Sir: The 2014 Global Slavery Report, conducted by the Walk Free Foundation, estimates that India has the highest number of individuals living in slavery in any country worldwide. The report says that out of an estimated 35.8 million people around the world living under conditions of modern slavery, 14 million are in India, followed by three million in China and two million in Pakistan. The majority of people in slave-like conditions are thought to be children from economically vulnerable backgrounds who work in brick kilns, carpet weaving and agriculture. The report also says that many Pakistanis migrate to the Gulf States and elsewhere in search of work, where they become victims of unscrupulous labour agents who withhold passports and do not pay wages.
The report should remind us that the world’s unsavoury history of slavery does not belong in the distant past; slavery was a reality for a majority of human history and the modern rejection of slavery is the exception to this trend, not the rule. The subjugation within slave-like conditions of any people threatens the fragile social norms we have established over the last 200 years against slavery. We should not take our freedom for granted and we must work much harder to eliminate all forms of slavery, bonded labour, serfdom and servitude from our country and our region.
ZOYA ASIM KHAN