Three of the world's top religious leaders – Pope Francis of the Vatican, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Mahmoud Azab have joined hands in the biggest ever push to eradicate modern day slavery and human trafficking in India by 2020.

This is the first time in history that the global Christian and Islamic leadership — with a reach of over 3 billion people have joined hands for a common cause. A significant part of the campaign by this new Global Freedom Network launched will be to rid India of both these modern ills.

According to the recent Global Slavery Index released in 2013, India was ranked 4th worst country indulging in modern day slavery and human trafficking.

India, the report states, exhibits the full spectrum of different forms of modern slavery, from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labour across various industries to the worst forms of child labour, commercial sexual exploitation and forced and servile marriage.

The formidable challenge, it said, is the enormity of the problem, both in number of trafficked persons and increasing number of locations.

An estimated 20 to 65 million Indian citizens are believed to be in forced labour within India as a result of debt bondage. India stands fourth as per proportion but right on top of this shameful list when it comes to absolute numbers.

The religious leaders will use their clout to make their supply chains and investments modern slavery-proof besides mobilising their youth sections to support programmes to eradicate the practices. 

India is among the top 10 countries of origin for poor people who are trafficked into Britain. The International Labour Organisation estimates that the profits of traffickers worldwide are in excess of $32 billion each year.

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