There are an estimated almost 8 million people living in modern slavery in India (GSI 2018). 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.
Nanhe was a teenager when he began working in a garment factory in Delhi to pay of his father’s debts. Nanhe is forced to stay in the factory for days at a time and tells of the health problems he and others suffer from working there.
Two years ago my mother became ill. We had no money to pay for her treatment so my father borrowed Rs 5,000 from a moneylender. Even though my mother was treated, the doctors could still not save her, so we borrowed money again to pay for her funeral. In order to pay off this debt I had to drop out of school and start working in a garment factory in Delhi
This is a very hard job. We live where we work and the floor is our bed. We are under pressure to produce as many as pieces as we can. When we are busy we stay inside the factory for days at a time. Because we are only paid for what we make, we can’t afford to have a day off.
We all suffer with many health problems. My legs go numb from sitting all day and workers often become ill. We all live together in a very small area and use the same toilet. It is also impossible to go to hospital anyway because we can’t afford it.
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.