statistical analysis

Modern slavery in India: 5,616 enslaved every day over last two years

The number of people living in modern slavery in India rose by 4.1 million in the last two years, showed the Global Slavery Index, 2016.

“No one can imagine such a painful life. There is much torture on me and I am punished even for my minor mistakes like a child. My family is always living under threats. There is also physical violence against me and my family members.”

This is a statement made by a respondent of the surveys conducted in India as part of the Global Slavery Index, 2016.

As many as 18.3 million Indians live in conditions listed as “modern slavery” in 2016, equivalent to the population of Netherlands, a rise of 4.1 million since 2014, according to a new global report. In other words, 5,616 Indians were enslaved every day over these two years.

On an average, 51 out of every 100 people in India are vulnerable to modern slavery – bonded labour, forced begging, forced marriage, domestic services and commercial sex work – according to the Global Slavery Index 2016 compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australian advocacy.

India has the fourth-highest proportion of people living under enslaved conditions, after North Korea, Uzbekistan and Cambodia. India was at fifth position in 2014, where Qatar is at present, the report said.

“The term modern slavery refers to situations where one person has taken away another person’s freedom – to control their body, their freedom to choose, to refuse certain work or to stop working – so that they can be exploited. Freedom is taken away by threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power and deception,” the Global Slavery Index 2016 report said.

The Asia-Pacific region has the highest number of people living under conditions of modern slavery; almost 46% of human trafficking is reported from this region. While 83% victims are male, around 17% are female.

Forced- and child-marriage are high in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Indonesia. A sex-ratio imbalance, resulting in absence of brides in India, has fuelled the trafficking of women and forced marriage.

Sexual slavery has risen in concert with economic prosperity in India, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016.

The informal nature of the Indian economy has an effect on vulnerability, and accounts, in large part, for modern slavery, which is related to economic, gender and caste inequalities, as this May 2016 Economic Times report said.

In states hit by Maoist violence, such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, boys and girls between the ages of six and 12 were recruited in children’s units, the ET report said.

The following kinds of modern-day slavery are prevalent in India, according to the Global Slavery Index 2016.

  • Bonded labour: This practice persists in India, mainly because of debt, and the entire family is exposed to the risks of physical violence. People are forced to work under unhealthy conditions, and physical violence is meted out, if they refuse to work. More than 300,000 people were identified as bonded labour, with the largest – official – number in Uttar Pradesh (896,301), followed by Maharashtra (496,916), according to this answer given to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) in December 2015.
  • Domestic services: As many as 4.2 million people, including men, women and children, work as gardeners, cleaners, drivers, cooks and caregivers across the entire country. This kind of human slavery is prone to overtime working hours, withholding wages, insufficient remuneration and sometimes even physical and sexual violence, according to 2004 data published by a non-profit, Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising.
  • Forced begging: Many Indian beggars are under criminal pressure. Primary survey conducted by Walk Free Foundation suggests that beggars are deprived of basic needs of survival and continuously threatened by their employers. The leading source of income for children living on streets is rag-picking, practiced by 16% of homeless children, according to a five-city study by Save the Children, an international advocacy group. Begging is a leading occupation for 8% boys and 14% girls, but most girls are also involved in taking care of their siblings and other household work, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016.
  • Commercial sexual exploitation: Women are forced to work under threat of violence and their families are threatened with legal action if they do not capitulate once enslaved by prostitution. The estimated number of sex workers in India is three million, of whom 1.2 million are below 18 years of age, according to this 2013 report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Forced marriage: About half of Indian women are forced to marry before the legal age of 18 and then made to work as unpaid labourers. More than 9,000 married women were bought from the states of Assam and West Bengal to Haryana, according to this May 2013 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The study – involving more than 10,000 households said people who buy brides usually deny having done so, IndiaSpend reported in December 2014.

Human trafficking cases up 92% in six years

About 5,500 cases were registered across India under existing human slavery laws in 2014, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. Human trafficking rose 92% over six years to 2014, IndiaSpend reported in August 2015.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau, 2014
Source: National Crime Records Bureau, 2014

Over the past five years, 23% of human trafficking cases led to a conviction. As many as 45,375 people were arrested and 10,134 persons were convicted. Punishments range from fines to imprisonment. Over the past five years, Andhra Pradesh reported the most arrests (7,450), followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Government measures

The government has drafted a National Policy for Domestic Workers which is currently awaiting Cabinet approval.

If enacted, the policy would ensure a minimum salary of Rs 9,000 to skilled domestic help, paid and maternity leaves, social security, and the right to bargain collectively. It will also include provisions against sexual harassment and bonded labour for domestic workers.

More than 20,000 police personnel have been trained in victim identification, implementation of the new legal framework and victim-centred investigations.

This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.
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As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.