Tagore’s call to end the enslavement of India’s peasantry remains relevant today: Modern slavery is still very common – Global Slavery Index & UNICEF

Tagore’s alienation and the zamindari system

[Rabindranath Tagore] conspicuously distanced himself from the middle class, or the bhadralok, although they constituted the head and front of his audience as an author.

Tagore’s alienation from such people can be contrasted with his perception that among the rural peasantry there was a “touch of humanity”. Undeniably, Tagore was a landlord in relation to the peasantry he was acquainted with in the family’s estates. He was acutely aware of that. He writes to his son in 1930: “The whole business of zamindari makes me ashamed….I feel sad to think that from childhood we have been raised as parasites.” However, beyond the bounds of the landlord-tenant relationship there were many other spheres of Tagore’s activities that created a sympathetic bond. There is plenty of evidence that he invested a good part of his inexhaustible energy and meagre financial resources to address issues of importance to the rural poor, for instance, the supply of potable water to the village people, prevention of malaria which was rampant in his villages which are in present-day Bangladesh, the absence of schools for children in rural areas, or the need for cooperative credit system for farmers (a major part of the Nobel Prize money was put by Tagore in a cooperative bank for this purpose; it was from the worldly point of view a bad decision, for the capital melted way without a trace). It seems unlikely that Tagore was merely attitudinising when he asserted that he felt in his bones a bond with the peasantry. Moreover, that style of attitudinising was not yet fashionable in those times.

Perhaps Tagore’s last act of rebellion was against the tradition of the European Enlightenment, which he looked up to for inspiration throughout his life. This was when he famously uttered, a few weeks before his death, his judgment on the crisis of civilisation as he perceived it in 1941. In the beginning of his intellectual life he had looked upon European civilisation as the pace-setter in bringing about a change in the mindset of the world with its message of rationality and science, democratic institutions, an agenda of abolishing slavery, and other analogous progressive values. Looking at the world in the throes of the Second World War as a result of the imperialist aggrandisement of the European powers, Tagore forcefully expressed his disillusionment. “As I look around I see the crumbling ruins of a vast civilisation strewn like a vast heap of futility. And yet I shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in Man.” Needless to say, in the heat and stress of the World War, Tagore’s last judgment did not please the West. […]

Source: “The Other Tagore” by SABYASACHI BHATTACHARYA (Frontline, Volume 28 – Issue 27 :: Dec. 31, 2011-Jan. 13, 2012)
Address: https://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2827/stories/20120113282702200.htm
Date Visited: 26 February 2021

“We have no word for Nation in our language. When we borrow this word from other people, it never fits us.” – Letter from Rabindranath Tagore >>

Child Labour – Facts & Figures

Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.
Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.

In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.

In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) are in child labour, whilst prevalence in other regions is between 3% and 7%: 2.9% in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3% in the Americas (1 in 19) and 7.4% in Asia and the Pacific region (1 in 14).
Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years.

42 million (28%) are 12-14 years old; and 37 million (24%) are 15-17 years old.

Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old.

Nevertheless up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.

Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls.

58% of all children in child labour and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.

Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17% in Services; and 12% in the Industrial sector, including mining.

Today, throughout the world, around 218 million children work, many full-time. They do not go to school and have little or no time to play. Many do not receive proper nutrition or care. They are denied the chance to be children. More than half of them are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities including drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.
Guided by the principles enshrined in ILO’s Minimum Age Convention No. 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182, the ILO Programme on Child Labour (IPEC) works to achieve the effective abolition of child labour.

What is meant by child labour?
Child labour is work carried out to the detriment and endangerment of a child, in violation of international law and national legislation. It either deprives children of schooling or requires them to assume the dual burden of schooling and work. Child labour to be eliminated is a subset of children in employment. It includes:
All “unconditional” worst forms of child labour, such as slavery or practices similar to slavery, the use of a child for prostitution or for illicit activities;
Work done by children under the minimum legal age for that type of work, as defined by national legislation in accordance with international standards.

Source: UN World Day Against Child Labour
URL: https://www.un.org/en/events/childlabourday/background.shtml
Date visited: 23 July 2019

“Many brick workers in India are trapped in a cycle of debt-bondage, forced to toil in harsh conditions with little recourse to the law. Anti-Slavery has recently concluded a successful project on this issue. Working with our partners, we supported improvements in working conditions at 31 brick factories and secured the release of 2,251 workers from debt bondage.” | Learn more >>

Learn more: Bondage | Bonded labour | Childhood | Human trafficking | SlaveryZamindari >>
Human trafficking is a crime. To report in India, call Shakti Vahini
+91-11-42244224, +91-9582909025 or the national helpline Childline on 1098.

“As per a study on human trafficking, the state of Jharkhand has emerged as India’s trafficking hub with thousands of tribal women and girls being trafficked out of the state each year to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and beyond [while] human traffickers are also involved in many cases of missing children.” – The Wire | Shakti Vahini | Tourism locations | Adivasi tribal bondage slavery trafficking (Safe search) >>

Video | Dungri Latar (At the foothills): In quest of “a life beyond the world of quarry” >>

Shakti VahiniWalk Free’s Indian partner organisation

[…]  Shakti Vahini works in West Bengal , Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand , Haryana , Uttar Pradesh & Delhi reaching out to vulnerable rural areas. As part of our various initiatives we work  closely with Local administrations, State agencies and various Ministries of the Government of India to impact the lives of women and children. Shakti Vahini also works with various law enforcement agencies to strengthen their responses by capacity building and training.

For us at Shakti Vahini we know that Human Rights are non negotiable and for each and every case of human rights violation we stand by and assist the victims to get Justice.  | Learn more Walkfree.org >>

India’s tourist magnet starts to clean child labour ‘blot’
Roli Srivastava | Read the full report here >>

Impoverished children from Bihar have for years been trafficked to tourist-magnet Jaipur to work as slaves making bangles, embroidering or sewing buttons

“When we go for rescues, we find children who have been working for over 18 hours for no wages. They are not even able to stand as their knees are bent after sitting for long hours,” Sikhwal said.

Campaigners say past rescue operations failed for lack of government support and the children would be trafficked again within days of their rescue.

But the new campaign promises change. […]

Source: India’s tourist magnet starts to clean child labour ‘blot’ (Thomson Reuters Foundation), 11 February 2019
URL: http://news.trust.org/item/20190211164647-gjtqe/
Date visited: 23 July 2019

EQUATIONS envisions a just and equitable world, where all people have the freedom and the right to determine their lives and future. | Learn more on the Equations website | Equations blog >>

We envision forms of tourism which are non-exploitative, where decision making is democratised, and access to and benefits of tourism are equitably distributed. EQUATIONS believes in the capacity of individuals and communities to actualise their potential for the well-being of society. We work toward justice, equity, people centred and movement centred activism, democratisation and dialogue.

Everyday we hear that tourism brings economic development, it creates jobs and revenues. But who really benefits from it? The local community, the village elite, or the owner?

There’s been an exponential increase in tourism in India over the last several decades, fueled by the growing economy and disposable incomes. The tourism industry in India has expanded wildly in an unregulated fashion with no regard for environmental, social and cultural impacts.

A tainted tradition [i.e. “patronage” by zamindars]

RAKSHA KUMAR visits Natpurwa, a village where women have been forced into prostitution for centuries. And one of them is determined to help the others break free.

The lush green fertile land in and around this village is owned by a handful of zamindars who do not reside there. They reap all the benefits from that land. […]

Prostitution has been the tradition in this village of 5000 people for 400 years. The entire village consists of the Nat community who were patronised by the zamindars of neighbouring villages in return for sexual favours from the women. This became entrenched in the customs and history of the village and continues even today.

Natpurwa is about 70 km east of the state capital Lucknow. The winding mud roads, the noisy cattle and the playful kids make the village seem like any other. But a closer look at the faces of the young girls tells a different story. Fear and oppression is writ large on their faces. […]

Motivated by Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey’s NGO, Asha, Chandralekha took to teaching children in the new primary school. She is now busy organising women into self-help groups. “I want to see every woman in this village educated and lead independent lives,” she says. […]

Before prostitution became the norm for the Nat community, they were historically performers and a few still carry on this tradition. In 1871, the British passed the Criminal Tribes Act classifying certain tribes as engaging in “criminal activities”. The Nat community was also targeted by this law. Denied the right to pursue their profession as performers, they were forced to take to prostitution. For several communities in Uttar Pradesh, prostitution has become a means of survival for this reason. Sex work was a tradition in several villages of northern Madhya Pradesh and southern Uttar Pradesh. Even in south India, it is a “tradition” among certain Devdasis and has even achieved a level of social sanction in certain areas. […]

“I don’t know who my father is and that hurts till today.” Ram Babu
“ If a girl is educated, would she abide by her family’s wishes and become a prostitute?” Chandralekha

Source: “A tainted tradition” by Raksha Kumar, The Hindu (Visakhapatnam), 24 March 2013
Address: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/a-tainted-tradition/article4543064.ece
Date Visited: Thu Nov 05 2015 12:05:48 GMT+0100 (CET)

When we think of slavery, many of us think of historical or “traditional forms” of slavery – and of the 12 million people ripped from their West African homes and shipped across the Atlantic for a lifetime in the plantations of the Americas.

But slavery is not just something that happened in the past – the modern day estimate for the number of men, women and children forced into labour worldwide exceeds 40 million. Today’s global slave trade is so lucrative that it nets traffickers more than $150 billion each year. […]

Debt bondage often ensnares both children and adults. […]

India has the highest number of slaves in the world, with estimates ranging from 14 million to 18 million people. In India, many people work as slave labour in the brick kiln industry – this includes women and children. […]

Now, as in the past, not all slaves are forced into slavery. Historically, some experienced such severe poverty that they had no choice but to sell themselves to be bound to another person. And similar cases still happen around the world today.

It involves global movement
Long distance movement is common in slavery of the past and the present. For West Africans in the premodern era, the journey across the Atlantic must have been unimaginable.

Source: “India is home to the world’s largest slave population by Catherine Armstrong (School Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Loughborough University, UK) in (Scroll.in, 21 October 2018)
URL: https://scroll.in/article/898862/india-is-home-to-the-worlds-largest-slave-population-yes-slavery-still-exists
Date visited: 26 February 2021

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