Despite the steep progress and transformation, we have achieved today, there are some factors which take us back to the world where human rights were grossly violated. Despite various laws and organisation that voice to protect human rights, there are roughly 46 million slaves globally. The hard-hitting facts are yet to come. Out of this whopping number, India is the home to 18 million slaves, making it the country with the highest number of people living in some form of modern slavery. But, where does the root to all this lie? Why are there so many slaves despite having the strongest anti-slavery law?
Here are 6 L’s to understand why India is lagging behind when it comes to protecting the human rights of these slaves:
Poor and unaware farmers are the main victims of modern day slavery. In a bid to meet daily expenses and get some profits from their agricultural activities, the farmers are forced to take loans are an exorbitant rate of interest. When they are unable to pay these loans and interest back, bonded labour is commonly demanded by the money lenders in exchange. This means that the farmers will work without any monetary returns till their loan amount is repaid. In some cases they work or something as little as a pack of rice. This in long term becomes a vicious cycle which moves on from generation to generation. Most of the farmers are still repaying the loans taken by their relatives or father. This makes them too, a victim of this vicious cycle where, if once in, it’s very difficult to get out.
2. Lower Castes
As per an Anti-Slavery International report, 90% of the victims of modern day slavery are the people from lower castes like Dalits, Schedule tribes, Schedule castes etc. Extreme poverty, lack of access to employment and the yet prevalent social exclusion in the society pushes them into this vicious circle. Despite reservations for the Dalits in the government offices, there are a very few percentage who actually get jobs. Many times they are denied employment on the basis of caste discrimination. As a result, the Dalits are easily exploited for the most physical straining and menial occupations like stone cutting, mining, manual scavenging, labour in factories and brick kilns. More than 1.3 million Dalits, majorly women, make their livelihood from cleaning latrines, sewage, etc with their hands which earns them lesser than minimum wages. With the inability of meeting their daily needs, these men and women resort to borrowing money from the upper-castes who then make them work for them to be able to pay back the debt, thereby maintaining the relationship of bondage.
The high economic return from the business of bonded labour pretty much explains why it is still a part of our soceity and why the sector has been growing steeply over the past few decades. Slavery has become an industry that is making money on the pillars of manipulation and greed.
For instance, human trafficking and prostitution is often considered to be a highly profitable business with lakhs involved. As per an ILO study in 2005, the total profit produced by trafficked forced labours was US$32 billion. The greedy and the corrupt lure people into trafficking with the promise of a better lifestyle. Once trapped, they are exploited for illegal organ donation, sex trade, begging and so on.
4. Law and order
Despite having the best anti-slavery law, India is, unfortunately, the home to highest number of slaves. The Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1976 is regarded as the strongest acts for the vanishing of bonded labour. However, this act is hardly implemented anywhere since this industry is a huge one and money gets the actual criminals out of the hold of legality. Siddharth Kara, an activist on modern-day slavery says that despite having a comprehensive law on bonded law, it is not adequately enforced. However, one of the major key deficiency in the law is that the fine or penalty for the abusers is very limited. Thus, even if they are convicted by the law, they can get away with it without much effort and money. This, in turn promotes people to get involved into this business.
Women and children are the easiest targets as they are vulnerable to situations. A recent survey revealed that women are either sold into sex slavery without their knowledge or they are forced into sex slavery with death threats to the entire family. These women are often from the rural and backward regions with lack of awareness. They are easily convinced for better opportunities in cities. Thus, it’s often such women who become the prey of human trafficking.
Last but not the least, the blame rests on our shoulders as much as anybody else’s. What are we doing to end this cycle, other than just reading an informative article like this? Slavery in India is not a new term but has been there for years even before Independence. But, why has 70 years of Independence not freed bonded labour? It’s because we, the so-called ‘law abiding’ citizens, haven’t taken any action against this. We have been keeping mum about this. Further, researchers and academicians need to conduct more research on bonded labour, so that this issue can be better analysed and practical solutions for the same can be thought of.
The finale of this situation is yet to come with greater horror if we continue staying back in our own little cocoon. This cycle will never end if nothing is done. Citizens and the government have to take a stand against this and free the people of their slavery and punish everyone who enslaves them. If Law and living citizens work together relentlessly, the future is gonna bright.