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India still in grasp of Modern Slavery and Forced Labour in 21st Century

HR, organization, People, slave, social / Social /

It all starts when you are asked to work for long hours to complete project without any extra benefits. And gradually it repeats day after day. Modern slavery is so invisible that it is impossible get detected. Around 25 million people around the world are victims of force labor exploitation in private sectors out of which 71 percent are female. (1)

Estimate suggests that around 18 million people were in forced labour in the private sector in India in 2016 out of which 9.2 million or 57.6 percent were female and rest 6.8 million or 42.4 percent were male. Around 51 percent of these were in debt bondage and forced to work in agriculture, domestic work and manufacturing etc. (1)

South Asian countries contribute highest number of people living in slavery out of 167 countries. India contribute the highest number of slaves.

Source: 2016 Global Slavery Index Get the data

The report further suggests that all kinds of modern slavery including intergenerational bonded labor, forced child labor, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into non-state armed groups and forced marriage etc. exists in India throughout all industries including construction, agriculture, manufacturing etc. (2)

The Indian Government has taken the problem seriously and drafted various policies for labour and workers.

  • Prohibition on Forced and Compulsory Labour

The Constitution of India prohibits forced labour and considers it an offense punishable under the law. State can however impose compulsory service for public purposes. (3)

  • Freedom to Change Jobs and Right to Quit

Workers have the right to change jobs after serving due notice. For more information on this, please refer to the section on employment security. (4)

  • Inhuman Working Conditions

Working time may be extended beyond normal working hours of forty-eight hours per week and nine hours a day. In certain circumstances, workers may be required to work overtime. In allowing the spread over of 10.5 hours every day, law actually allows for two hours of overtime work per day. (5)

However, poor enforcement of labour laws and its under-resource police and judiciary means only few victims are provided support and fewer are perpetrators are punished. (6)


  1. Modern Slavery: 2017 The World & India. (19th Sept. 2017). Calamur. Retrieve from http://calamur.org/gargi/2017/09/19/modern-slavery-2017-the-world-india/ on 8th Nov. 2017.

  2. Corinne Abrams and Qasim Nauman. (02nd June 2016). India Has the Most People Living in Modern Slavery. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieve from https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2016/06/02/india-has-the-most-people-living-in-modern-slavery/ on 8th Nov. 2017.

  3. Article 4: Freedom from slavery and forced labour. Equality and Human Right Commission. Retrieve from https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-4-freedom-slavery-and-forced-labour on 8th Nov. 2017.

  4. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central Rules, 1946. Retrieve from http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_labour/Labour/Home/Acts+Implemented/Details+of+the+Acts+Implemented/The+Industrial+Employment++Act%2C+1946/The+Industrial+Employment+%28Standing+Orders%29+Central+Rules%2C+1946 on 8th Nov. 2017.

  5. The Factory Act, 1948. Retrieve from http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/P-ACT/1948/A1948-63.pdf on 8th Nov. 2017.

  6. Reality of bonded labour: Long way to justice for thousands forced into slavery. (26th Jan. 2017). Hindustan Times. Retrieve from http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/reality-of-bonded-labour-long-way-to-justice-for-thousands-forced-into-slavery/story-yFeU0xF9Bei31Jg1Zj3Q0K.html on 8th Nov. 2017.

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