There are an estimated almost 8 million people living in modern slavery in India (GSI 2018). 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.
Annis was forced to go out to work after his father became sick and blind. He is forced to work long hours in a garment factory for little pay. Whatever he does earn, Annis sends back to his family. He tells of how he is forced to sleep where he works, live in unhygienic conditions and has his pay cut whenever he makes a mistake.
The police always cause trouble for us. They often raid here in search of child workers so the owners pay 200-500 rupees per month to the police to stop the raids. If the police take us they torture us until we pay them money.
The manager is known to my father. But it never stops him from treating me badly.
My work takes a great deal of concentration. Focusing on the needle and thread is very bad for your eyesight but we cannot think of the health impact because we need the money. This has become our way of life, we cannot change it.
I send Rs 500 per month to my family. My father is sick. He became blind from embroidering all his life. He is too weak to work so I have responsibility to look after my family.
We start working as soon as we wake up and do not even eat breakfast because the cost of food has increased drastically. We sleep in the same place where we work and all workers here share the same single dirty toilet and bathroom.
Children are paid a very low wage, only half as much as adults. My wage is also cut every time I make a small mistake. Most of the children can’t read and we have to trust the contractor to be fair and pay us our wages but sometime he forgets to enter our proper wage into the accounts and so we lose money.
Narrative provided by Anti-Slavery International from their report ‘Slavery on the High Street: Forced Labour in the manufacture of garments for international brands’, June 2012.