65 years later, they are still not bonded to freedom
By Express News Service - CHENNAI
16th August 2012 07:52 AM
India celebrated 65 years of Independence on Wednesday, but freedom still eludes a section of wo-rkers who are neither documented nor registered and spend their lives behind closed doors of rice mills, stone quarries or brick kilns, according to a panel of experts.
Thirty-six years after the Union government abolished the bonded labour system in 1976, it is still prevalent in Tamil Nadu and many other States with migration and contract system giving a new shape to the age old system of forced labour, experts said at a panel discussion organised by International Justice Mission, which included rights activists, academicians and policy makers.
Chairman and managing director of civil supplies corporation, P W C Davidar, while sharing his experiences on various measures by the State to eradicate bonded labour, said that the act is not helpful in eradicating bonded labour and there are a lot of interpretations.
He also said bonded labour is not caste specific, but culture specific and the-re is a need to sensitise authorities about the elements of bonded labour.
A study done earlier by Supreme Court states that 87 per cent of bonded labourers are from the scheduled castes, schedu-led tribes and most backward classes.
Prof Ravi Srivastava of the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that migration and the contract system has resulted in evolution of neo-bondage.
“The fulcrum of bondage and neo-bondage has shifted to the organised sector. Due to contract system and migration, the condition of people working in neo-bo-ndage will rise,” he said.
Citing the example of Kerala, where bonded labour was extinct after an act that abolished the practice, he said it has been revived with the large-scale migration of workers from Bihar and Jharkhand.
He said that the government failed to set realistic goals to abolish bonded labour.
Interestingly, Ramesh, a former bonded labourer, highlighted the hollowness of rehabilitation measures.
“Once we are freed by authorities, the biggest challenge is to rebuild our lives. But officials fail to provide us patta or ration cards forcing us to return and work as bonded labour,” he said.
The session, which was moderated by social worker and former Madras Christian College principal Cherian Kurien, also included Andy Griffiths, field office director of International Justice Mission and Professor B N Juyal, former head of the Centre of Sociology and Rural Development Studies.
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