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.
At 15 years old Shahid was forced to work in a garment factory after his father borrowed money to pay for health care. He is forced to work long hours for little pay, what he does earn goes to pay off his father’s debt.
I come from Sair village in Uttar Pradesh. There are 13 people from my village working alongside me in the factory.
My father is ill and now cannot work. My father borrowed Rs 20,000 from a local moneylender but cannot pay back the money. He gets harassed by the moneylender so I send a small amount to him every month.
My younger sister now looks after the family. I want to visit my father but I am pressurised by the work and have no time to go to my village. We are doing an order for an export company; I can probably take leave after completing this contract. If I go in between my owner will cut my salary.
All workers in our factory are paid on piece rate basis. My monthly wage is Rs 2,000. The working atmosphere is very bad. I have never been in such a bad situation.
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.