“Modern Slavery” and India


The 2016 ‘Global Survey on Modern Slavery’ ranked 167 countries based on the proportion of the population estimated to be in slavery. India came in fourth after North Korea, Uzbekistan and Cambodia.

In terms of the absolute numbers of people in slavery, India ranked first — ahead of China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In its assessment of the response of governments to fight slavery, the 2016 report ranked India behind Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, but ahead of Pakistan and China.


  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency dealing with labour problems, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all.
  • The ILO has 187 member states: 186 of the 193 UN member states plus the Cook Islands are members of the ILO.
  • The UN member states which are not members of the ILO are Andorra, Bhutan, Liechtenstein, Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, and North Korea.
  • In 1969, the organization received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving peace among classes, pursuing decent work and justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to other developing nations.
  • The ILO registers complaints against entities that are violating international rules; however, it does not impose sanctions on governments.
  • Unlike other United Nations specialized agencies, the International Labour Organization has a tripartite governing structure – representing governments, employers, and workers .


The Walk Free Foundation is an organization attempting to end contemporary slavery and human trafficking. The organization was founded by Andrew Forrest and Nicola Forrest. Its CEO is Nick Grono. It is known for its Global Slavery Index.


The Global Slavery Index presents an annual ranking of 167 countries based on the percentage of a country’s population that is estimated to be in modern slavery.

The index provides rankings across three dimensions:

  • Size of the problem: What is the estimated prevalence of modern slavery country by country in terms of percentage of population and absolute figures
  • Government response: How are governments tackling modern slavery
  • Vulnerability: What factors explain or predict the prevalence of modern slavery [4]

The Global Slavery Index is a tool that provides greater understanding of the issue for citizens, non-governmental organisations, businesses, and public officials so that they can build sound policies that will end modern slavery. All data involved in producing the Global Slavery Index are also available for public download and interrogation from the website.

The index is controversial. According to researchers an analysis of the index’s methods reveals significant and critical weaknesses and raises questions about its replicability and validity.

In 2013, the Walk Free Foundation became a founder of the Freedom Fund, an anti-slavery non-profit organization.


  • Slavery is an extreme form of inequality, and exists within a competing matrix of political, economic, societal, cultural and religious pressures. Modern slavery is bound to some of the most complex issues facing world leaders.
  • Modern slavery refers to situations where one person has taken away another person’s freedom – their freedom to control their body, their freedom to choose to refuse certain work or to stop working – so that they can be exploited. Freedom is taken away by threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power and deception.(Source- WFF official site)
  • Men, women and children who are forced to work against their will, or who are living in forced marriages are the “modern slaves”.
  • The first category covers domestic workers, construction labourers, factory workers, farmhands etc., working under threat or coercion.
  • In many cases, the products (food, clothes, etc.) that they make, or the services (housekeeping etc.) that they provide, end up in seemingly legitimate commercial channels.
  • The second category consists of individuals — an overwhelming number of whom are women — who are in marriages to which they had not consented. They have lost their sexual autonomy, and often provide labour under the guise of ‘marriage’.

What does the Indian Constitution say about Slavery/bonded labour?

Article 23. Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour

(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law

(2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purpose, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them

The Parliament, accordingly,  passed The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act in 1976 and The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act in 1986.

In 1982, the Supreme Court defined forced labour as any labour for which the worker received less than the minimum wage stipulated by the government — the logic being that no one would work for less than the minimum wage unless “he is acting under the force of some compulsion”. (People’s Union for Democratic Rights and Others vs Union of India and Others)

Bonded labour system(abolition act) https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1189857/

Child labour(prohibition and regulation)act  https://indiankanoon.org/doc/732057/


  1. The services that fall under forced labour do not get due recognition in the GDP and hence, the economic data stays incomplete.
  2. The image of Indian labour and the associated laws are carefully studied by the foreign companies before they invest in India. This, therefore, is one major reason for delayed foreign inflows into India.
  3. The economic exploitation of labour leads to increase in inequality, poverty and unemployment in India that further effects the daily living of these people. This goes against the Right to Life as guaranteed in the Article 21 of the Indian constitution.
  4. FOR The superpower status that is desired by India and the permanent seat in the UN SC, it is essential that it improves the conditions of it’s labour class.


  • Warning that “global documentation on slavery is increasingly targeting India as home to the highest number of slaves in the world,” the Intelligence Bureau in a “secret” note has recommended a strong campaign to “discredit” the information and a diplomatic offensive against it.
  • The note cautions that the slavery documentation by International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency, and the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation (WFF), “has enough potential to substantially harm India’s image and exports and impact its efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.” This refers to eradicating forced and child labour, and human trafficking
  • The IB note claims that European corporations use the ILO-WFF survey “to fund NGOs to focus on alleged ‘slavery’ in South India’s textile industry (40% of India’s textile exports)”
  • that none of their suppliers are violating slavery norms.”


A  new report by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) – shows that workers are still facing appalling labour conditions that amount to forced labour in the export-oriented Southern Indian textile industry. The women and girls who work in the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu, some as young as 15, are mostly recruited from marginalised Dalit communities in impoverished rural areas. They are forced to work long hours for low wages. They live in very basic company-run hostels and are hardly ever allowed to leave the company compound.

http://www.indianet.nl/pdf/pb141028e.pdf ( This report has been used by the ILO-WFF to comment on the Indian slavery conditions)

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