LUCKNOW, India — Every day as Kamla dug through the mud and
Kamla's story, told to one of the many charities fighting forced
On Tuesday, the South Asian democracy topped a global slavery index counting some 18.35 million modern slaves — or 40
"These poor and deprived people are forced to leave their homes because of poverty. This is clear reflection of the failure of the welfare state," said Lenin Rghuvanshi of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, the charity which put together a December report based on testimony from 450 people rescued from slavery and bonded
Officials with the Indian Labor Ministry declined to comment on the slavery index report, which showed China a distant second with some 3.39 million modern slaves counted. China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment. North Korea was found to have the highest per capita rate of modern slavery, with 4.37
The problem of slavery in India — including child marriage and bonded
Many had seen the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, who was awarded along with Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as a sign that India would be forced to better protect its 1.25 billion citizens from abuse.
Some activists blamed the government for maintaining a top-down economy where illegal
"The laws are there, but there is no political will on the part of the government to implement them," peace activist Swami Agnivesh said. "The government can't afford to annoy rural rich as well as the urban rich who are exploiting the situation."
Amid the rising criticism, the Indian government on Monday published draft legislation to curb human trafficking without punishing its victims. "At present the law says the trafficked and the trafficker are both criminals and they both go to jail. Now, we are saying the victim will not go to jail," said Maneka Gandhi, the government's minister for women and child development, according to Press Trust of India.
Still, some activists said the situation was improving in India, thanks to public awareness, legal reforms and police-backed raids on factories employing workers illegally.
"We get 20 complaints per day from family members and public in general" reporting
He noted that India's carpet industry used to employ 300,000 trafficked children just a decade ago, but that the number has come down to an estimated 5,000-10,000. Meanwhile, the number of children forced to work making plastic bangles in parts of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is now negligible, whereas thousands worked in the industry 10 years ago.
India's garment industry hub in the Indian capital has also eliminated child
"We rescued nearly 400 children in the area between 2012-2014," he said. "The garments industry in the area no longer employs child
But for those still mired in forced
Radha, kidnapped from her family by a woman from her village and forced into bonded
"I was so scared," she said. "I'm still in pain from the rapes."
Sharma reported from New Delhi.