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Bonded labour: A shame on Indian economy
On the one side India is moving ahead to be the big economy in the world and on the other side it is stated to be the home for largest number of bonded labours as contemporary form of slavery. On October 25, 2013, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) jointly with the 'Dignity: Danish Institute against Torture' with the support from Voice of People and QICAC, organised the public hearing against bonded and child labour to ensure human dignity.

The chief guest in the programme was Yogesh Dubey, member of the National Child Protection Commission and chairperson of the core committee for eradication of bonded labour in Uttar Pradesh along with Ms Shameena Shafiq, Member, National Women's Commission, and assistant registrar National Human Rights Commission OP Vyas.

Former DGP Uttarakhand Jyotiswaroop Pandey was present in the hearing as jury. Ravindra Singh Dogra, the secretary of the panchayatiraj and rastravadi granthalaya was special guest. The members of the jury released a report called "The Dark Side of India" during the programme. The report has been published by the PVCHR on the basis of the experience of bonded labours in Uttar Pradesh.

While delivering the welcome address and throwing light upon the subject, this citizen journalist (Lenin Raghuvanshi), who is also director of the PVCHR, highlighted how in the past two-and-half years the organisation (PVCHR) has been successful in liberating 243 bonded labours through advocacy at different levels including district, state and national administration.

Since 1996 about 3500 bonded labours have been set free from the organised bonded labour system. This is astonishing but fact that these bonded labours belong to scheduled caste, tribal community, backward class or minority community and none of them belonged to upper caste.

Existence of bonded labours in our society today has several reasons such as economic discrepancies, caste systems, autocratic attitude, communal mind set and patriarchal thoughts. It is due to such practices that castes are suppressed and worst is the situation of women and children.

For the public hearing, about 70 cases from different districts of UP such as Sonebhadra, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Chandauli and Aligarh were brought for discussion in the hearing. Out of the total, about 15 such cases awaiting justice were presented before the jury where the victims presented their tale of woes. They narrated how the administration ignores their welfare, their rehabilitation, social development, welfare schemes for them and even eradication of bonded labour system.

It may be mentioned that the report released by minister Shivpal Singh Yadav on the Mujaffarnagar riots does indicated on bonded labours but it does not accept that the problem exists straightaway. The report says that some of the riot victims are not going back from relief camps as they have taken loan from the brick kiln owners and fears they will be asked to return back the money.

In the Bandhuaa Mukti Morcha Vs Union Government case it has been said that if someone has taken a loan and is made to do same work repeatedly to repay the loan, and the loan taker is frightened and is not being given minimum wages the person according to the reference given in the case is termed as a bonded labour. In such matter the victim should be liberated and his or her rehabilitation should be ensured to provide a free life.

Recently a renowned organisation from Australia, "Walk Free Foundation" has released a report on slavery index 2013 which says the survey was done in 162 countries and 3 crore people in these countries are slaves. Of these half 1.39 crore are in India. Along with India the other poor countries of the world the poor are being made slave against their poverty, political instability, caste, gender and illiteracy and are subjected to human trafficking, forced marriage, sex trade, and other offence.

Making someone victim and exploiting them sexually and mentally by making them slave, which used to happen in 18th century, still exists in some part of the world while laws against human slavery were brought in and implemented decades before. The labour department runs several welfare schemes for labours. In fact bonded labour and child labour fetch manifold profits to employers and economy.

For the success of the public hearing, the Uttar Pradesh Social Welfare Board and agriculture production commissioner gave their messages and the public hearing was participated by organisations such as International Justice Mission, OXFAM and it pressed upon the need to eradicate child labour and bonded labour. The sessions were coordinated by Shruti Nagvanshi of Voice of People's state convenor, and vote of thanks was given by Anoop Srivastava from PVCHR.

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