The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day there were nearly 8 million people living in modern slavery in India. While the bonded labour system is formally abolished and criminalised, recent research indicated that bonded labour is still prevalent in India. A 2016 report found that in the state of Tamil Nadu, 351 of 743 spinning mills used bonded labour schemes, otherwise known as Sumangali schemes. Similarly in granite quarries, wage advances and loans with an interest ranging from 24% to 36% are used to bond workers. Situations of debt bondage are often aggravated by the need to raise emergency funds or take on loans for health crises.
Gunja moved to Delhi from Tripura in the hopes of finding work. However, unable to make enough money to support his family, was forced to take out a loan from the garment factory owner where he worked. He is now trapped in debt bondage until he has paid back the money he borrowed.
I moved to Delhi from Tripura (next to Bangladesh) in 2002 after the death of my father. I was a tailor in my village. When my father died, my uncle took all our lands and forced my family to move out of our house.
When we first came to Delhi there was not much work. I was only paid on a piece rate basis and that was not sufficient to look after my family, therefore I had to take loan from the factory owner. Within six months the debt had increased to Rs 8,000 [approximately GBP 114, or USD 182]
I had to borrow some more money when I arranged marriage for my daughter. In total I owed Rs. 40,000 to the factory owner.
I work around 13-14 hours a day and earn around Rs 5,000-6,000 per month when it is busy. I live in a single room with my family and pay Rs 1,500 per month as rent. I don’t have any option to leave until I have paid back the money to the factory owner.
Narrative provided by Anti-Slavery International from their report ‘Slavery on the High Street: Forced Labour in the manufacture of garments for international brands’, June 2012.