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Surfing On ‘Serfdom’

Modern slavery is a simple English term, but different countries use different legal terminologies to explain it. Commonly, modern slavery includes the crimes of human trafficking, slavery and slavery like practices, such as servitude, forced labour, forced or servile marriage, the sale and exploitation of children, and debt bondage.
An international study on modern slavery has been published each year since 2013. The latest edition of the study has been published in recent times. According to the study, modern slavery still exists in different parts of the world and North Korea has secured the top position in the list, as far as the ratio of slaves and the total population is concerned. Meanwhile, India has ranked 53rd among 167 countries in the list. Of course, it’s not a great ranking… but the actual picture is quite different. In reality, India has the highest number of modern slaves and the number is 8 million! It’s the official number and there is a possibility that the real figure is greater.

As per the study, there are a little more than 40 million modern slaves around the world and the US has 4 million. In January 1863, then-President Abraham Lincoln used the war powers of the presidency to issue the Emancipation Proclamation which clearly stated that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the US, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free“. And 155 years after President Lincoln banned slavery, the US has 4 million modern slaves!
It is to be noted that the Russian serfdom was abolished in the emancipation reform of 1861 by Tsar Alexander II. The reform effectively abolished serfdom throughout the Russian Empire. The 1861 Emancipation Manifesto proclaimed the emancipation of the serfs on private estates and of the domestic (household) serfs. By this edict, more than 23 million people received their liberty.
The number of modern slaves has increased in the contemporary world and the study reveals that majority of the modern slaves are refugees. In recent times, many people in different parts of the world, including Myanmar, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, have been displaced. Civil wars have prompted many in African countries to take shelter in Greece or Italy after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. These jobless people have no other option, but to become modern slaves to feed their families.
Similar tales have been heard about people from erstwhile member states of the mighty Soviet Union, like Tajikistan, Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan and others. They are working in Russia at cheap rate. Also, people from the Eastern European countries are heard frequenting to the more affluent European nations during harvest and other seasons.

The situation is completely different in India, which doesn’t have to accommodate thousands of refugees in recent times. Then, why the number of modern slaves is so high in India?
Some may say that the population of India is very large. So, it’s quite natural that the South Asian nation will have the maximum number of modern slaves. As per this logic, India should also have the maximum number of Olympics medals! However, that’s not the case. Even neighbouring China has a huge population, but the Asian giant has secured the 111th position in the list of 167 nations.
Yes, there is no clear-cut answer…. As there is no clear-cut answer, the Indian government is reluctant to accept this figure. In a statement, the Indian government recently said that the methods (used in the study) and the explanation are inaccurate. The government may be right, but the bigger picture won’t change. Even if the study is inaccurate, the trafficked girls will not return to their homes overnight….. the feudal lords will not free their peasants and the owner of a tea-stall will not allow his child labour to go to the school…

Instead of taking necessary actions in order to change the scenario, the Indian government started identifying the mistakes in the study report! This move reveals the real character of a government.
Even the Indian opposition parties have hardly commented on this report. They are yet to ask the government to hold a debate on this particular issue in the Parliament! And the self-proclaimed sensitive people, too, are not aware of this report. For all of them, it’s quite natural in India and nothing happens to them. Can this be conjectured as the shameful act by these sensitive people? It’s genuinely felt that it is our duty to make this world a better place for the future generations.

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