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UK's trade deal with India would amount to "endorsing" enslaved work, warns Britain's Anti-Slavery International

By Our Representative
Amidst British Prime Minister Theresa May’s on-going India visit, Britain’s well-known human rights organization, Anti-Slavery International (ASI), has apprehended that “the world trade deal Britain signs with India would open it up as a major market for slavery-tainted goods India.”
Claiming that India has “the largest numbers of people in slavery in the world, and many of those enslaved work in the supply chains of India’s export-oriented sector”, Aidan McQuade, who is director, ASI, has said, “Any trade deal that Britain would sign with India, under the current conditions that prevail there, would open the UK up as a major market for slavery-tainted goods.”
Authored jointly with Meena Varma, Director, Dalit Solidarity Network UK (DSN-UK), an online article published on the day May landed in Delhi, says, “The fundamental reasons for the prevalence of slavery in India lie first of all in the persistence of the caste system in India.”
The authors add, “Those who are enslaved are from the most discriminated against groups in society, particularly Dalits, previously known as the ‘Untouchables’, and Adivasis, or tribal peoples, who number over 200 million according to the 2011 Census.”
The article, titled “Challenges to Britain’s anti-slavery ambitions: India”, and released by http://news.trust.org/, says, “Because of the discrimination that they endure their routine enslavement by more powerful individuals passes with little comment, and with less governmental action.”
“In fact”, according to the article, “This situation is too often regarded as the norm. And the social prejudices against Dalits and Adivasi are exacerbated because of the elusiveness of legal remedy from the abuses they suffer.”
Agreeing that “India has much decent anti-slavery law”, the authors say, “But it is simply not implemented because of the lack of capacity of the judiciary, the scarcity and corruption of the police, the lack of labour inspections, and the lack of a proper system of minimum wages for occupations where a high number of workers are Dalits and Adivasis.”
“This is why Anti-Slavery keeps witnessing horrific stories of abuse in industries such as cotton mills or brick kilns”, they say, adding, “Prime Minister Modi has declared that development is one of his governmental priorities. But it will be difficult for him to achieve development for all, and with that a reduction of the extraordinary levels of slavery in India, without robust implementation of the law of the land.”
Warning the British Premier that she may feel that “she cannot be held responsible for the rule of law in other lands”, the article says, “But if she wishes the UK to be a world leader on the issue of slavery then the engagement that her country establishes with India will be decisive in the success or failure of this aspiration.”
The article wants Theresa May to ask Prime Minister Modi “to establish a national commission to consider how anti-slavery law and practice may be advanced” through police, judiciary and district labour officials, “who have sufficient capacity to uphold the law without fear or favour.”

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