India's Forced Labor — Siddharth Kara

Sex TraffickingSiddharth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, continues his extraordinary series on with a look at forced labor in India.

Kara has been traveling in South Asia researching bonded labor and in his latest installment he describes the labor exploitation in the stone crushing and beddi rolling industries. He writes:

One of the forms of bonded labour I researched for the first time during this trip was stone crushing in Haryana. Try to imagine lifting an 18 kg metal hammer over your head, then flailing it down with all your strength into hard stone.

Now try to imagine doing this in 40 C heat, with minimal food and water, twelve to fourteen hours a day, for a wage of $0.02 per square foot of stone you manage to crush. Finally, imagine you may receive half this wage now and then, or half of it may be deducted for debt repayment.

Beedi rolling also takes a heavy physical and mental toll on workers, who have often no other alternatives for work besides this very painstaking task. Not only are they exploited but they become prime candidates for human trafficking. Kara explains:

Forced labor can easily give rise to human trafficking, where people … are desperate for better wage-earning work succumb to offers from traffickers for better jobs in big cities.

Throughout rural West Bengal, I met numerous young girls who fell prey to offers for domestic work in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. They ended up working for well-to-do families around the clock, and after several months they were paid perhaps ten or twenty percent of the promised wages. Eventually, they are returned home, where they are just as desperate as before.

Sadly, the demands and whims of the globalized economy combined with local factors in India consign these workers to slave-like exploitation.

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