I had an intense debate with myself regarding whether or not I should make this post because I was concerned about projecting India in excessively bad light. In fact, I think that in its 64 years of independence and unison, India has managed to accomplish unprecedented goals. The last decade has been especially productive, as the economy has grown approx 7.5% a year, the GDP has reached $1.4 trillion, hourly wages for laborers has doubled, millions have risen from poverty and millions more are not dying of starvation. However, as high rises and corporate ideals establish themselves in the bigger cities, there are people that modern India appears to have left behind and their story is worth sharing. In states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan, the evidence of slave labor is overwhelming, as some activists and government officials estimate numbers of between 10-30 million.
A vast majority of these workers are victims at birth, paying a price for personal loans taken by their parents or other close relatives, loans that will lead them into a life of intense labor and hardship. These workers work from sunrise to sunset with food and water being their only compensation. Labor rights and liberty are just figments of their imagination as they find themselves embedded in a cruel cycle that inherently pegged them at the bottom of the countries status quo.
The reason this is a cycle is because it is hard to pay off debt when one does not get paid. Many of these workers are paying the debt of ancestors they have never met and in all probability their children will do the same. They work because they are forced, illiterate and stuck in a bubble that democracy has apparently disregarded. The fact that such labor is illegal does not seem to phase or affect their employers, who for years have enjoyed the benefits of free labor.
What gets lost is the fact that these are Indian citizens with equal rights and traditionally in cases like this I would direct bulk of the blame to the local governments and law enforcement authorities. However, in a country that has a police to person ratio of 0.95 per 1000 people, there is a significant lack of government man power. The onus therefore I feel falls on capable citizens who need to push for this to become a national agenda.
The Indian public has proven to fight for its beliefs before. The conservation of Tigers, women’s rights and environmentally friendly industries are good examples of citizens expressing their apprehension over dreadful situations. India is the largest democracy in the world and the very premise of a democracy is that everyone matters. These people are getting enslaved, beaten, grossly mistreated and humiliated. Let us all do what we can to aid the human rights initiative.