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.
Mahadevi was forced to work long hours in a garment factory, with no pay for overtime and no breaks. She tells of the poor living conditions she was forced to stay in.
At first I only worked eight hours a day but soon we were made to work overtime without pay. We were not allowed a break and had to get permission from the supervisor even to go to the toilet.
Twelve of us slept in a small room and there was only one toilet and bathroom for all workers stayed in the hostel. We were given really poor food. The rice was dirty and we would find insects in it. Workers preferred to starve than eat that. We had to work with an empty stomach on most days.
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.