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The true cost of slavery: 70 men trafficked from one village

In a small village in lower Assam, we recently heard a heart breaking tale, but unfortunately one that is all too common.

Visiting tea garden workers, most who live on tea estates and make a meagre living picking the leaves that end up all over the world, in one village we heard of a single incident were 70 young men were trafficked. Promised work in Kolkata, and trusting the recruiter at his word, they left their rural villages on the promise of employment that could sustain their families. They thought they would be trained to work in International call centres.

In reality they were forced to work 12 hour days packaging in a factory. None of them received a salary for their work. After two months some of them decided to leave the factory. However, with no money they found themselves homeless and unable to pay the Rs.600 (£5.50) to buy the train fare home.

Sleeping rough in the station, eventually a few of them were helped by the kindness of strangers to buy a fare. Once they returned to their villages, the community worked together to try and get the rest of the young men home.

This story is horrific, but all too common. Almost all rural villages across India have similar stories. Indeed many villages across the world have similar stories.

What is not common is that all of the men have returned home. This was only possible through a strong local civil society where members of the community coordinated the search, managing to make contact with those remaining in Kolkata.

Investing in this kind of civil society should be a no-brainer for the anti-slavery community. Yet too often we shy away from it, choosing instead to support more established organisations that can meet our audit trails. This is to the detriment of those we most desire to help. We need to do more.

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