Malaise of bonded labour | Shaadaab S. Bakht - GulfToday

Malaise of bonded labour

Shaadaab S. Bakht

@ShaadaabSBakht

Shaadaab S. Bakht, who worked for famous Indian dailies The Telegraph, The Pioneer, The Sentinel and wrote political commentaries for Tehelka.com, is Gulf Today’s Executive Editor.

Shaadaab S. Bakht, who worked for famous Indian dailies The Telegraph, The Pioneer, The Sentinel and wrote political commentaries for Tehelka.com, is Gulf Today’s Executive Editor.

LABOUR

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes only.

ON THE HELPLESS

Our bus rolled into Dhampur, India. It was winter and just before midnight. The temperature was around three degrees Centigrade. I wanted to check out on the foodstuff being hawked at the bus stand. Piping hot Indian fries are a pleasure when the temperature is low.

Among the vendors was a boy of 15. Under normal circumstances he should have been in bed or preparing his satchel for next day’s class, but it wasn’t so. In strides he was tough, in smiles lavish, in status cursed. He was carrying some samosas in a basket and a near-twisted plastic jar of sauce.

There was a spoon, grimy at the tail, resting against a small photo of a deity in the basket. His absent life hadn’t affected his faith in the Unseen, I found that interesting. He insisted that I bought a samosa. “Fries are good during winter. They will keep you warm babu.” Was that his sales talk? No. It was desperation. I was worried about the cooking medium, he was worried about cooking food at home. I was worried about my health, he was worried about his family’s monetary health.

The only change in the last 30 years is that instead of calling them domestic servants we call them domestic helps. But if we want slavery to end this kind of self-deception has to go


In minutes our bus left. In hours my journey ended. But I don’t think his journey ended. It didn’t look like it would. Because the road he was on didn’t go anywhere. We didn’t fix it for him. If we had then we wouldn’t have had over 150 million victims of child labour. Four out of five such kids got only food for work, not money and they all worked for over nine hours a day, a study said.

Therefore, we were not at all surprised to see a recent report that said over 45.8 million people are currently enslaved across the globe. The report was published by a human rights group.

After conducting 42,000 interviews in 53 languages, the group found out that some forms of slavery still exist in 167 countries.

These forms include child labour, bondage from indebtedness, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation.

And we can’t only blame the authorities for the horrible figures. The crisis involves us all. We personally hire housemaids in India for an average monthly pay of $40, which is horrifying. There are some among us who even cut pay for the days the maids don’t show up.

The only change in the last 30 years is that instead of calling them domestic servants we call them domestic helps. But if we want slavery to end this kind of self-deception has to go. We have to admit that suffering isn’t about nomenclature, it is about attitude.

The problem is that had the poor been in chains of iron we could have used fire to free them. They are in chains of oppression. And oppression is discrimination and discrimination can’t be tempered with. It doesn’t respond to heat, but human concern, which tends to skip the helpless.

Also, the helpless’ cries find it difficult to reach the people, who display concern or control it, because such people sit in houses whose walls are very high.

Related articles