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Rescued Odisha bonded labourers on return path
As many as 239 rescued bonded labourers may take a return path to the brick kilns in southern states as the Odisha Government fails in rehabilitating them as per provisions of the Bonded Labour Act, 1976.

The bonded labourers from Odisha who had been rescued from different work sites in states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka may take a return path to those worksites again as the State Government failed to rehabilitate these 239 labourers despite the declaration following the order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

This came to the fore when rescued bonded labourers accompanied by the members of Balangir-based local organization Jana Jagarana Dadan Sangha (JJDS) with the support of Solidarity Group on Abolishing Bondage and Migration of Balangir, held a press conference here in Bhubaneswar (August 11) which exposed the state government's failure in dealing with the cases of bonded labourers.

The labourers and the JJDS blamed the state government of neglecting their plight and lamented that despite having certificates (Governments of Telangana) to get the rehabilitation; the Odisha Government has not released any rehabilitation amount to these 239 families as per provision of the Bonded Labour Act, 1976.

A rescued bonded labourer from Bangalore and member of JJDS shared how he and his family were verbally abused and physically tortured by owners of the brick kiln they were engaged in Bangalore when they asked for their wages and wanted to return to their native places. JJDS and Solidarity Group members had came to the rescue of these bonded labourers and helped them in filing criminal cases at the local police station and informed the district administration.

They stated that neither the brick kiln owner has been arrested on criminal charges nor they have got their pending wages and their rehabilitation package from the Government. This denial of all justice and rights is forcing many to return to the brick kilns in the upcoming season, they informed the press and media persons. The migration season in western and south Odisha generally starts in the month of September after the Nuakhai festival.

The Bonded Labour Act, 1976 provides rehabilitation package for a rescued bonded labourer includes an amount of Rs 20,000 and linkage to different social and welfare entitlements of the Government. JJDS has also been demanding that the rehabilitation package should also include land for agriculture, work under NREGS and forestland settlement rights

Alarming fact is that some of these 239 bonded labourers have already taken advance amounts from local agents of labour contractors and left for brick kilns of Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. "If the Odisha Government fails to rehabilitate rescued labourers, rescued bonded labourers may be forced to go back to the brick kilns again," warned the JJDS.

The NHRC, in an order passed on 14th July 2014, has issued notices to Chief Secretary and Labour Secretary of Odisha Government to file a status report on the rehabilitation of these 239 rescued bonded labourers within four weeks that is by 15th August 2014.

Similar notices for filing status reports on working conditions in brick kilns of Odisha migrant labourers has also been sent to the District Collectors of Bengaluru Rural, Bengaluru South, Bengaluru North and Gulbarga of Karnataka, Collectors of Khammam, Nalgonda, Nellore, Mehboobnagar and Kurnool of Andhra Pradesh and Collector of Thiruvalluvar (Tamil Nadu).

The public hearing on these rescued bondage labourers by NHRC is scheduled on 15th, 16th and 17th of October 2014.

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