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SHAHANA BUTT, NEW DELHI, INDIA: India is a country with more than 1.2 billion people, giving it the title of world’s largest secular democracy. But these democratic principles of equality for all citizens often don’t play out in reality, where the government has failed to protect its people from abuse.
Today India is considered the largest source and destination for human trafficking. These people are often used for cheap labor, prostitution, panhandling, and much more. Although there are no exact figures available, the government records say over 452,000 cases of trafficking were registered between the years 2008-9 to 2011-12.
Save the childhood global march organization says each year over 1 million children are trafficked across India.
Despite the increasing media attention brought on by popular films like Slumdog Millionaire, the question remains why the rampant growth continues.
KAILASH SATYARTHI, CHAIRPERSON, GLOBAL MARCH: The bigger reason is that there is a demand for cheap forced labor, bonded labor, cheap prostitutes, the children who could be put on a street and beg. So the traffickers are clever enough to identify certain areas and the children belonging to poor communities and traffic them very easily. And it is a very lucrative business for them, because they can make lot of money out of these children by trafficking, not only in India, but it is a global phenomenon that human trafficking is the third largest illicit trade in the world, with at least $50 billion annually.
BUTT: According to the national census, India has about 487 million workers, out of which more than 94 percent are working in unincorporated, unorganized enterprises. That could mean any job ranging from a pushcart vendor to a home-based small-scale factory worker.
The laws are on the books to protect these workers. There are currently more than 50 of such pieces of legislation that regulate employers in matters related to work. But the country continues to be ranked below other emerging markets with its ability to protect workers’ rights.
According to UNDP’s report, India is ranked 134 out of 182 countries on the basis of life expectancy, education, and income. The report found that India’s GDP per capita, or purchasing power parity, is $2,753, far below Malaysia’s $13,518. China listed as 92 with purchasing power parity of $5,383.
That’s no surprise to factory worker Muhammad Ansar. He was trafficked to India’s capital New Delhi, where he worked in a small-scale factory. His father sold him to an agent for INR 500, which is the equivalent of $10. As a eight-year-old, Ansar says, he made the journey to New Delhi with ten other children who were around his age. They were paid $6 a month.
MUHAMMAD ANSAR, CHILD LABORER (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): My father had no means to support the family, so he sold us so that we could earn money. But life here is too difficult. Our day at work usually starts at nine in the morning and lasts until midnight. Sometimes we eat twice a day, but many times we have to manage without food because the master gets angry if we don’t accomplish our assigned work on time. He punishes us.
BUTT: According to the most recent census, of 2001, estimates claim that there are about 13 million child laborers between the age of 5 to 14 living in India. This is a stark contrast from estimates by the non-governmental organizations. Save the childhood organization estimates that there are 60 million child laborers in India working into different sectors.
On the average, each child is paid $0.30 a day. If these child laborers were replaced with adult laborers, employers would have to $2.50 for a day’s work.
BHUVAN RIBHU, LEGAL ACTIVIST: As per the data available before the Parliament or provided by the government before the parliament, between 2008-9 to 2011-12, in three years, a total of 452,679 victims—or child trafficking cases were reported. However, despite these cases being reported before government authorities, the number of prosecutions was only 25,006 which is about 6 percent of the cases being reported. The number of convictions was 3,394 which is nothing. So even when an trafficking case is being reported to the government, prosecution is not being launched.
BUTT: In its recent initiatives against human trafficking, some new ordinances have been issued, experts say the success of which will highly depend upon their acceptance and implementation.
RIBHU: For the first time, trafficking prescribes—or the offense of trafficking prescribes a minimum sentence of seven years, which can go up to life in prison. This is the new amendment of section 370 of IPC. Now, this is the good part. However, the bad part is that the implementation of the existing laws that were there before, or special laws that could be construed to be enforced on the issue of trafficking, have hardly been enforced.
BUTT: By 2020, India is expected to be the most populous nation of the world and will have one of the largest numbers of poor people living in it. The concern that continues to remain is whether the country will be able to protect even the most minimal rights of its most exploited citizens.
For the Real News Network, Shahana, New Delhi, India.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.