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On the trail of human trafficking: week two

By Siddharth Kara
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Human trafficking in India
  • Siddharth Kara is in New Delhi, India documenting human trafficking.
  • Has already found several cases of child llabor
  • Kara will travel to urban and rural regions in several south Asian countries

Editors Note: Harvard human trafficking fellow Siddharth Kara is undertaking a research trip around South Asia, looking at issues of forced labor, trafficking and child bondage. He will be getting access to the heart of the problem, and telling readers what he has discovered every week over the next ten weeks. This is his first submission.

New Delhi, India -- We spoke to Siddharth Kara from New Delhi about what he has found so far in India and if he was able to document any examples of human trafficking in the country.

Here's what he had to say.

Siddharth Kara: Well this is one in a series of trips I've taken around the world trying to research human trafficking and forced labor, and other forms of labor exploitation. This particular trip is focused on South Asia -- we traveled through several countries here, documenting more of the trafficking that's going on as well, in particular debt bondage and child labor throughout the region.

Becky Anderson: And you've sent us pictures which our viewers are looking at now, just tell us what we're seeing here.

Kara: Well I've sent you a handful of photos of individuals or families that have been trafficked from other parts of India. There's a handful of photos of child laborers -- and when I say child we literally mean child -- four or five years old, with hammers and carting gravel around.

And you've got, as well, pictures of the shanty towns and shacks and tents that are erected for these trafficked individuals to live in, day by day, as they work in this construction throughout the city.

Anderson: How do you know that these people have been trafficked and where are they coming from?

Kara: Well, the photos I've sent are cases that I've actually verified and documented, and that's easier said than done. Of course with child labor it's quite easy -- if you see something that's about two and a half feet tall, with two legs, you know that's child labor.

With trafficking for adults and labor, the line between migrant labor or just low wage labor, and, some form of trafficking of course they can be vary blurry. But in the course of having conversations and asking people where are you from, how did you get here, have you been paid, are you free to go, what are the terms of your situation, is there any sort of contracts, and when the answers to these types of questions throw up certain red flags, then you can start to reasonably identify that someone is a victim of trafficking, and is in some sort of forced labor situation.

Anderson: How do the stories that you are hearing there compare to those that you've heard, witnessed, documented in the past.

Kara: You know that's a really interesting question, and you know one thing that I've learned across ten years of research is that business is business, and that slavery is a business.

And wherever I go, there are certain things that are almost always the same. A certain deception or ruse is used to pray on the desperate or the poor, there's a virtual ease of re-allocating people from just a village to a town or all the way around the world.

And then they're put in a situation where they're not free to leave, they're forced to work often under threat of violence, or threats against family members. And they're almost never paid or if they are paid it's only a small amount. And these, sort of, key factors, are true across all the countries I've been to on six continents and across industries -- it's not just construction, but commercial sex, agriculture, mining, leatherwork's, fishing, what have you. Business is business and slavery is no different.