Indian media: Anger over 'shameful' slavery data

Thousands of Indian women are forced into different forms of slavery ranging from domestic service to prostitution
Image caption Thousands of Indian women are forced into different forms of slavery ranging from domestic service to prostitution

Media in India are describing the country topping a global slavery index as "shameful".

The Global Slavery Index 2013, compiled by Australia-based rights organisation Walk Free Foundation, says India has the highest number of people - nearly 14 million - living in conditions of slavery .

"Sixty-six years after independence, India has the dubious distinction of being home to half the number of modern day slaves in the world," says The Times of India.

The First Post website says slavery, though legally banned in India, exists in the form of bonded labour, sex trafficking, child labour, domestic servitude, ritual sex slavery, bride trafficking and harvesting organs.

"Here comes one statistic where India is clearly hands down the worldwide leader. Its nearest competition is China but India is miles ahead of China. Unfortunately it's a shameful statistic," the website says.

It adds that Dalits (low-caste Hindus) are the worst affected from the modern-day slavery.

"Some of the reasons for high numbers caught in slavery in India are the difficulty in accessing protections and government entitlements, such as the food rations card, corruption or non-performance of safety nets (such as the National Employment Guarantee, primary health care and pensions) and practices of land grabbing and asset domination by high-caste groups," says the Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has asked the government to explain why private radio stations are not allowed to broadcast news, the First Post website reports.

The court is hearing a petition which wants 245 private FM channels and 145 community radio stations in the country to be allowed to broadcast news.

At present, only All India Radio, the country's public broadcaster, is allowed to do news.

Sea of fans for Tendulkar

In international news, Indian papers feel the US debt crisis has deeply affected America's image.

The Tribune says the "damage" caused to the US reputation is "incalculable" and the relief is for a "limited period".

The Hindustan Times feels "the world has enough problems without losing the surety of its sole superpower, the country which despite its faults remains the sheet anchor for the world's security and economy".

Meanwhile, two members of the Congress party in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, who have been suspended for putting up a billboard carrying unflattering remarks about party president Sonia Gandhi, have begun a hunger strike in protest, reports the Hindustan Times.

The billboard, which has now been pulled down, was meant to urge Mrs Gandhi's daughter Priyanka to join politics but the move backfired because it described the Congress chief as "ailing".

One of the suspended members Haseeb Ahmad, who is fasting at the Anand Bhavan (the ancestral home of the Nehru-Gandhi family in Allahabad city), told the paper that the billboard had been approved by senior party leaders.

Elsewhere, The Hindu highlights the plight of a large number of salt pan workers who are suffering from diseases including skin ulcers, vision problems and higher risk of hypertension due to constant exposure to "sharp salt crystals, bright light and dust".

More than 150,000 people work in the salt industry in India, but often suffer due to poor medical facilities and a lack of awareness.

And finally, the Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Calcutta will see fans wearing masks of legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar when he plays his 199th Test match on 6 November, reports the Hindustan Times.

Cricket officials in the city are planning to order around 80,000 Tendulkar masks for the special occasion, it adds.

The maestro has decided to retire from all forms of cricket after playing his 200th Test match in Mumbai, which starts on 14 November.

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