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Northern India

Northern India
Forced and bonded labour, human trafficking
$5.9 million
175,875 lives

Our Northern India hotspot is reducing trafficking, bonded labour and harmful child labour in two of India’s poorest states.

India has the world’s largest number of individuals in modern slavery – approximately 14 million people, nearly five times that of any other country. Most of these are in debt bondage, having taken out loans or inherited inter-generational debts at extortionate rates from local landowners – and then being forced to work for that employer. Bonded labour has been documented in a range of industries, including brick kilns, stone quarries, agriculture, construction, mining and sexual exploitation. The vast majority of bonded labourers face massive discrimination because they are dalits (castes that have been treated as “untouchables”).

Of the 28 states in India, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rank among the poorest on a variety of human development indicators, and in addition to debilitating poverty, they have large populations of dalits and adivasi (India’s indigenous minority groups). Combined with poor enforcement of the relevant laws, these issues result in a concentration of forms of modern slavery in the poorest communities. In many places, there is a culture of fear and silence around bonded labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking that increases the vulnerability of each family, as they face these issues on their own.

Together with 16 local NGO partners in the two states, the Freedom Fund’s Northern India 3-year hotspot program aims to:

1. Reduce the prevalence of forms of modern slavery and trafficking in the communities where our partners are working. Although each partner’s work addresses the particular issues of modern slavery in their districts, they have in common a strong emphasis on community-led work, to build resistance to trafficking and slavery, as well as to reintegrate individuals coming out of slavery, helping them to recover. The program enables each survivor to take up their legal case, if they wish. In all aspects of the practical work, partners try to ensure that government takes up more of its responsibilities against modern slavery.
 The program aims to support these processes in 1,000 communities.

2. Enable our partners collectively across these districts to improve the effectiveness of government anti-slavery structures (such as district vigilance committees and child welfare committees), as well as finding ways to alert the wider public about the realities of slavery, generating an urgent priority for its elimination. In each state, the partners aim to strengthen targeted aspects of government performance.

3. Strengthen the ability of each partner to sustain its work and fully address the root causes of modern slavery – as part of a powerful civil society response to the issue. We are helping partners measure changes in their organisational capacity.

4. Document and learn from the most promising models, so we can expand their reach and adapt them for use elsewhere. An independent evaluation of the hotspot, being carried out by the Institute of Development Studies UK and Praxis India, has a strong focus on the relevance and effectiveness of partners’ work.

The 2015 impact report for the Northern India hotspot can be viewed here.

To find out more, watch our video from an investors’ trip to the northern India hotspot in October 2014.