India is the world leader in the global human hair export industry till date. India exported human hair and related products worth $607.8 million to the US and China. But, if India can stop hair trafficking then India can earn $3 billion annually. Human hair trafficking is a source of legitimate revenue and tax evasion for India.

Indian hair is popular for wigs and curls because it is light, shiny and attractive. Every month lakhs of devotees offer their hair as Haraka in the temple of Tirupati Thimmappa. According to an estimate, every year devotees from different parts of the world offer 500-600 tonnes of hair to Tirupati Thimmappa.

 

Finest quality Indian hair popularly known as “Remy Hair” is collected from the temples of South India. There women also offer their Mudi in the form of Harka. Because the cuticle of remy hair is not damaged, these hairs look more natural and last longer.

In Habi Chowk, a village in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, Hasina, a 35-year-old woman, combs human hair for five hours a day. She braids the hair by parting it, then braids the hair that is more than six inches long. She throws away the remaining hair. She earns Rs 7,500 ($92) every month by plucking around 25 kilos of hair. Haseena had no idea that she could make money from human hair too. But now she sells unwanted hair to collectors and earns a fixed income.

 

A lot of women work in this human hair industry in the Indian state of West Bengal. They collect hair, sell it and earn money from it. The industry is worth $1 billion and more than half of India’s hair exports come from West Bengal.

 

Hair traders collect hair from people like Haseena, wash them in small centres, then part them and org.ze them by size. The hair in these knots can be from four to forty inches long. The straightening process involves hair of the same length and thickness from root to tip. The hair prepared in this way is exported to countries like China, America, Europe. Where such hair is used in making wigs, making other hair products. These countries are the biggest buyers of Indian hair

Earlier Chinese comp.es used to buy hair from Indian industries at a price of $200 per kg. They used this hair to make wigs, bangs, eyelashes, paint brushes and fake beards and moustaches, and sold them in the global market.

But now Chinese comp.es are appointing local agents in India and buying from Indian traders at very low price i.e. 60 to 70 dollars per kg. Hair procured in this way is smuggled into Bangladesh. There it is sold at a high price. As a result, India is losing its tax revenue. 2021 In a single year, the border security forces have seized about 400 kg of smuggled hair. After such hair balls are transported to Bangladesh, they are processed in local centers there and then sent to China. Sometimes such hair balls are sent to China via Myanmar. Unscrupulous traders smuggle hair to avoid paying a tax of 30% of the import value.

 

Human hair has been smuggled from India to Myanmar since 2012. In the last five years, Chinese importers have been hiring local labor at low cost, setting up local units and processing hair in Bangladesh. After this hair smuggling started increasing in Bangladesh. During the last three years, 5,61,000 Indians lost their jobs due to trafficking. Because, many small hair processing centers in the states of West Bengal, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have closed due to trafficking.

Serious challenge before the Border Security Force
Human child trafficking is a new challenge for the Indian Border Security Force. They are already struggling to stop the smuggling of cows, gold and drugs along the 4,096-km border with Bangladesh. Already this year, Indian border security forces have seized 350 kg of human hair in West Bengal. Last year, 1,104 kg of hair was seized.

A 55-year-old Kolkata woman offers her hair fall for Rs 5,000 per kg to hair collectors who come to her doorstep. The price of hair has increased from Rs 2,000 per kg in 2018 to Rs 5,000 per kg now. Increasing demand is also a big reason for this.

Chinese businessmen are exploiting India:
Local traders often deal with agents acting on behalf of Chinese importers. These agents are paid in cash or through the hawala network. This hawala network is an illegal method in India. This is how local traders smuggle drugs and gold into India by making cash payments or through the hawala network. Indian exporters usually do bulk transactions through bank transfers.

The international wig and hair market is expected to reach US$13.3 billion by 2026. But India is likely to be largely left out due to the ever-increasing child trafficking.

Due to tax evasion, corrupt Chinese traders sell Indian hair at a lower price than Indian traders. Hair is more likely to be smuggled by small Chinese importers to avoid taxes. Most of the large importers do business legally. But China’s hair business is largely dependent on Indian supplies.

While Indian exporters are making losses in this business, Bangladesh’s authentic hair exports are on the rise. Bangladesh exported hair worth $113 million between July 2022 and May 2023. This is a substantial increase over the previous year’s $95.5 million.

China sells Indian hair products to the global market. With this, China will get India’s dividend.

Since Chinese comp.es use modern machinery, they make higher profits on the sale of wigs and hair extensions. The products of Indian comp.es are less profitable as the products of Chinese comp.es are not of the same quality. As a result, Chinese comp.es have a profit margin of $300 per kilogram of hair, while Indian comp.es have a profit margin of $200 per kilogram.

The Indian hair industry can flourish with the help of wig and hair extension experts from Europe and South Korea, using advanced technology.

The Government of India has made it mandatory for all human hair exporters to obtain a license before doing business. But many traders who are weak in traffic have also managed to get the license.

Members of the traders’ association have submitted a petition to the government seeking directions to gram panchayats to collect hair from households and sell it to Indian exporters. The profit earned from this can be used by the government for local development.

Though security forces have zero tolerance on smuggling, more CCTV cameras should be installed on the border fence. No one can survive and wait like this.

People like Haseena spend their days fixing piles of hair for very little money. They don’t know who will wear this hair in the end, how it will reach them.

Rahul Dev

Cricket Jounralist at Newsdesk

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