Uttar Pradesh, India - Ten police officers barreled down the road, some on motorcycles, others in a jeep, their sirens left silent so as not to alert anyone. Their mission: to rescue workers from bonded labor, or debt slavery, in India.
But when they arrived at the carpet factory, it was empty except for a man inside.
It appeared that the police were too late.
As the man was questioned, officers outside discovered five children and a disabled adult who had been ushered out the back of the factory. Someone had tipped off the owner, police said.
The police took the group to the sub-divisional magistrate office, where the children reluctantly told their stories.
"We start work at 6 a.m., end at 9 p.m. at night," the smallest said. In return for 15 hours of work, they received a food allowance of just two dollars per week. “My father is dead. So I am working.”
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Uttar Pradesh, India - An army of workers, their faces encrusted with dust, toils beside a story-high pile of unfired bricks. They are helping build a new India that appears to be leaving them behind.
From sunup to sundown they spend their time pouring wet mud into molds, lugging them to the kiln, firing them and then pulling them out. For their backbreaking work, they do not receive wages.
They are working to pay off a debt.
In India they are known as bonded laborers, bound to those who gave them or their forefathers an advance or a loan. Human rights advocates call them modern day slaves.
"I cannot leave here unless I pay my debt," said Durgawati, a mother of three.
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