India, with a population of approximately 1.29 billion people, is the world’s second-largest country. The South Asian nation currently has the third-highest overall GDP in the world. However, though it ranks third in overall GDP, India’s GDP per capita is considerably lower. This ranks India as 156th out of all the countries in the world. Certainly, a number of factors affect this disparity between national wealth and individual economic hardship. That said, one thing is certain: with an estimated 21.9 percent of the population living below the poverty line, India’s lack of wealth distribution feeds directly into the intersection of poverty and modern slavery in India.
Slavery is Still Prevalent
Many may not be familiar with the fact that slavery is still a very real issue in countries like India. This is because it simply does not receive the same media coverage as other topics. Slavery is quite prevalent in present-day India, especially in rural areas that heavily rely on agriculture. In fact, according to estimates by the Global Slavery Index, approximately 18.3 million people are living in modern slavery in India. This staggering number represents a portion of the many impoverished people in India who are trying to emerge from their socioeconomic situation.
Vishnu Rao-Sharma, a student who frequented New Delhi, gave The Borgen Project some insight on poverty and modern slavery in India. Rao-Sharma recalled that “Poverty in India is so jarring because of how visible it is. Within just miles of the New Delhi airport, one is plunged into a devastating reality that is foreign to many first-time visitors. This reality consists of mangled limbs, emaciated bodies, and rotting teeth. No one is spared. Indian men, women and children are all prone to India’s seemingly inescapable poverty.”
Lack of Other Options Leads Indians to Become Slaves
The issue with combating poverty and modern slavery in India is that they both affect each other. This is why so many poor people in India have few options to survive. Rather than living on the street and begging, they have little choice but to enter into realities like bonded labor. Bonded labor, one of the most common forms of modern slavery in India, is most similar to many people’s idea of indentured servitude. This is a service agreement in which employers bind laborers to them. They work long, arduous hours in exchange for food, shelter and small sums of money. The lack of sufficient employment opportunities leaves many impoverished Indians with no choice but enter into modern slavery. This feeds right back into the cyclical nature of poverty and modern slavery in India.
Fighting Poverty and Slavery in India
Though India’s poverty and slavery situations may appear dismal, there are groups and initiatives focused on resolving such issues. For instance, the international organization GlobeAware fights poverty in India by sending people to help the poor. Another example is Anti-Slavery International, a group committed to eradicating all forms of modern slavery around the world. Organizations such as these are working tirelessly to try and improve the dreadful conditions for many people in India.
Since the issues of poverty and modern slavery in India are so interwoven, organizations around the world are working to free India from both. Eliminating even one would hopefully result in the elimination of the other issue. If more groups, like the aforementioned, could invest time, money and resources into improving living conditions in the nation, the outlook for the situation in India should improve. Viable solutions may not be so far down the road after all.
– Ethan Marchetti