The Global Slavery Index estimates that on any given day in 2018 there were nearly 8 million people living in modern slavery in India. In terms of prevalence of modern slavery in India, there were 6.1 victims for every thousand people.
In the 2016 Global Slavery Index, we reported there were 18.3 million people in modern slavery in India. The difference between these two figures reflects changes to counting rules and estimation methods, as well as the presentation of the number who experienced modern slavery on any given day (a “stock” figure) reported in this year’s GSI, as opposed to the much higher number of people in slavery at any time over a five-year period (a “flow” figure), as was presented in 2016.
The 2018 GSI also reflects the addition of forced sexual exploitation and children in modern slavery but does not include figures on organ trafficking or the use of children in armed conflict.
The most current available data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicate that there were 8,132 reported cases of human trafficking across India in 2016. In the same year, 15,379 people were trafficked of whom 9,034 victims were below the age of 18. In addition, 23,117 people were rescued from trafficking situations of whom 14,183 people were below the age of 18.
The NCRB report notes that the number of rescued victims is higher than the number of trafficked people as rescued victims may also include persons trafficked in the previous year. Most of the rescued victims reported being trafficked for the purpose of forced labour (10,509 victims), followed by sexual exploitation for prostitution (4,980 victims), and other forms of sexual exploitation (2,590 cases).
In its latest report, the Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016 there were nearly 8 million people living in “modern slavery” in India — a claim strongly contested by the government on the grounds that its parameters were poorly defined and too wide-ranging.
The report said that in terms of prevalence, there were 6.1 victims for every thousand people. Among 167 countries,, India ranked 53 with North Korea at the top of the list with 104.6 per 1,000 and Japan registering lowest prevalence rate of 0.3 per 1,000. However, in absolute numbers India topped the list on prevalence. China found itself at 111 place with a prevalence rate of 2.8 per 1,000. Defining “modern slavery”, the Walk Free Foundation, which brought out the report said, “In the context of this report, modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking”.
Reacting to the report’s conclusions, officials in the government who are associated with the framing of the anti-trafficking bill currently in the Lok Sabha questioned the definition adopted for the research and also the sample size for interviews and questions posed to those surveyed.
The view emerging from the ministry of women and child development was that the Index was “flawed” in its interpretations as the terminology used is very broad based and words like “forced labour” need a more detailed definition in the Indian context where socio-economic parameters are diverse and nuanced.
Arbitrary application of criteria make estimates unreliable if not placed in social and economic context of a country. The Foundation in its report pointed out that although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term which refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and abuse of power.
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