The Spectator | Britain must lead the global fight against modern slavery

It has been 200 years since Britain abolished the slave trade and sent the Royal Navy out to enforce the ban across the world. Times have changed. Yet slavery at home and abroad is booming like nothing else. Theresa May knows this. It’s no wonder that alongside the chaos of Brexit negotiations she has made it her mission to fight what she calls ‘the great human rights issue of our time’. As the longest-serving home secretary for decades, she understands the nature of this barbaric business.

Last week, the Prime Minister made her latest move to combat modern slavery. She convinced six Gulf countries to sign up to the WeProtect Global Alliance – a British-led international coalition dedicated to the eradication of online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Theresa May spoke of how the fight against global slavery could not be fought by countries operating in isolation. She then announced that the UK Border Force would start training staff from Gulf-based airlines to help them spot trafficking victims.

In many ways, Britain is leading the fight against modern slavery and sex trafficking. The introdution of the Modern Slavery Act last year and the appointment of the first independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner were revolutionary moves. Large companies must now show evidence of how they are combatting slavery in their supply chain, and in July, the government pledged £33 million a year from the aid budget to combat human trafficking rackets.

These are all strong moves on a long-neglected issue but far more needs to be done. International figures are almost incomprehensible. Recent estimates suggest that there are around 46 million people in some form of slavery around the world and that globally, forced labour generates around $150 billion a year.

Reporting from Delhi, I’ve seen a small slice of the horrors of slavery first hand. In the capital’s main red light district, several thousand women and children live in abominable conditions. Local volunteers working with the sex workers recently told me that around 90 percent of them had been trafficked in some way from poverty-stricken Indian states or across the border from post-earthquake Nepal. Some had been sold into sex work by their families, others had been told they were going to well-paid domestic work. Many were simply snatched off the street and locked up in isolation, before being raped until they complied.

India has around 40 percent – 18 million – of the world’s modern day slaves. Here, trafficking networks are sophisticated and brutal. They take advantage of mass poverty and a repressive caste system to make copious amounts of money; they bribe whole police stations if they need to and silence those who stand against them with impunity.

But this isn’t just the problem of a far-off land. Ministers estimate that there are currently 10,000 – 13,000 people enslaved in Britain. A close friend of mine worked for years trying to rehabilitate trafficked women in Northern Ireland. Most of the women she helped were from eastern Europe. They had been flown to Dublin with the promise of good work, then smuggled over the Irish border and kept in underground brothels as sex slaves. When they were freed, some of them couldn’t talk for days. The refuge they ended up in was underfunded and overstretched.

Theresa May’s commitment to combating modern slavery is significant. But the simple fact is that we as a country can do so much more. In both India and the UK, activists have told me that a key problem they face is awareness of slavery. Most of us don’t believe it’s happening around us. ‘Not in my town,’ we say. But up and down Britain, from Northumbrian fields and Mancunian brothels to middle-England suburbia, people are exploited on our doorsteps.

The government needs a high-profile public awareness campaign. A July review of the Modern Slavery Act found that the training of police officers and prosecutors was patchy and sometimes absent. So, the campaign would also need to include promoting more awareness within the criminal and legal system.

The days of British gunboat diplomacy are long gone, but Britain could make sure it’s not just paying lip service to the issue. As a country, we could triple our anti-slavery campaign’s £33 million funding at home and abroad without a bat of Philip Hammond’s eyelid.

Originally published on the 12th of Dec 2016

Al Jazeera| Delhi’s dilemma: What to do with its tonnes of waste?

Mountains of waste are dumped in open spaces where children can often be seen picking through the sometimes toxic material.

With Delhi’s population more than doubling since 1990, the city’s waste management infrastructure has been stretched beyond its limit. Every day Delhi produces around 10,000 metric tonnes of solid waste – roughly the weight of the Eiffel Tower. Official estimates predict that in five years the waste produced by the city will almost double to 18,000 tonnes a day.

Recently, India’s Supreme Court, angered by the apparent inaction on the issue, delivered a damning criticism of the city’s municipalities, saying that if Delhi’s waste was not managed properly the city faced an impending disaster.

Dozens of children, some as young as five, work alongside adults or in small groups with other children in northwest Delhi’s Bhalswa – one of three landfill sites in the city.

Although child labour is outlawed in India, UNICEF estimates that there are about 10.2 million children currently working in the country.

“On paper, these landfills are meant to be ‘sanitary’ landfills. But in reality, no precautions are taken. There’s no scientific process or segregation process. Almost 90 percent of the budget of the [Delhi] municipalities is spent on transporting waste, rather than managing waste,” said Vimlendu Jha, the executive director of Swechha, a Delhi-based NGO campaigning for social action on environmental issues.

“These are faceless, nameless individuals.”

The New Delhi Municipal Council, which manages Delhi’s waste, declined to comment on child labour at the landfill sites.

See full article / photos here:


Scroll | ‘The cultural moorings are still there. Now you can get feta cheese too’: William Dalrymple on Delhi

Legend has it that “he who rules Delhi, rules India.” Many have tried and failed to rule the city and reap the wealth of the northern plains. Between heaving crowds and manic traffic lie the centuries old remains of what historians call the “Seven Cities of Delhi”. But today the city isn’t just a graveyard of empires. Delhi is the nursery of the Indian Republic and the nerve centre of the new India.

William Dalrymple, one of the greatest travel writers of the last fifty years, first came to Delhi aged 18. He’s stayed longer than most travellers. Arrival in this city is a shock and what with the stifling heat, crowds, touts, and poverty, within a few days most flee north for the Himalayas, west to the grandeur of Rajasthan, or south to Goa’s idyllic beaches. Few have it in them to weather Delhi’s assault on the senses for long. But three decades on, aged 51, Dalrymple’s still wandering through Delhi’s streets.

Over the last thirty years, Delhi has exploded across its neighbouring states. In the nineteenth century, Europe was in awe of industrialising Manchester, as the population boomed to the dizzying heights of two million people and the city swallowed towns like Salford and Bolton whole. Today in Delhi, the story is much the same, but on an incomprehensible scale. Every day over half of Spain – 25 million people – jostle for work here.

Early start

Dalrymple rose to notoriety in 1989 when, at just 22, he published In Xanadu – a travelogue in which he retraces Marco Polo’s thirteenth century journey from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to Kublai Khan’s Summer Palace in Shangdu, China.

After the tremendous success of In Xanadu, Dalrymple returned to Delhi, eking out an existence working as a freelance journalist for several years, before completing his second book, an award winning account of his love affair with the city – City of Djinns.

For Dalrymple, Delhi in the late 1980s “possessed a bottomless seam of stories: tales receding far beyond history, deep into the cavernous chambers of myth and legend.” Continually pillaged and fought over, the city seemed to him to be in a constant state of regeneration as it absorbed, tamed and outlasted those who sought to dominate it.

Over the four years it took him to write City of Djinns, he peeled back the layers of the ancient city, and explored Delhi’s seven “dead” cities, and showed that there was far more to the city than the obvious everyday squalor. According to Dalrymple, the city’s central paradox in the 1980s was that that even though it was one of the oldest towns in the world, what with the Partition, the evacuation of much of Delhi’s old Muslim population and the influx of refugees, Delhi “was inhabited by a population most of whose roots in the ancient city soil stretched back only forty years.” Despite this, “Somehow different areas of Delhi seemed to have preserved intact different centuries, even different millennia.”

After several years in Delhi, Dalrymple traded the hubbub for a quiet, spacious Mehrauli farm south of the city, where he hosts regular lavish parties for Delhi’s cultural elite. A prolific writer, hidden behind mountains of books and endless artefacts from his travels, with chickens and goats wandering by, he has gone on to publish eight more bestselling works.

Clad in simple Indian cotton and sporting a respectable beard, he is a warm and merry character, always willing to dish out the red wine and show you the steps to the Talking Heads.

But over the years Delhi’s caught up with him in this leafy retreat. Outside the collection of gated farms, he resides in, the city thunders on into Rajasthan, with five lane traffic and metro overpasses only a few minutes away.

“It’s strange being a middle-aged travel writer. My first three books read like history.”

In Xanadu records an Asia where Syria and Pakistan were endlessly hospitable and the safest and kindest places to go. City of Djinns records a bucolic rural Delhi. And From the Holy Mountain records the extant Christian community of the Middle East.”

“These places don’t exist anymore. Who knows, maybe I’ll be quoted by historians in five hundred years.”

City of Djinns is a record of a city that no longer exists. A city where there were no cars on the road, where everyone worked a government job, where everyone drove one model of car, the Ambassador. Delhi was a slightly dull Washington-like city unless you pottered around the old city where everything got more interesting.”

“None of that is the case anymore.”

Bad city

Dalrymple’s brow furrows.

“There’s a huge stigma attached to the place, now. It’s now regarded as the rape capital of India. And as having the worst traffic jams in India, having the worst pollution in India and the worst corruption.”

In 2012, Delhi was thrown into the international spotlight when a 23-year-old student was gang-raped and tortured on a bus in the south of the city. She died of her injuries a few days later. Almost overnight the city became synonymous with rape and sexual harassment.

Reflecting on this, Dalrymple says, “For all that I love this city, it’s a place where I worry about my wife and daughter going out at night unescorted. The violence does exist. It is a violent city. It’s not an entirely new thing. It’s been a traumatised place. It’s one of these cities like Jerusalem where massacres have taken place throughout history – it’s a very masculinised society. This is different from Goa, Bombay, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where women are safer and have more rights.”

“But,” Dalrymple continues, “the question of women in Delhi is a very complicated one. Because in many ways at elite levels it’s a city run by women. There are more strong women in the city than there are in perhaps any other city.”

“They run a lot of the things that actually work well in the city. And often at parties I see this as a city of henpecked husbands. These amazing Indian women, beautiful, clever, well-educated. There’s a much higher priority in the Indian elite on really educating the women in the family. I’d say more so than there was in my generation of British women. The elite women here are really incredible.”

Turning back to the question of Delhi’s phenomenal expansion, Dalrymple says, “The city has really changed while I’ve been here. I mean, you still meet people, not very old people who can remember taking the bus out to Qutub Minar through fields of mustard.”

“A couple of months ago I went back to this beautiful old ruined Mughal garden called Shalimar Bagh. When I last saw it, it was surrounded by ruined houses, scruffy orchards and basically open land. And now it’s entirely hemmed in, in the midst of these enormous buildings and overpasses. It’s solid Delhi as far as you can see. It was a sunny afternoon and the park was packed with people doing exercises. It was quite sad, really.”

“But almost everything I really loved and wrote about Delhi in the City of Djjins is still there,” Dalrymple continues on a more upbeat note. “Yes, it’s more smoggy, more built-up. You just need to look harder for it now.”

“There are still old colonels walking around Lodi gardens with their swagger sticks. Nizamuddin is there and even more interesting and crowded with Sufis. There are still old gentleman calligraphers in frock coats in the old city, the sadhus at Nigambodh Ghats where they say the Puranas were washed ashore. There are still lustful Sikhs driving taxis.”

“All the central cultural moorings are still there, it’s just that now you can get feta cheese and watch the new Western movies.”

“I’ve never dreamed of living anywhere else.”

See full article here:

Image credit:  Bikramjit Bose / Platform Magazine

The Telegraph | Young people can still have a cosmopolitan future outside the EU

The Brexit generation must fight for a tolerant, open Britain.

Recently I was asked to judge at a prestigious private school debating competition in the wealthy suburbs of Delhi. The topic? The effects of Brexit on Europe and India. The school’s logic: this recently-graduated Brit working in India must know a thing or two.

With the typical panache of the Indian elite, sixth-formers lined up to argue the pros and cons of Brexit. One particularly erudite girl stood out. Acknowledging Brexit’s immediate negative economic impact, she argued forcibly that Britain had always been a global, cosmopolitan country, and that it always would be. For her, Brexit presented an opportunity for a golden era of cooperation between young Indians and Brits.

Like many of my generation I must confess that I felt a genuine sense of loss on the 24 of June. I felt that umpteen opportunities to live, work and study abroad had been stolen from me, that British cosmopolitanism had suffered a terrible blow. But somehow the optimism of a well-educated teenager on the far side of the world bolstered my spirits.

Of course, she was right. As a generation, we can’t afford to be shrill or hysterical. Young Brits’ potential for an international, cosmopolitan life did not die with the Brexit vote.

For those already living in Europe, the practical outcome of any negotiations, be they “hard” or “soft”, will most probably be a simple EU visa application. The vast majority of which will be accepted without the bat of a continental eyelid. Put simply, Europe cannot afford to expunge young Brits from the continent. There will be no iron curtain; it won’t suddenly become impossible to do a Masters in Amsterdam, live in Berlin and retire to Spain. There may be some punishment for Britain exiting the EU. But for all their hard talk, no one, least of all the French, can afford to use the guillotine.

Yes, young people will lose their automatic right to live and work in Europe. But the option will still be there for anyone with the drive and desire to do so – something which the  UK government must work hard to ensure.

Meanwhile, there are many other countries we will be “forced” to consider once the comfort of absolute free movement around the EU is removed. Indeed, we must look forward. The world is on the move with or without us. Cities are booming with growth rates barely comprehensible to European minds so used to near-stagnation. Vast swathes of the world’s population are tumbling head over heel into a thriving global middle-class.

In India, where every state is distinctive as a European country, under 25s make up half of the 1.25 billion population. An English speaking, smartphone grasping generation are forging ahead, with the country boasting growth rates in excess of 7 per cent. This is the future and Britain must engage with it in every way possible.Brexit need not be an ill-fitting hand-me-down from older Brits; young people must make what they want of it. The truth is that we have the technology, the human capital and political clout to make our country one of the most internationally minded and dynamic in the world. And it is young people who must be at the forefront of this drive.

From Cape Town to Buenos Aires, from Mumbai to Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh, never before has the world been so rich and accessible. Never before have young Brits been so well placed to engage and learn from it.

A British passport will remain a powerful asset to any young person wishing to live and work abroad. With their natural fluency in the world’s international language, English, and a high degree of education and skills, young Brits will remain highly desirable for immigration departments everywhere.

Of course, in a time when we run the risk of closing ourselves off, the government must do everything in its power to prevent isolationism and give the youth international experience. More funding must be made available for international internships and for small businesses looking to expand overseas. Where possible, travel and working visa applications must be streamlined.

Organisations like the International Citizens’ Service and the British Council are more important now than ever before and must be strengthened. Erasmus – which gives UK students opportunities to study across Europe – must be safeguarded. These schemes are a drop in the ocean for the Treasury, but of immense cultural importance.

We must not fool ourselves. As a society there are some incredibly serious issues we need to face up to. The recent spate of xenophobic attacks represents the worst elements of British culture. It is right to be cautious. But the bile emitted in the face of several haggard-looking child refugees is poisonous at best; we cannot let our great culture of liberalism and tolerance be replaced by primitive atavism and ignorance.

Whether it be in online, on the bus, or down the pub, if we are to remain a free, liberal and open society these elements must be fought with every fibre of our being. We must open ourselves up to a brave new world.

Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/ 2016 Getty Images

The Telegraph | London’s House Prices are Crushing the Hopes of a Generation

Looking through a London estate agent’s front window last week, I had the feeling I was staring down the barrel of a gun.

After three years of study in the north, like many of the 300,000 aspiring graduates churned out by British universities every year, I’m in the capital hunting that elusive career.

While the “Northern Powerhouse” has made some advances, our lopsided economy still screams “London”. The civil service, law, business, banking, tech, film, journalism or advertising – you name it, the vast majority of jobs are here.

It’s an anxiety-fuelling, absurd, and utterly damaging experience. The competition is immense, the cost of living even more so.

Now, I was born and raised in Lewisham, South London. Put simply, it’s never been a particularly attractive area. Lewisham is one of the capital’s poorest boroughs and, when I left for university in 2013, it had the honour of being crowned the “least peaceful” place in the UK.

Three years on, I’m back. The poverty hasn’t gone. There’s still drugs and crime galore. The difference is, in the first three months of 2016, the average property price went up by £2,500 a week.

The pace of change is phenomenal. Want to live here and work in London? How does renting a tiny flat for £300 a week sound? Or what about £400,000 for one bedroom in an old council estate? Anyone who reads the news knows that the picture is the same, if not far worse, right across the capital. Areas which used to be a safe bet for those on starter salaries are quickly becoming unaffordable.

How will scores of my non-London peers cope? If they come from money, their parents can prop them up while they get a foot in the door.  As for graduates from less affluent backgrounds, unless they can grab a rare graduate scheme, it’s difficult to see how they will manage the extortionate rents from day one of the job hunt. Indeed, the majority of my working class friends from university simply don’t see London as an option.

Young people in pursuit of a career have always had to slum it for a few years in big cities. You could argue it’s part of the fun. You suffer today for a better tomorrow. But it’s not fun to live in a badly lit damp cupboard of a room. It’s not character building for your average Londoner to hand over two thirds of their salary straight to their landlord.

In the long term, an unaffordable London might diversify our economy, as companies and graduates are forced elsewhere. But as for now, to rent or buy? It’s a pick your poison situation. The problem is, many young people simply can’t afford either.

Everyone wants to have independence, security, some savings, maybe a marriage and children. But the fact is for many young people, these aspirations have been shot to pieces.

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The Times | Free Speech Campaigners Plot to Give Banned Speakers a Stage

‘Free speech campaigners have secretly evaded a student union ban on two speakers who were deemed to have broken rules on causing offence. The speakers, Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-styled men’s rights activist, and Julie Bindel, a feminist writer, were originally due to address the University of Manchester’s free speech and secular society in October to debate tensions between feminism and free speech until the student union stopped them.’

Click here for the original article.

— With Greg hurst

The Telegraph | Playground Politics have Arrived at University

hree years ago I came to university an enthusiastic, young politico; top of my class in anything Marx related. I dreamt of university as a place of endless debate and discussion. Like many naïve radicals, I pictured myself in a suave polo neck leading a cohort of students to a bright and better world. Cigarette in one hand, a trusty Sartre paperback in the other. It would be 1968 Paris all over again.

My romantic enthusiasm was dashed on Jägerbombs within a month. How wrong I was.

University: a place where Dr Marten wearing kids, prone to hyperventilation, huddle around MacBooks, pontificating about the need for ‘liberation’.

Vegan fingers point out anything that ideologically offends and then attempt to censor it for the sake of a creating a ‘safe space’ – whether Native American head dresses, pop songs, or Hindu bindis.

But more often than not, free speech comes under fire. Charlie Hebdo, Armed Forces recruiters, Kurdish freedom fighters, renowned feminists like Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie and Germaine Greer, or LGBT activists like Peter Tachell, all get axed for various ideological impurities.

Working as a news editor for my student paper, I’ve had a front row seat to this mayhem.

The moronic politics of the NUSan organisation unable even to condemn ISIS – is sickening enough, but the childish inclination of students to cry out “that offends me” is verging on the sinister.

After writing about such issues for a year, I’ve come to the conclusion that playground politics have arrived at British universities. If you stand out in the school playground, if your views differ from the norm, you’ll be ostracised. Popular bullies will make it their job to tell you, you are a bad person. There’s no difference at university.

May 1968 Paris demonstrations
May 1968: Daniel Cohn-Bendit singing the “Internationale” chant in Paris surrounded by riot police and other students Credit: EPA

A few weeks ago it was my student union’s elections. I interviewed a candidate who had run solely on a free speech agenda. A BME working-class girl, she was a strong libertarian and Eurosceptic. She didn’t believe structural racism existed and didn’t have much time for feminism. She was plucky and unorthodox. But half way through our talk she almost broke down out of exasperation.

Her character had been relentlessly criticised online and even on the way to meet me a student had yelled abuse at her. Rumours had spread that she was secretly ‘fascist’ and ‘pro-rape’. Two of her election banners had been torn down and had been defaced with a swastika.


Put simply, she didn’t fit the mould of ‘enlightened’ student politics and she was being punished for it. This is what the ‘safe space’ mentality is all about. It’s about validating yourself socially and never straying far from the herd.

In political terms, she and I disagreed on practically everything, but that was just the point. I’m a Lefty, but I realised I had more in common with her than I did with any student union activist. We both held the importance of open debate above anything else.

Recently I read that many of those 1968 Parisian students, whom I had once idealised, were in fact spoilt, middle-class Maoists. They hadn’t intended to debate and reason with the mind. They had wanted to cleanse it. The essence of the current student culture and its ‘safe space’ argument is still the same.

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The Times | You’re the oppressors now, gay men are told

‘They have been campaigning for equality for decades and still face discrimination and alienation in many countries. But according to the National Union of Students gay men no longer count as being sufficiently oppressed. The NUS has decreed that homosexual men are not downtrodden enough to merit their own place on the representative student body and has, instead, accused them of exhibiting “oppressive behaviour”.’

Click here for original article.

With Greg Hurst

Photo taken from original piece: Photocredit:Chris Radburn/PA