March 11th, 2011
12:53 PM ET

From slave to village leader

In her third report in a series, CNN's Sara Sidner examines an Indian village's residents, who, once freed, are now making their own lives. One former debt slave, Pholwati Devi, was once relegated to the lowest level of Indian society but is now her local village representative,  winning an election over those who had run things in her village for generations.

Read Part 1 of CNN's Sara Sidner's report from India: Generations pay off debts through slavery
And read Part 2: Fear accompanies road to freedom: 'My father is dead. So I am working'
India official: It's not slavery
How to help

Gyan Devi and her neighbor make beads.


soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Mary

    i always wanted to watch the news

    March 11, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  2. Justina

    The title sounds like Joseph of Egypt in the Old Testament Bible. We descendants of survivors should do all our best to liberate others.

    March 12, 2011 at 1:28 am | Reply
  3. Shahrazad

    Arre!! "NOT SLAVERY..." Are you freakin' kidding?!?

    March 12, 2011 at 2:45 am | Reply
  4. Patrick W.

    Wow, you mean NON-whites keep slaves in 2011? I always thought only whitey could be racist. Hmmmmm...

    March 12, 2011 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • debby

      Spoken like a true arrogant privileged white male.

      March 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Reply
      • Justina

        Debby, no, Patrick is a typical American.

        March 13, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
      • John

        We are all priviledged by the grace of God debby!

        March 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • BlueCornMoon

      It's obvious that you haven't read much history. Slavery has been on every continent in some form except Antarctica. The Jews in Egypt, the Roman empire that ran on slaves made up of people from every nation they conquered & Spartacus led the famous revolt; Africans were enslaved by each other as well as sold into slavery & they've been guilty of modern day slavery during wartimes,there's human trafficking nowdays that involves Asian children used as sex slaves on those infamous sex tours to SE Asia,Native Americans often enslaved other tribes they defeated. Slavery is an entrenched evil that the HUMAN RACE just can't seem to get rid of.

      March 13, 2011 at 1:28 am | Reply
      • John

        The Jews were never slaves in Egypt.

        March 13, 2011 at 9:23 am |
      • Justina

        John, right, the Holocaust never happened in your view.

        March 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
      • grist

        Johns is right. There is no historical evidence that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt. It is mythology. Bringing up the holocaust makes no sense, Justina, because it has nothing to do with events alleged to have occurred thousands of years previously.

        March 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • cirejns

      You thought wrong my friend. I like to use a term called Reverse Racism. It is where, for example, African Americans living in America are now ultra racist towards whites. Now that they are free and have been for many years African Americas are using old grudges as a scapegoat for being angry at whites. Though I do not think everything is equal speaking to the color of skin, I do know from experience the reversal of hate now used in black communities. So no not only whites can be Racists.

      March 15, 2011 at 10:48 am | Reply
  5. leebo

    yea non-whites have and do keep slaves throughout history , only they"re bad at record keeping,lol
    _

    March 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
    • A

      Or they were smart enough not to keep records.

      March 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Reply
    • Justina

      Non-whites are racists and sexists; whites don't notice it because non-whites are all colored.

      March 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  6. Nick

    That slavery wasn't based on race, it was based on debt. didn't you read the full article? Many cultures besides wgite people have kept slaves for many reasons. Please educate yourself before you start sounding like a biggot.

    March 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • Justina

      If you don't use your brain, you become another human's slave. When the abuse becomes severe, you get to be rescued by those with a better brain and working conscience. A pattern in human societies.

      March 13, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Reply
    • cirejns

      To warn u friend. My bible study last week talked about calling people bigots. In truth being a bigot means you are judging someone on their point of view and regarding them to be wrong in your eyes. Witch in turns kinda makes u a bigot in their eyes. a friend once told me this once. In a class you should speak your mind then fallow up by saying "Before you start judging me, know, that you are judging me." I'm not trying to be a hatter, just sparking more convo. 🙂

      March 15, 2011 at 10:57 am | Reply
  7. Alex

    Nick, please learn how to spell bigot if you are going to use big words like that.

    March 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  8. levend

    I know many who are slaves to their workplace, can't afford to leave nor can they find employment elsewhere.
    Do you work to live? or Live to work?

    March 13, 2011 at 1:10 am | Reply
    • Justina

      A whining from fattened countries...

      March 13, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  9. GABRIEL

    Once more shall I repeat this:

    LET YOUR BONDED LABOURERS GO.

    Or by GOD ALLMIGHTY, the slave-owners are going to be sorry they didn`t.

    March 14, 2011 at 4:33 am | Reply
  10. Mamulya

    Such a great story. A tale of personal triumph over all hardship.

    How did the people who respond here managed to derail and tarnish it?

    March 14, 2011 at 10:59 am | Reply
  11. Hans

    Here I read about the past and present of slavery. Some make a distinction between debt slaves and real slaves? So I will post a definition and some facts..

    Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation. In some historical situations it has been legal for owners to kill slaves.

    The number of slaves today remains as high as 12 million to 27 million, though this is probably the smallest proportion of the world's population in history. Most are debt slaves, largely in South Asia, who are under debt bondage incurred by lenders, sometimes even for generations. Human trafficking is primarily for prostituting women and children into sex industries. It is the fastest growing criminal industry and is predicted to eventually outgrow drug trafficking.

    March 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  12. kim

    Whatever you call it its wrong! I see they failed to mention that alot of americas first slaves or servant where white crimnals from england force to come to america to do exactly what these india people are force to do work off a bonded debt they where called indentured servants. The would have done some petty crime then would be forced into a life of servitude. It was wrong then and they where slaves. Like anyone force to work and see no progress they decided to fight for there freedom. Why is everyone acting so high and mighty slavery, bonded, servant, whatever you call it. Its wrong! GIVE ME FREEDOM OR GIVE ME DEATH

    March 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Reply
    • Dre

      Well said Kim!!!

      March 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  13. Pinoy Cavitinio

    the more freedom yuore cuntry ,the more OTHER who suffer we dntdnt understand this,so can we think widely for what fredom is that whhat ever cuontry u are spccialy in wstern cuontry USA the livng and yuor economy achieved for happy $ high class community; the FRUIT SWEAT BLOOD $ TEARS of other countrys who suffer by enfluence of yuor capitalist economist $ goverment weho lead this.WHAT WE DID THE FREEDOM IN IRAQ,AFGANISTAN , IN EGYPT,LIBYA $ NOW YOURE IMPOSING FREEDOM in india $ china WHAT KIND OF HUMAN WE ARE,KINDLY ALL COUNTRIES OPEN OUR MIND FOR WHAT FREEDOM IS THIS.CAN WE HAVE A LITLE CONCIECE OUR ALL ECONOMY AND ALL RESOURCES HAD GONE ALLREADY , LIT us see what the US ecomy FIRST SHOW IT TO OTHER COUNTRY.DONT HIDE IT TIME HAS COME ALLREADY THIS IS GODS WILL OR CARMA.

    March 16, 2011 at 10:52 am | Reply
    • Dre

      Can you say Spell Check???

      March 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
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    i have good story on slavry in nigeria

    March 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  15. James

    We shuld learn to end this modern day slavery and come together in round talk to resolve issue dat is bordering slavery.

    March 29, 2011 at 4:10 am | Reply
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