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India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people, there are still at least 270 million people living on less than US$1.90 per day. While laws, systems and attitudes regarding key 'fault lines' such as the caste system, gender and feudalism are rapidly changing, social change of this depth and scale necessarily takes time. In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that existing research suggests that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including intergenerational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into nonstate armed groups and forced marriage. 

Rakesh was 6 years old when he was kidnapped and forced to work long hours, drugged and beaten on a daily basis. Rakesh was finally rescued and taken to Bal Ashram where he received an education. 

When I was only 6 years old, I was taking my parents' cattle out to graze with some of my friends when a man offered us sweets. My friends and I decided to take some and were kidnapped. The sweets had something bad in it and we were too sick to run away. When I tried, I was caught and told I would be thrown out of the train. I went to three different houses before I ended up at the place I was forced to work as a slave for 6 years. I slept in a cowshed and was given tea that was drugged every morning to make me work. If I refused to drink it, I was beaten and it was forced down my throat. I worked from five in the morning to ten at night doing various chores. I was sent to cut grass and often cut my fingers from being dizzy from the drugs. 

My father had been searching for me and so with the help of the BBA, was able to rescue me. When I was found, I could not communicate with my parents as the man who mistreated me spoke another language. I had lost my mother tongue. I stayed with my parents for a few days after which I came to Bal Ashram. I was happy at Bal Ashram as I was no longer forced to work. I could play games and attend school (non-formal education). Learning and reading Hindi is my favourite. I love to communicate with drawings. I still love to draw. 


Narrative courtesy of Satyarthi Children's Foundation