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.
Kumari was taken by a family who promised to provide her with an education. However instead she was forced to do all the housework, working long hours with restricted food. After a while she became too ill to work and was finally sent home.
I am Kumari, a 10-year-old girl from Koilamari Tea Estate, hailing from a village on Assam-Arunachal border. On the pretext of educating me, a family from Arunachal had taken me to their home. Since they promised to educate me, I happily went back with them hoping to receive a good education. However, I was never told to go to school, rather they sent me for clearing the jungle and fetching water from far off streams and I was also required to do all the household work. I could not say anything as I did not know what agreement they had made with my parents. I missed my home and the love and care of my family. Apart from receiving hardly any food or good conditions to live in, I was too tired with the overload of work. My health was becoming weaker and weaker, yet my employers never bothered to give me any rest. Later, I was rejected and completely ignored since my poor health did not permit me to perform my duties. I was finally sent home since I was of no use to my employers anymore. I am one such victim, but there are so many who have gone to someone's house with the hope of a better future but have ended up being treated in the most inhuman manner. Many like me are willing to migrating because we realize how difficult it is for our parents to look after us. I thank Gunjan Bhaiya and Binoy for helping me re-join school.
Narrative provided by Centre for Development Initiatives (India) in ‘Untold Stories: A Compiled caste stories of Domestic Workers’