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.
After his father became ill and eventually passed away, 13-year-old Anil has been working to help support his mother and four siblings.
My name is Anil. I’m 13-years old. I was up at five every day. I do the joining work on glass bangles. When the bangles come from the factory to our house, the bangle isn’t joined. It’s not a full circle, so I have to hold it in the flame to put the ends together. Women wear these bangles. Only finished ones go back to the factory for decoration. Then they go to the shops and markets, and women buy them. Only three of us are working. My father got very ill, and we had to spend all the money we got on medicine. Now he’s not here anymore, so things are very difficult.
When I first started this work, I burned my whole hand, not just my fingers. But slowly, I’ve got used to the work. I still burn my fingers, but because I’ve burnt them so much, the skin’s got tough, so now it doesn’t hurt as much. But when I burn my fingers, I feel like I just want to stop working. But because I have to work, I keep going. If I don’t work, we can’t afford to eat. The fumes get into my eyes. My eyes start to burn, and I can’t see properly. I get a lot of diseases. I wish I could go to school. Then I’d have friends and be able to play with the other children. What is there in this work? At the end of the day, I earn 4 rupees for each bundle, so I only earn around 40 rupee a day. But if I could go to school, I could learn and get a proper job, and earn more.
I imagine England to be full of big houses and good streets with lots of children and good playgrounds for children. Their lives must be very different to mine. They must wear good clothes there. I don’t wear good clothes. They must be playing at clean playgrounds. I’m just running around here, playing in the mud. In the evenings, I do some more work and then we go to bed. All my family sleeps together in one room. We sleep there on the earth.
Narrative provided by Speak 4 Change Foundation