It’s not the class bias or the inhumane difference in wealth that creates the staggering number of slaves in contemporary India. More often than not, it is the debt. Certain sections of the society, sadly are in more pain than we realize. People who are willing to give up their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Slaves in India are not the way you might think. They are not chained and kept in barges, flea ridden, worth to their masters only as long as they work. Slaves in India today have some basic freedom. Freedom that allows the to earn just enough to work another day.
It is a modern slavery form of what was once called, “Bandhua Majdoori”. Money changes hands, from a rather rich benefactor to mostly impoverished farmers and such who require that money to sustain their families, make sure they have lands to work on and raw materials to work with. Usually that money is given at such exorbitant rates of interest that it is hardly even possible to pay it back. And that is what happens. The “slaves” get chained to a financial obligation that they cannot pay to get out of.
The crushing power of this bonded slavery is something that the government seems incapable of eradicating. Entire families- men, women, children, young and old are forced to work for the ones who hold the debt. And if you think that there is any respite for regular, honest work, there isn’t. If you miss out on your work, you miss out on that day’s payment; your debt grows.
People who are stuck in these situations are not allowed to walk away even if they find better employment opportunities and other aster ways to pay off these debts. They have to remain with their debtors, bound by the money that owe.
Even though debt bondage has been outlawed in India, it continues to persist at the same rate. Arguments can be made that with the rise in population, the numbers have only grown. The worst part about it though? It has only led to more children being involved as slaves.
Child Slavery- The Sad Result of Slavery in Modern India
It’s the vulnerability of helpless people that drives them to giving up their rights. Only if the exchange allows them to live another day, have one meal or continue to provide a roof over their heads.
Lives less lived and innocence lost
This allows for young girls in these situations to be used as sex slaves in one of the many red light areas across this great country. Used, abused and left once the principal is met with interest, they are then left at the hands of cruel madams or pimps. Who then take it on themselves to continue to provide them that same kind of employment.
And that sad cycle of desperation and exploitation continues.
Young children, boys and girls are forced to work at brick kilns and granite quarries every day in our country. Once in a while a politician will even mention their plight but nothing ever seems to be done about them.
What else adds to these staggering number of slaves in India?
According to the Global Slavery Index, the condition is actually worse than what we previously thought. There are an estimated 8 lakh victims of slavery in India. That number comes out to around 6.1 people in every 1000 citizens.
It is not just the forced labor aspect of it. Forced marriages of minors act as stressors to the issue too. Minors caught up in this world find themselves being used for sexual and household work, which is an absolute shame in a democracy. There is sexual harassment at every stage of the way, physical, mental and emotional humiliation.
This ends up exploiting young helpless people into selling their organs or having them carved out of their bodies without their consent. There is also the issue of using these kids trapped in indebted families, as fodder in armed conflict.
What is being done to combat this modern slavery in India?
The government has abolished bonded labor. But honestly that hasn’t made a dent in the stats. In fact the Government has denounced the international reports made about the number of slaves in India. In reality, it is the Gates Foundation’s non profit work in India that has done more for the anti-slavery mission and it actually helped shed the light on the issue in the first place.
As the conscientious youth of this country, the onus lies on us to bring these issues to light, create awareness and make sure that we as a nation can build something that is proud. Something that doesn’t involve forcing its people to work day to day to live. Because that’s not living. That is slaving away a lifetime.