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Enslaved for a generation
Estimates are that close to 11 million people are enslaved in India as bonded labourers because of a small sum of money that they once they took as an advance and then a spiral of circumstances ensured that they could never come out.

For a long time , I had not heard of Banarasi and Darshan Singh, a couple from Punjab. Chances are that you still haven't. Their story as they retold it for the media at a Press Conference where I was present and later at a television studio where also I was present is an astounding tale.

Their story is a story of about 24 years of slavery in a Punjab rice mill, till they were rescued by activists of the Volunteers for Social Justice in June. During these years, as they recounted, they were kept in total confinement with no freedom to even go and drink water without the say so of a security guard whose job it was to keep watch on their movements.

Their children were born in slavery and when the time came for their children to be married, the slave owner decided, whom they should get married to and the marriage expenses added to their debt.

Banarasi and Darshan who were fortunate enough to be rescued and then had a chance to tell their stories and perhaps receive some help are not alone. Estimates are that close to 11 million people are enslaved in India as bonded labourers because of a small sum of money that they once they took as an advance and then a spiral of circumstances ensured that they could never come out.

Organizations like IJM and others who are part of the Bandhua 1947 campaign are able to reach out and rescue a tiny number of these.

Rest are doomed to continue to live in slavery unless the provisions of the Bonded Labour Prohibition Act are strictly enforced by the State, whose duty it is to ensure that every Indian citizen is nor denied his basic human rights- for that is what bonded labour is- a violation of one's right to live with freedom and dignity.

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