Child Labour Forced Labour Modern Slavery

Country Profile: India

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[James Clough]

…it is very common for these young children – some aged as young as 7 – to be taken advantage of, deceived and forced into a life of slavery.


India is well renowned for being a hugely populated country. It is the second largest population on the planet amassing a whopping 1.35 billion people who call it home, growing at a rapid rate. In fact, over the past ten years India has expanded its total population by approximately 200 million people – that’s roughly 15% of its population over a 10-year period. Unfortunately, India’s economy hasn’t been able to show the same amount of growth as its population, particularly in regional parts of India creating significant issues in the country or amplifying other issues that have been lingering within the country over a long span of time.

A major issue growing as a result of the disparity between this rapid rate of population growth and economic growth at a much meagre rate is the unemployment in the country, particularly for younger generations with no skills or experience and those living in rural parts of India where economic growth has been slower compared to larger cities. In many cases young children are forced to move away from homes – if they are lucky enough to have one – at a young age in order to seek opportunities for them to be paid well and gain employment which wouldn’t be on offer in their hometowns, a big reason why they’re so desperate for these opportunities is in order to avoid a life of poverty which is very common and a large issue in India. Given this, it is very common for these young children – some aged as young as 7 – to be taken advantage of, deceived and forced into a life of slavery.

It is no surprise that India is home to the largest amount of child labourers on the planet. There have been a number of reports into many, many different ways in which children have been exploited in India as a result of poor economic conditions; girls who have been forced to toil 14-16 hours a day in cottonseed production across the country, a large percentage of India’s stone cutting sector had once been found to be 40% child labour, an NGO found children working in mines at one point in time, scenes from the movie ‘The Slumdog Millionaire’ show children working as beggars for mafia type groups, these are all a reality in India and the list goes on in regard to larger operations like those just touched on.

It is, however, not just large-scale operations where children are being forced into different forms of slavery in India; as recently as 2013, 24 children were found working in a bakery. The boys were all from villages far away from where the bakery was based and had been told by traffickers that there was good work on offer, jobs that paid well. The children found it hard to turn such an opportunity as touched on earlier such offers are rare in these rural villages. The traffickers brought the children to a bakery – far away from their homes – where they became entrapped, forced to work at night for no pay, fed once a day, beaten frequently and locked up in cells above the bakery during the day time; the boys were trapped there for more than 8 months before authorities were able to find them and free them.

For people living in a Western country it seems unfathomable for something as normal, as common as a bakery to be involved in child slavery but in many countries around the globe it is a reality that things so common to us are still involved in child slavery. It is important to realise that it isn’t just the odd multi-national company we sometimes see on the TV involved in child labour, it isn’t just mafia-type groups who are involved in child slavery around the world. That it isn’t just practises or groups we normally wouldn’t see in our everyday lives that are contributing to child slavery in today’s modern world, it is also things we see in our everyday lives – a bakery for example – that are contributing to the issue of child slavery around the wold.

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