Our Northern India hotspot is reducing trafficking, bonded labour and harmful child labour in two of India’s poorest states.
Despite India’s strong laws, high levels of bonded labour are still documented in a range of industries including brick kilns, stone quarries, agriculture, construction, domestic work and sexual exploitation. Debt bondage is the main mechanism, in which workers take out loans or they inherit inter-generational debts at extortionate rates from local landowners – and then they are forced to work for that same employer. The vast majority of bonded labourers face severe 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, they have large populations of dalits and adivasi (India’s indigenous minority groups). Combined in some cases with poor enforcement of the relevant laws, these issues result in a concentration of bonded labour and trafficking affecting 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 19 local NGO partners in the two states, the Freedom Fund’s Northern India hotspot program aims to:
1. Reduce the prevalence of forms of bonded labour and trafficking in the communities where our partners are working. Although each partner’s work addresses the particular issues in their districts, they have in common a strong emphasis on community-led work, to build resistance to trafficking, as well as to reintegrate individuals coming out of bonded labour, 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 work closely with government to support them in their responsibilities against trafficking. The program is supporting these processes in over 1,200 communities.
2. Enable our partners collectively across these districts to improve the effectiveness of government anti-trafficking structures (such as child welfare committees). 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 bonded labour and trafficking – as part of a powerful and positive 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.