Forced labour in India

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India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subject to forced labour and sex trafficking. Forced labour concerns an estimated 20 to 65 million citizens and constitutes India’s largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories. A common characteristic of bonded labour is the use of physical and sexual violence as coercive measures.


According to the U.S. Department of State 2013 report on trafficking, there has been an increasing number of industries resorting to forced labour such as construction, textiles, telecommunications, biscuit factories, and horticulture.  An increasing number of job placement agencies lure into false employment promises adults and children for sex trafficking or forced labour activities, including domestic servitude.


According to Indian law, temporary and contract workers may be contracted for work which is essentially of a temporary nature and takes place within a defined time. This legislation is however lifted for some industries (e.g.: information technology and business processing outsourcing) as well as for some States, in export processing and special free trade zones. There is also no limit to the extension of fixed term contracts (initial + renewals and/or prolongation) nor is there a maximum cumulated duration for fixed term contracts.


Further to a study conducted in four electronics manufactures recruiting contract workers, a frustration was noted on behalf of workers with regards to the employment system, especially with regards to work contracts and training systems. Workers claimed they were not informed about the lengthy process to become a regular employee and found that their contract and the training system in place in fact put them in an unfairly exploitative and insecure position. Workers shared their expectation to receive from multinational corporation factories fair salaries and employment benefits, but instead they have been faced with low wages and job insecurity where a significant difference in wage levels exists between permanent and contract workers.


Contract workers are also treated unfairly when it comes to freedom of association; as employees of the temporary employement agencies, it is close to impossible for them to bargain collectively, let alone join a union.


This inequality extends to working conditions where protective equipment, such as clothing, boots, gloves and masks, is supplied to permanent employees, while temporary workers received only a helmet and a pair of safety shoes.




Fifteen-year-old Rani was a 10th grade dropout from Kammalapatti, India. When Rani was 13 years old, she was recruited to work in a spinning mill in Itrupur in India. Rani ran away because of the harsh treatment and lost her US$756 lump sum payment.

The lack of worksite health and safety left Rani with burns on her skin due to the harsh chemicals. Unfortunately, medical care was not covered above US$4. Rani was not allowed to go anywhere unattended, and rarely allowed to leave her hostel. She was instructed not to speak to anyone, including her family without an “escort”. She was subjected to harassment and abuse in the factory and in the hostel. Rani was told the employer would terminate her work contract and withhold all the lump-sum payment that had accrued if she complained.


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