India: A Nation Of 18.35 Million Slaves! a Case beyond the government Rhetoric

If US Congress clapped on your speech it might be so because you delivered it all in rhetoric. But there is nothing harm in that. We live in a world where we are used to ignoring the truth in its raw form, just to please others with a well-furnished truth, a commodity that is kept on sale these days in Politics and Diplomacy.

In reality, truth is a fruit that is bitter and hard to swallow. There are approximately 18, 354,700 people in India who are facing the wrath of modern slavery. The data came to light with a recent survey on Global Slavery Index by an NGO known as Walk Free. It includes cases related to bondage labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced marriages, forced recruitment of children into the nonstate armed groups. The data is quite drastic for the nation, especially when we are in a hope to have some 'achche din' as promised by our Prime Minister during his election campaign two years ago. But isn't it a challenge for the nation having approximately 1.4% of its population under the bane of modern slavery to see some good days ahead? Isn't it an issue which should be there at the front desk of the parliament? Isn't the issue important enough to be on the tip of the tongue of the Members of Parliament and Members of State legislatures, the ones who more interested in making the country 'Muslim-free'?

Bondage Labour still exists in parts of our nation. People not being able to pay the debt of their predecessors have to work (without wages) in the creditor's fields or brick kilns.
"Sir, it is the sin of my father that I have to repay the debts unless I shall have to beg. I have a threat against my family. I am prone to physical violence everyday." (Survey respondent, Gloabal Slavery Index Report, 2016)
Even after having legal clauses against Child Labour, the malpractice is still present in the society in its most explicit form. Children could be found working in small restaurants and shops where they work in inhuman conditions with poor wages.
Forced Prostitution is often born out of the bane of Human Trafficking. Girls are kidnapped and traded through well-organized channels, sometimes in accord with the corrupted state actors.
I was forced to work in the flesh trade... Can you imagine that I kept in a locked room for the whole day when I refused to work under pressure? It is because they had always threatened me and my family for physical violence and tortured." (Survey respondent, Gloabal Slavery Index Report 2016).
Forced Marriages are practised in rural India where a girl is married in order to pay the debts. This transaction also exists when
Some of the trafficked people end up in large cities into the hands of big criminals who forces them to beg and bring a share to them on a daily basis.

Behind these figures lies a reality that tells us that in India around 270 Million people live below the poverty line. This population figure can absorb the population figures of many countries taken together. Though one can argue that population below the poverty line has decreased by time since the Liberalization policies of 1991. According to the statistics, 45% of the population was below the poverty line in 1993 that has dropped to 21% up till 2011. But falling into the trap of modern slavery is quite possible for this 21%. With this, the role of the government and its assistance to various marginalized sections comes to the forums importance. It’s quite necessary for the state to create a blockade that could prevent this part of the population to flow into the 1.4% of the population that is currently under slavery.

One more thing which needs to be mentioned here is the fact that Indian service sector is yet to be organized for creating a space where work and service could actually replace exploitation and slavery. According to the statistics, around 75% of the rural population and 69% of the urban population is actually employed in informal economy. Most of these people are also facing the brunt of growing inequalities, credit goes to the government-sponsored Neo-Liberal policies. With them employed in informal economy where there is no facilities of security benefits and other basic perks, a slight negative shift in economy, makes them prone to the threat of them entering the vicious cycle of forced slavery. What did the girls from Maharashtra and Odisha did when the agriculture in their regions got a blow from the weather and international markets? They moved to the cities, worked as a contractual laborers and domestic helps, with some even entering into the profession of prostitution to pay their father’s debts. The shining policies of neoliberal reform might seem interesting for the four-wheeler class of Delhi and Mumbai, but it takes life and shelter from them who are on the edge of the economic spectrum.

"Though I am begging I am not paid a single amount. I have to deposit all to them. I am deprived of food and good sleep. I am not paid my wages only working as a bonded labor." (Survey respondent, 2016)
Children and young teenagers from Tribal areas are often forcefully taken by the nonstate armed groups, who exploits them for petty jobs.
Domestic Workers Exploitation exists in states where labour laws are not applicable or effective enough. The cases of sexual harassment, untimely payment and low wages are widespread.
"You are well aware that if a young lady works as a domestic servant she is always a soft target of being easily molested. So with me. I have not paid a single amount and in the name of debt I was made a victim of the sexual violence." (Survey respondent, Gloabal Slavery Index Report, 2016)

The problem of modern slavery is having its different dynamics in different states of the country. Due to the backward farming strcuture and inefficient development reforms, state like Bihar has rampant presence of forced labour on fields and children's recuritment to the non state armed groups like Naxalites. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh, a conservative state with a lot of casteist algorithms in it, is still suffering from the slavery on basis of caste and religion. Malpractises like Manual Sacvenging are still active in some parts of the rural Uttar Pradesh.

However, the modern slavery has a gender angle also that tells us that nomatter what part of India we are talking about, women bears the major scar of the modern enslavement of people. They go through the sexual exploitation in an environment where they are forced to provide their labour for meagre wages, along with certain compromises with their self respect. This is a structural compulsion which is forced upon women by the society that feeds on profits, ignoring almost every consideration of humanity and social security. Indian workplaces, espcecially that comes under the periphery of informal economy provides no social security, maternity leave and even the basic needs for it's women workforce. It's a form of slavery in which women traps herself out of coplusion exerted by the outside economic pressure.

Keeping these things in mind, we must now go back to the Prime Minister's speech in US Congress delivered on June 8 this year. It seems as if soemthing more is required to be done instead of delivering just mere swirling rhetorics. The government, along with Non Governmental Organizations, should intervene in a very positive way not just in order to frame the policies but to keep a check on it. What is required is efficient implementation which requires determination that has to come right from the top to bottom. But seeing our VVIPs having dinner in the White House, hopelessness is what one could expect to come ahead. The more the Neo-liberal track we would be following, the more our 1.4% of modern slaves would grow. The question is both economical and social. In the real sense it's purely Political.

Created By
Vishank Singh



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