I was shocked and ashamed to read that India ranked number one in absolute terms on the global slavery index (GSI) for having the largest number of human beings in shackles of slavery!!! India ranked number one slave owner with between 13,300,000- 14,700,000 people in India who have been denied their freedom by other Indians.
These ‘other Indians’ are the privileged classes and politically well-connected. The real figures could be even more but what these figures mask is the immense pain, misery and torture of the over one crore of our country-men, women and children.
Even China which is seen as a big offender of human rights and which ranked second on the GSI had far less people in slavery at between 2,80,000-3,100,000 and Pakistan that vacillates between military dictatorship and democracy has even lesser slaves at between 2 million and 2.2 million!
These figures were released globally on the occasion of the launch of the Global Freedom Network – an inter-faith commitment to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020.
Slavery as defined by the Walk Free Foundation that compiled the GSI 2013 includes people under slavery through debt bondage and bondage labour, forced labour and human trafficking.
Human trafficking refers to the process through which they are brought through deception, threats or coercion into slavery, forced labour or other forms of severe exploitation. In short as the WFF says it involves one person depriving another/others of their freedom.
In the cacophony of electoral politics it’s a pity that this shocking and shameful bit of information will barely see the light of day forget about it being made an election plank on any party’s agenda.
And yet while the Opposition parties want to free the country from the 10-year Congress-led regime they seem oblivious to the over one crore people living in slavery in our so-called democracy.
There was an uproar against Aam Aadmi chief Arvind Kejriwal and Gandhian Anna Hazare for trampling over the Constitution in their attempt to bypass the Parliament in getting their version of the Lok Pal Bill passed.
But what about this rampaging of Article 21 of the Constitution by the successive Congress governments in their colossal failure to free over one crore people from slavery? The party is now shedding magarmach ki assoo (crocodile tears) over the RSS allegedly behind the killing of Gandhiji. But what about the over one crore Indians for whose freedom Gandhiji fought, being kept in slavery even after nearly 60 years of this one party’s rule?
Article 21 of The Constitution Of India 1949 promises :“Protection of life and personal liberty. No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” So where is this established-by-law procedure that says you can keep people in slavery?
Vidhan Maheshwari in an article on Article 21 says: The state is under a constitutional obligation to see that there is no violation of the fundamental right of any person, particularly when he belongs to the weaker section of the community and is unable to wage a legal battle against a strong and powerful opponent who is exploiting him.
Both the Central Government and the State Government are therefore bound to ensure observance of the various social welfare and labour laws enacted by Parliament for the purpose of securing to the workmen a life of basic human dignity in compliance with the directive principles of the state policy.
So why are the exploiters of these over one crore people not in jail? It is not that there is no awareness of slavery existing in our country. My first acquaintance with human bondage, which was an indescribable cultural shock, was in the late sixties and early seventies.
As a young reporter I covered the drought in Maharashtra year after year under the tutelage of such splendidly committed women like Ahilya Rangnekar of the CPI (M) and Mrinal Gore of the then Socialist Party. They (now sadly, they are no more) and others have waged and continue to wage battles against slavery.
There have been various struggles against human bondage and laws have been enacted to abolish bonded labour etc. So why this officially-stamped lawless constitutional anarchy that has now been meticulously documented by the Walk Free Foundation and is a global shame for India?
It’s even more the pity because one would have expected Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party to take this up as the second if not first biggest crime against the poor and needy people, after corruption.
Even the issue of corruption which is the biggest weapon of the privileged to impoverish the people of India, is taking a back-seat with Mr Kejriwal concentrating more on expanding his constituency and hogging the limelight by taking on an opponent like Mr Narendra Modi which has nothing to do with corruption or slavery.
One wonders at the sham-ness and shallowness of the election issues, the biggest of them being the so-called secular issue. What does secularism mean to the over one crore people in slavery? To slaves, freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose
India, Pakistan lead Global Slavery Index rankings
LONDON – An estimated 30 million people worldwide are living in modern-day slavery, according to the inaugural Global Slavery Index.
The index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, said that while India by far had the largest number of enslaved people, the problem was most prevalent in the West
African nation of Mauritania, where four per cent of the population was deemed to be held in slavery.
The WFF hopes the annual index will help governments to monitor and tackle what it calls a “hidden crime”.
“A lot of governments won’t like hearing what we have to say,” chief executive Nick Grono told AFP.
“Those governments that want to engage with us, we will be very open to engaging and looking at ways in which we can better measure the issue of modern slavery.”
Established in May last year, the WFF is a 20-strong team based in Perth on the Australian west coast, founded by philanthropists Andrew Forrest – the chairman of Fortescue Metals Group – and his wife Nicola.
It has the backing of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Britain’s ex-prime minister Tony Blair, current Australian PM Tony Abbott and philanthropists Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mo Ibrahim.
The foundation’s definition of modern slavery includes slavery itself, plus slavery-like practices – such as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children – human trafficking and forced labour.
“A lot of people are very surprised to hear that slavery still exists,” said Grono, explaining how many people assume it ended when the Atlantic slave trade was abolished in the 1800s.
“What modern slavery is is a situation that reflects all of the characteristics of slavery of past centuries,” he said.
“People are controlled by violence. They are tricked or they are forced into jobs or situations where they are economically exploited. They live on no pay or base subsistence pay and they’re not free to leave.”
The foundation has pulled together the best available experts in the field, data from respected outside sources and their own analysis to compile the 162-country index.
“It is tough because slavery is a hidden crime, so it’s difficult to get data. It’s a bit like trying to measure domestic violence or drug trafficking,” Grono admitted.
“We’ve very conscious that it’s very hard to measure this.” The countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery were Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon. Moldova – once part of the Soviet Union – was the only European nation in the top 10.
The index describes Mauritania as a nation with “deeply entrenched hereditary slavery”, while “people in slavery may be bought and sold, rented out and given away as gifts”. Grono said the inherited slave status was “very shocking”.
“In Mauritania, kids are born into slavery,” he explained.
“Women and men are enslaved and their children are often forced into a situation of domestic servitude or forced to work in the fields.”
Russia came 49th, China 84th, United States 134th, France 139th and Britain joint bottom on 160.
In terms of total numbers, the countries with the most people in modern slavery were estimated to be India (13.95 million), followed by China (2.95 million) and Pakistan (2.1 million). The report estimated that 72 per cent of people in modern slavery live in Asia. In India, “by far the largest proportion of this problem is the exploitation of Indian citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labour”, the report said.
The estimated 2.9 million people in modern slavery in China “includes the forced labour of men, women and children in many parts of the economy, including domestic servitude and forced begging, the sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage,” said the report.
Pakistan came third – in both the proportionate and total rankings – with 1.8 million people forced into bonded labour, out of a total 2.1 million people in slavery.
Among the top 10, the WFF said Moldova and Ivory Coast were working hard to address the issue, but efforts in the top three – Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan – are “token at best and non-existent at worst”, the report said. Grono said: “Modern slavery is an issue that’s getting an awful lot of attention. It’s illegal everywhere and it’s absolutely abhorrent. “I think once we start pointing out the scale of the problem on a country by country basis, policy makers will react. “Slavery exists in every country in the world.”