Bangalore, July 20: Results of a global survey on slavery released on Thursday, July 19, brought to the fore the global menace which has affected several developing and backward states, especially in Asia and Africa.
The 2018 Global Slavery Index published by Walk Free Foundation (WFF) has said that Africa has more than nine million people living in slavery and has the highest rate of enslavement in any geographical region.
In several countries of the continent that feature prominently in the list of slavery rate, the governments indulge in forced labour, compelling their own people to do jobs that benefit the rulers.
It becomes that much easier for such regimes to force people into slavery, given the poor socio-economic conditions that prevail in these nations.
But there is another angle to the story.
Modern-day slavery is not just a political phenomenon as it was during the days of colonialism.
Today, slavery is also an economic term which gets a boost by means of trans-border economic activities like outsourcing works of production to places that have cheap labour and expenses but also unregulated markets with little or no transparency. As business activities in the developed world grow and flourish, they eye cheaper means of production and include the poor states of Asia and Africa into their scheme of things.
So, as we relish the possession of our new apparel, mobile phones and computers, we remember little that these glittering products have been made at the expense of blood, sweat and honour of some defenceless child or woman in a far-off place which has no safety net to protect them.
Natural resources are mined in some backward countries in Central Africa by children at gun point to produce our laptops and iphones. Then those raw materials are exported to say factories in China where again youngsters are forced to work overtime.
And finally, the American labourers are roped in to take care of the finished products in the stores before they are sold. The scenario is not too different from the triangular Africa-America-Europe-Africa pattern of the notorious trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 18th century.
When Andrew Forrest, the Australian businessman and philanthropist who co-founded WFF, says that modern-day slavery is a first-world problem and as customers, we can fix it, he is not wrong.
As the final users who are aware about the blood that goes into producing our prized possessions, we can make an impact on the multi-national companies' business by forcing them to take a better care of those vulnerable labourers and take a strong stand on curbing slavery which is earning them rich profits.
Forrest put it aptly: "If you are a chief executive or an investor and you are not prepared to take human rights into account now, you don't deserve to be a chief executive or an investor," reported the New York Times.
Next time when we go to buy our next gadget or apparel for a birthday gift, let's spare a thought for all those helpless souls who are giving their dignity and lives for something that meet our consumerist instincts.
They might be far too away for us to reach them but we can at least remember them and sign a petition to put pressure on business houses and the governments to make a positive move to curb this centuries-old evil.