India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people, there are still at least 270 million people living on less than US$1.90 per day. While laws, systems and attitudes regarding key 'fault lines' such as the caste system, gender and feudalism are rapidly changing, social change of this depth and scale necessarily takes time. In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that existing research suggests that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including intergenerational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into nonstate armed groups and forced marriage.
Aanya was living in poor conditions and having to care for nine children when her husband fell sick. In order to pay for his treatment, she took a loan from a mahajan and was forced to work at his house to repay the debt. When one day she had to care for her husband and could not go in to work, the mahajan refused to allow her back to work, forcing Aanya to send her children to work in the fields to help repay back the debt.
We belong to a very poor family and somehow manage to live through by working. We have a lot of children in the house. My husband got married at a very young age. Nobody is educated at my in laws’ place nor is my husband. Though I had wished to marry an educated man it was not possible cause of my poor financial status. In fact, I had to marry a disabled person.
My husband was blind. I had a baby soon after I was married. When I told my husband not to have many children in this age of high costs he abused me. He forced things on me and I could not do anything as he was my husband and so with time I had 8 children. Once tired when I retaliated he beat me a lot I thought this is my life and tired I finally ran away from home and went to my parents’ house.
Around two years I stayed at my mother’s place. Finally tired from society’s talks my husband brought me back. He remained the same and I had another child by him very soon. There was only one earning member in the family. He worked at the fields and earned whatever little money he got and we lived on it.
Around a year, back my husband fell sick. We had to borrow around Rs. 20,000 for his treatment. The mahajan took 5% for every Rs. 100.To repay that I used to work at the mahajan’s house. He did not let me work anywhere else other than his house.
One day when my husband fell sick, I could not go for work. Next day when I went for work, he refused to take work from me saying that I work at other’s fields. I pleaded a lot but he did not agree and took me out from work. He abused me a lot too.
Where would I return all the money from so I started sending one of my daughters to work in the fields. She earned Rs 100 per day. She does not want to earn but instead wants to study but if she does not work where would she eat from?
Around 6 months back, a contractor from Sonwarsa had come in our village. He had a chicken farm. He was taking a lot of children from the village for work. He came and talked to us too and said he would pay Rs. 2500 monthly and take my children and would keep them like his own family. He took my son and gave me Rs. 500. Some days later when I talked to my son he said he gets only Rs. 1000 monthly and he also made my son work at the alcohol factory.
Things are so expensive that I am forced to make my children work. My son cries a lot as he is just 9 years old. He often cuts his hand while cutting the chickens. I have to make my children work because of which we are able to survive.
Life Story 5 as told to the Institute of Development Studies for their report 'Patterns and Dynamics of Slavery and Bonded Labour in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh: Findings from Life Story Analysis'