More than 14 million out of India’s population of over 1.2 billion people are living in modern slavery, according to the second edition of the Global Slavery Index. Produced by an Australian human rights body, Walk Free Foundation, the survey defines modern slaves as those without individual liberty, by being subjugated to forced labor, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
In terms of the highest number of slaves as a percentage of a nation’s population, India is ranked fifth, with 1.14% of the country’s population trapped as slaves. The worst affected are people belonging to lower castes or tribes, religious minorities and migrant workers.
The Global Slavery Index gives India a “CCC” score in its analysis of the government’s action to end modern slavery. According to this scale, AAA rating is the highest possible, while D is the lowest.
Among the governments taking the least action, North Korea stood first, followed by Iran and Syria. Netherlands, on the other hand, topped the list of governments doing the most to end modern slavery, followed by Sweden and the US.
Among India’s most vulnerable are women and girls, who face a high risk of sexual assault, domestic violence and discrimination. Dalits, too, have minimal social protection and are susceptible to severe forms of exploitation and slavery. Moreover, around 90% of India’s laborers, who work in the informal economy, lack a monitored work environment.