NHRC’s two-day National seminar on bonded labour begins in New Delhi
New Delhi, 14th February, 2017 (By Sanjit Kumar Mohanty)-Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Labour & Employment today said that bonded labour may not be eliminated merely by legislation and rules; change in attitude and feudal mindset of society will be necessary to end this scourge. He was addressing, as the Chief Guest, the two–day National Seminar on Bonded Labour organized by the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi. He said that the real challenge is how to stop the rescued bonded labourersfrom going back to bonded labour.
Emphasizing that the Centre is committed to eliminate bonded labour, Mr. Dattatreya highlighted thedecision to increase the financial assistance of Rs. 20,000/- to Rs. 1 lakh per adult male beneficiary under the Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme. He said that in order to avoid delay, the transfer of the amount to the beneficiary account will be done directly from District National Child Labour Project Society.
He said that, as per revised provisions, children including orphans or those rescued from organized and forced begging rings or other forms of forced child labour and women will be treated as special category beneficiaries and given Rs. 2 lakh of financial assistance. Rs. 3 lakh will be given in cases of bonded or forced labour involving extreme cases of deprivation or marginalization such as transgender, or woman or children rescued from ostensible sexual exploitation such as brothels, massage parlours, placement agencies or trafficking, or in cases of differently abled persons, or insituations where the District Magistrate deems fit. The above cash benefit would be in addition to other land and housing elements etc of the origin scheme as provided by the district administration.
Earlier, in his inaugural address, Mr. Justice H.L. Dattu, Chairperson, NHRC said that despite several laws, plans, policies, programmes and schemes, the records of national governance, public investment and development action yield little matching evidence of substantive work towards elimination of bonded labour. It amounts to an outright denial of unalienable human rightsand is one of the worst kinds of violation of human rights.In order to end this menace, radical reforms in social services and administrationof efficient delivery of services are urgently needed with the help of different stakeholders in government, civil society and other institutions. A set of time bound targets should be fixed with the unified, galvanized and expanded efforts to help the poorest masses.
The NHRC Chairperson saidthat it would be wrong to think that bonded labour is a thing of past, as it can be found even today in not only agriculture but also in any sector of employment including brick-kilns, stone quarries, salt fields, lather manufacturing units and so on. He said that as long as there is poverty, unemployment, underemployment, landlessness, migration, indebtedness, the pernicious bonded labour system will continue.
Giving an insight into the Constitutional and legal provisions, Justice Dattu, highlighted some of the measures taken by the NHRC towards elimination of bonded labour after the Supreme Court of India, in 1997, vested the responsibility for the monitoring and implementation of the bonded labor (Abolishing) Act, 1976 to the Commission. The Commission has recommended compensation in cases of bonded labour and also amendments to several provisions in Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
Since its inception in 1993, the Commission registered 14,614 cases of bonded labour, out of which 13,266 cases have been disposed. In order to monitor the compliance of recommendations on bonded labour, the Commission has also devised a detailed reporting questionnaire format and sent it to all the States/Union Territories. So far, the Commission has not received information from 12 States and 6 Union Territories.Justice Dattu said that abolition of bonded labour requires a holistic approach in as much as it is not the concerns of any particular ministries or department or agency but is the concerned of the whole nations.
The seminar is divided into three thematic sessions, which will be chaired by Mr. Justice D. Murugesan, Member, NHRC. These will cover various aspects related to the prevalence of bonded labour and challenges in its elimination, relief and rehabilitation of the rescued bonded labourers in different parts of the country as well as international best practices on sustainable human development and bonded labour.
These will be addressed, among others, by eminent speakers including those from International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), experts, representatives of Centre and State Governments, civil society, NGOs, NHRC officers and Special Rapporteurs as well as the representatives of State Human Rights Commissions.
The Commission has been receiving spate of complaints from time to time regarding exploitation and harassment of persons who have been victims of bonded labour system some of these complaints related to non-payment of wages or payment of wages lower than notified minimum wages, long working hours indecent behaviour with women folk accompanied interstate migrant labourers living likes slaves maximum number of complaints pertain to labourers employed in brick kilns and stone quarries. In almost all cases, the DMs rest content by filing a prosecution for non-maintenance of records and registers.