Arvind tells the story of a failed attempt at trafficking into the carpet looms of Uttar Pradesh. More than 300,000 children are estimated to be trapped in India’s carpet industry in India, and there are also an estimated 500,000 children in the same industry in Pakistan. Most of India’s carpets are woven in Uttar Pradesh, where the majority of workers are low-caste Hindu boys. Some are lured into bondage by agents’ promises to their parents that they will receive good wages, and others are kidnapped. The boys are forced to work for no pay, for 10-18 hours a day, seven days a week. They are beaten, tortured, branded, kept half fed and half clad, and are usually made to sleep in the loom shed. Cuts and wounds are frequent.
My name is Arvind. I am ten years old. The middleman came and took me from home to the station. He gave my parents 500 rupees [$11]. He told us that they’re going take us and let us study and we were very happy. But after some time they showed us a knife. When they showed us the knife, we were eating our food and we all starting crying. We were on the train and that’s when Ratnaji came and he took us off the train and took us to the police station. They saved our lives. We were very happy.
I like it very much over here. We get to study, we do a few light chores around the place and we get to play. I want to study further but when I get holidays I’ll go back home.I told father that I’ll be good and I won’t fight with anybody, I’ll stay happily over here and study some more. I want to study Hindi and math and I want to become a collector after studying so I can help people who are sick. I’ll sing a few lines of a song. Yama, yama, ya…a, a, a. I feel bad about kids who are sold. It happens only to the people who are poor and need the money.
Narrative as told to Free the Slaves, August 19, 2004, at Bal Vikas Ashram, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India