According to government statistics, some 75 percent of rural workers and 69 percent of urban workers are in the informal economy. The country s steady population growth and the corresponding demand for improvement of infrastructure and increased dwellings have enabled the 'blood bricks' produced in these industries to continue. For example, in Bihar, agricultural shocks, high prevalence within the population of members of the Scheduled Castes, combined with borders to Nepal, result in forced labour connected to migration for work both within and from India.
Also, Bihar is one of the states affected by the Naxalite conflict. According to the UN Security Council, Naxalites in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha states recruited boys and girls between six and 12 years of age into specific childrens units. Uttar Pradesh which has the highest proportion of castes and tribes of all Indian states, the issues are quite different.
For example, so-called —manual scavenging is reported to be still widely practised, in which members of a certain caste are required to clean out dry latrines.
When they seek to leave or refuse to do this work, they face violence and abuse. While factors such as dowry payments and a desire to avoid sexual violence are commonly given as reasons for early and child marriage, recent research suggests that these are symptoms of deeper risk factors.
Vulnerability to early and child marriage has been attributed to a complex matrix of underlying risk factors, reflecting the interplay of patriarchy, class, caste, religion and sexuality, that all impact on decision making. There are reported to be 14 million Indian men and women working overseas, primarily in the Gulf, many of whom will have sought work through their networks rather than formal channels.
These channels leave migrants with little recourse against practices such as unilateral contracts, dangerous working and living conditions, limited movement and access to communications, withholding of passports and wages, and physical and sexual abuse.
In UP, statistics on bonded labour suggest remarkable improvements, reflecting the work of NGOs that work with local communities to bring people out of bonded labour. What began with a promise of better life soon turned into drudgery, perennial hunger, abuse and physical violence. After enduring these conditions for 12 months, the labourers were sold by the employer to another brick kiln owner.
A young man named Deepak Das name changed broke this cycle of exploitation when he escaped from the kiln. Back in his village, he met the NGO team who were there to establish a Community Vigilance Committee village-level self-help groups.
The Bonded Labour Act establishes a system to release and rehabilitate of bonded labourers, and prosecute offenders but it requires action from local authorities. The brick kiln was raided by a joint team from the police, labour and social welfare departments.
The NGO ensured that the freed labourers received their release certificate and had their statements recorded under the Bonded Labour Act. This enabled the victims to receive rehabilitation benefits and entitlements from the government.
The freed labourers were also sensitised on the larger issue of enslavement and trafficking, which encouraged them to help the NGO identify new cases in their area.
Civil society action, organised by the people, for the people, is the backbone of the anti-slavery movement in India. It provides support to law enforcement while creating the conditions of trust that victims of abuse, exploitation and neglect require. Continued cooperation between civil society organisations and law enforcement is key to ending bonded labour. From the 'Less than Human' series. A large cargo boat is seen in Songkla Port, Thailand.
Photographer Chris Kelly worked undercover to expose the link between prawns being sold in big name supermarkets, and the slaves who live and work on Thai fishing boats miles out to sea.
Given the scale and complexity of the issue in India, it is significant that the government of India has taken many steps designed to address vulnerability on a broad scale.
Recent amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act makes it an offence to, among other things, compel a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to do begar or other forms of forced or bonded labour; dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or dig graves; or do manual scavenging. The amendments also make it an offence to promote dedicating a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe woman to a deity, idol, object of worship, temple, or other religious institution as a devadasi or any other similar practice.
It also includes calls for provisions against sexual harassment and bonded labour for domestic workers. Track Child provides a forum for police to exchange information on missing children, while the new site extends to the public, allowing registration of missing children by their families in coordination with police efforts. However, there is no distinction drawn under the existing trafficking legislation between human trafficking and sex work which makes interpretation of results difficult.
There is also no current legislation covering the use of children in armed conflict. While each agency has different mandates and areas to cover, the absence of strong, continuing coordination across these agencies had led to a fragmented and complex response to modern slavery. Implementation of anti-trafficking laws in the Penal Code is the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which provides information about cross-government efforts on its anti-trafficking portal.
The portal includes criminal justice statistics, details of anti-trafficking police units, information on government and law enforcement training, and information on anti-trafficking legislation and reporting mechanisms, including the ChildLine hotline.
Outside this, there are concerns about the effectiveness of the response to bonded labour in India. These are mandated to facilitate interagency coordination for the rescue of children and postrescue care efforts, to monitor interventions and provide feedback, and to collect and analyse data related to trafficking to be shared with state governments and the media as appropriate. The government continued to expand the number of units across the country, reaching units by December , with the aim to establish anti-human trafficking units.
It is reported that one issue relates to budget, but there are also numerous systemic issues that result in investigations stopping at state boundaries.
Reflecting these concerns, a recent National Legal Services Authority submission to the Supreme Court called for a central investigations bureau to be established to investigate cross-border crimes. The government victim compensation scheme also extends to victims of human trafficking; however, the amount and efficiency of dispersal is largely dependent on the state administration and is not available country-wide.
The Ujjawala project is one of the primary support systems in India for children and young women at risk, but this does not necessarily equate to specialist services for victims of trafficking. Most shelters have limited facilities and resources to provide holistic support. Furthermore, under existing laws, survivors under the age of 21 can and are subject to extended periods of court ordered custody in protective homes, effectively resulting in their detention.
Indian police have cooperated with regional counterparts on transnational human trafficking investigations. In , Indian and Bangladeshi police undertook a joint investigation to identify two Bangladeshi girls sold into commercial sexual exploitation in India.
Both girls were found and successfully repatriated; the offenders are being prosecuted under new anti-trafficking provisions. The Supreme Court also highlighted the need for stronger victim protection legislation and protocols and provision of adequate shelters.
An inter-ministerial committee has been formed, legislation has been drafted and certain outcomes appear close to completion. For example, efforts to develop a comprehensive standard operating procedure on rescue, rehabilitation and prevention of trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation was being finalised at the time of print.
Part of the challenge will be to ensure that gains already made are not lost in efforts to create a new system, while the new system does not add another layer of complexity to an already overcrowded system.
Government Response The importance of law enforcement The importance of law enforcement With the population of most Indian states being larger than the population of many countries, the role of state police in combatting modern slavery is critical. In July , the AHTU of Telangana state police removed 39 women and girls who had been trapped working in squalid conditions in a brothel in Chandrapur, a city in Maharashtra.
The operation is an example of successful cross-state cooperation, as police and NGOs from both States worked together to get the women to safety and prosecute the perpetrators. The operation was initiated by the Crime Investigation Department of Telangana police after gathering information from a victim, who had escaped the brothel and returned to her village. The police team undertook days of preparatory work, including a reconnaissance of the area, briefing the local police department in the neighbouring state and training on proper conduct during the operation.
The AHTU raid found women and girls living in unhygienic conditions in cramped rooms. Of the 39 victims, a number were HIV positive and some were pregnant. Children of the women were living in the custody of the traffickers. Charging rupees for every client, the women received half, and half was taken away by the traffickers. The women were denied food when they tried to refuse clients. The AHTU arrested the perpetrators and presented them to the local magistrate.
The victims were taken safely back to shelters in Hyderabad. The accused were sent to judicial custody and the Preventive Detention Act was invoked against the repeat offenders. Government Response The importance of successful prosecutions The importance of successful prosecutions Prosecution of perpetrators is a critical part of any response to modern slavery. In any country, securing a prosecution is typically a long and hard process, but this is particularly true in India, given the millions of cases pending in the overworked judicial system.
Legal support for the victim can make the difference between case failure and successful prosecution. In March , lawyers associated with an NGO in Bihar, won a three-year long case that resulted in sentencing of four traffickers and financial restitution for the year-old victim who had been kidnapped, sexually abused, enslaved and then sold by her handler in a ten-monthlong ordeal. The victim received 60 percent of the fine amount.
The lawyers who fought the case provided legal support to the victim throughout the trial, which can be a very difficult and emotionally-fraught process. The lawyers also worked with the public prosecutor to build a strong case against the accused.
Every successful prosecution helps to change the current balance of risk, in which modern slavery is a high-profit lowrisk activity for perpetrators. Rajshahi, Bangladesh, January Dipa is 13 years old and has been engaged in prostitution for five months. She used to go to school, but stopped in class three after her family could no longer afford to send her.
Her two sisters are also engaged in prostitution, but clients prefer to visit Dipa as she is the youngest of the three. For example, given the high levels of internal migration, there is a clear need to ensure State police are encouraged and enabled to continue investigations across borders.
This needs to be in addition to any central investigations bureau which will likely focus on only the most complex cases. Ratify and implement the Domestic Workers Convention. Proactively require all states to follow up on the Supreme Court Judgment of October 15, , to identify and release those in bonded labour, and report on progress.
Require States who report zero cases of bonded labour to show what steps have been taken to actually find and assist bonded labourers. Update regulations and processes for the implementation of the Bonded Labour Act, and report on its implementation. Focus on practical ways to regulate and monitor practices of placement agencies. Implement a new National Action Plan that targets the full spectrum of modern slavery, while recognising the differences between highly organised crime which is likely to be cross-border and more localised practices of bonded labour.
Ensure that victims are not criminalised or detained both by law enforcement and in the shelter system. Victims must be protected including protecting their identities throughout the duration of their court cases. Repeal laws which permit detention of victims. Increase the proportion of female police officers in enforcement. Create and monitor implementation of standard operating procedures for shelter homes to support quality and rights based post-rescue rehabilitation of survivors.
Prevent the recruitment of children into AOGs and provide targeted rehabilitative services to rescued children. Business Partner with civil society organisations to provide safe work and vocational training to survivors of modern slavery, under the Company Act corporate social responsibility requirements. Export-oriented industries such as textiles, agriculture and carpet weaving should work through their industry bodies and with appropriate third parties to create industry-wide supply chains that are free of modern slavery.
Domestic industries, such as construction, manufacturing and brick kilns, should work with state governments and local organisations to find innovative ways of eliminating the need for child and bonded labour in their businesses. Footnotes Rajiv Kumar, India Survey sample size in each State was except for Andra Pradesh and Telangana which was split into two states during the survey process, where a sample of was applied to each.
Arunkumar, "Occupational health hazards and causative factors of male adult bonded labourers of South India: