New Delhi: Days after a International Labour Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation (WFF) report said India is home to the highest number of slaves in the world, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has sent sent a note to the Central government, warning that India is being “targeted” and suggesting that the government launch a campaign to counter and “discredit” the data. The IB submitted its note to the prime minister’s office, the national security advisor, the external affairs and labour ministries and R&AW last week.
The note says, “global documentation on slavery is increasingly targeting India as home to the highest number of slaves in the world,” reported the Indian Express. The note also says that the report could potentially harm India’s image and efforts towards achieving goal 8.7 in the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 8.7 deals with the eradication of forced labour, child labour, modern day slavery and human trafficking.
Reports since 2013 have consistently found India to have the most number of people engaged in modern slavery, “under threat or coercion as domestic workers, on constructions sites, in clandestine factories, on farms and fishing boats, in other sectors and in the sex industry,” the note said.
The ILO-WFF report, ‘Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage’, estimates there are 40 million slaves in the world, including 25 million in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the report, products made and services provided by modern slaves now seem to be available through legitimate commercial channels. They produce “some of the food we eat and the clothes we wear” and clean “the buildings in which many of us live or work.”
But rather than recommend any measures to tackle the challenge of modern slavery in the country, the IB has suggested a three-pronged strategy to counter the report’s findings. According to the Indian Express, First, it says that “motivated” advocacy should be countered with credible data that estimates slavery in India through a larger sample survey. Second, it says that the ILO-WFF reports questionable data should be “discredited” by the Indian Statistical Institute. Third, that there should be diplomatic intervention to force ILO to disassociate from WFF, which is a private foundation.
In the note, the IB says the statistics are questionable because the sample size they are based on is skewed. It also says that the WFF, which was created by Australian mining businessman Andrew Forrest in 2012, was endorsed by Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair and Bill Gates, and was hence funded by the US government.