April 21,2017 | Source: Eco Business
One of the worst droughts in decades across south India is forcing tens of thousands of farmers and labourers to take out loans to survive, pushing them into debt bondage and increasing the risk that they may be exploited for work, activists said. Villages across southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been declared drought affected by the government, following the failure of the 2016 monsoon rains.
With soaring temperatures, parched reservoirs and little agriculture-based employment, villagers are being forced to take loans to buy food, water and pay for school and medical fees, activists said, calling it the “point of no return” for farmers. “The debts are mounting across villages,” said Gladston Xavier, professor at Chennai’s Loyola College, who is monitoring the impact of the drought in Tamil Nadu. “People are being pushed into demeaning labour and more routes for trafficking have opened up. The risk has never been so severe or obvious.” Debt bondage is the most prevalent form of forced labour in India where an estimated 18 million people live in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest Global Slavery Index by Walk Free Foundation.
In India, borrowing from moneylenders and labour agents at high interest rates