By Roli Srivastava
MUMBAI, March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Indian woman rescued from sex slavery in Saudi Arabia was brought back to her hometown in Gujarat on Sunday amid concerns traffickers are widening their net to new parts of India.
Two agents - one in Gujarat and another in Mumbai - have been arrested and the search is on for more agents, officials said.
The woman, 35, had flown to Dubai about a year ago on the promise of a housemaid's job and a monthly salary of about 40,000 Indian rupees ($600).
She was, however, sold to another employer in the Saudi capital Riyadh where she was repeatedly raped and abused, a state minister said. She is currently recuperating at a public hospital in the western state of Gujarat.
Campaigners said most trafficking cases to the Gulf region have so far been from southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and rarely from other parts of the country.
"It is presumed that most cases of trafficking to the Gulf are from southern states. We are finding names of more agents in Gujarat from those arrested," Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, education minister in Gujarat told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Police have launched a major investigation. We will alert other states too if we find links to them."
Chudasama had alerted government officials and the police to the case after he read about the woman's plight in The Times of India newspaper.
While police teams from Gujarat and Mumbai swooped on agents who had lured the woman to Dubai, an Indian politician with business interests in Saudi Arabia - Thopali Sriniwas - contacted the Indian embassy there.
This was the second case of a Gujarat woman that he helped return to her homeland in less than a month.
Of an estimated six million Indian migrants in the six Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman, domestic workers are among the most exploited, campaigners say.
"Housemaids are treated like cattle here. This woman didn't even know where she was when I asked her location. She kept crying to be saved. India should ban sending housemaids to the Gulf," Sriniwas said.
In the woman's hometown of Dholka, officials are dealing with what they said is their first case of human trafficking.
"We have information that there could be more women who have been trafficked to the Gulf nations. This is a new development for us," said Rituraj Desai, deputy in the Dholka district office.
($1 = 65.4200 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Roli Srivastava; Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)