded labour."
Umapathi and eight other heroes "are recognized for their tireless efforts - despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives - to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad," the report said.
Umapathi has played a key role in rescuing victims and arresting traffickers, the report said noting he has contributed to multiple convictions, leading to sentences ranging from four to 14 years' imprisonment.
He also forged partnerships with NGOs across the country and implemented United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) anti-trafficking protocols in his state police department.
Umapathi has changed the mindset of the his state's law enforcement community by teaching officials to stop treating trafficking victims as criminals, the report said.
He has organised judicial conferences and addressed a colloquium in New Delhi, helping educate the judiciary about the need to treat victims with empathy.
Umapathi argued for application of the more stringent sections of Indian law in trafficking cases, such as laws related to minors in prostitution, import of foreign girls, and unlawful compulsory labour. He successfully implemented a rescue protocol that included the payment of $220 as interim relief for trafficking victims.
"Thanks to Officer Umapathi's dedicated efforts, Andhra Pradesh is becoming a model for other Indian states fighting human trafficking," the report said.