Data Card

Global slavery

Print edition : February 20, 2015

THE Global Slavery Index 2014 estimates that 35.8 million people, including children, are enslaved around the world. The Index is in its second annual edition and is brought out by the Walk Free Foundation, which says its mission is “to end modern slavery in our generation by mobilising a global activist movement, generating the highest quality research, enlisting business and working with government to drive change in those countries and industries bearing the greatest responsibility for slavery today”. The Foundation was started by Andrew Forrest, an Australian tycoon, and his wife, both of whom pledged half their wealth to charity while living.

Highest prevalence

The West African nation of Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in modern slavery at 4 per cent of its population, followed by Uzbekistan (3.97 per cent), Haiti (2.3 per cent), Qatar (1.36 per cent), and India (1.14 per cent).

The 10 countries with the greatest prevalence account for 71 per cent of the overall global total.

India ranks fifth in percentage terms but in terms of absolute numbers, it tops the list with an estimated 14.29 million enslaved people, followed by China (3.24 million), Pakistan (2.06 million), Uzbekistan (1.2 million, new to the top five), and Russia (1.05 million). This totals 61 per cent of those living in modern slavery.

Modern slavery refers to bonded labour (often over generations), trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced marriages and forced prostitution, domestic servitude, and being with organised begging gangs. It also includes certain professions and manufacturing sectors such as brick-making, carpet weaving, embroidery, certain textile manufacturing, agriculture and mining (ironically the founder of the Walk Free Foundation is a mining magnate).

The Indian condition

The estimated number of enslaved people in India is 14,285,700. This is equivalent to 1.1409 per cent of the country’s total population. There are certain groups rated as highly vulnerable and among them are Dalits with their low social protection and inability to move out of their group. Informal labourers, women and girls are also listed as highly vulnerable.

Vulnerability of the average Indian citizen to modern slavery is rated at 56.7 per cent.

Government Response is rated by the Index as a CCC. That translates as poor because it means the government has limited victim support services and has policies that may actually criminalise and/or deport victims and/ or facilitate slavery, relies largely on non-governmental organisations with international funding to handle case of this sort, etc.

The Index acknowledges that in 2014 the Ministry of Home Affairs launched the “anti-trafficking portal”, which provides information on criminal justice statistics, anti-trafficking police units, government and law enforcement training, the anti-trafficking legislation, and reporting mechanisms, including the ChildLine hotline number. However, giving crucial information about forced or bonded labour is relegated to being the responsibility of the Department of Labour and that on human trafficking is seen as the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice.

Bonded labour is monitored by the National Human Rights Commission. There is also a Supreme Court order that has authorised district vigilance committees to survey bonded labour in their regions. Karnataka is the only State that has implemented this order.

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