In a swift intervention by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), 101 labourers of 38 families, engaged in bonded labour since generations in Benipatti Sub-Division of Madhubani in Bihar, were not only rescued and provided release certificates but also provided relief under various social welfare schemes including some land towards their rehabilitation by the concerned district authorities. Most of the rescued bonded labourers belonged to the Scheduled Caste and were of Musahar community.
Two criminal cases have been registered against 18 errant employers in the matter at Police Station Arer under various sections of law on the 1st February, 2015. Their past wages will be recovered from their employers. All the children of the rescued bonded labourers have been admitted to schools, 26 girls have been covered in Chief Minister's security scheme. In addition to this, the families of the rescued bonded labourers have also been given benefits of Indira Awas Yojana, Indira Gandhi National old age pension scheme, disability pension. Girls of marriageable age of 6 families have been covered under the marriage scheme.
Meanwhile, the Commission has sent notices to the Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, Principal Secretary, Department of Labour and Labour Commissioner, Patna, Government of Bihar to submit reports on release of funds from the share of the Central government in respect of 101 released bonded laboruers as well as details about the remaining amount from the State government within six weeks.
A notice has also been sent to the District Magistrate, Madhubani, Bihar to submit a report on further steps taken for rehabilitation of the victims and status of all the cases pending investigation with police and pending adjudication before the courts within six weeks.
NHRC Member, Mr. Justice D. Murugesan has appreciated the efforts of two officers of the Commission, Mr. A.K. Parashar, Joint Registrar (Law) and Mr. O.P. Vyas, Assistant Registrar (Law), who conducted spot enquiry in the matter. They have also been directed to visit the victims after about three months to assess the rehabilitation measures taken by the State Government.
He has also placed on record the efforts of District Magistrate, Madhubani and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Benipatti for their monitoring the investigation being carried out by the police in both the criminal cases besides the cases launched by the Labour Department in the Benipatti Court. The District Magistrate has also assured to have taken all necessary steps for ensuring safety and security of the victims, mostly belonging to Scheduled Caste. The Commission expects that the District Magistrate and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, who are young IAS Officers having many more years to serve will continue to work with same enthusiasm and zeal in future for the welfare of such poor people.
The Commission took cognizance of the matter on the basis of a complaint received from an NGO in the month of December, 2014 alleging that more than 38 families were being exploited under an illegal bonded labour system in the revenue jurisdiction of Benipatti Sub-Division, Madhubani, Bihar. These labourers were forced to work by their respective employers at their respective agricultural lands under 'Kamiya' bonded labour custom. The labourers were working since generations. They were not paid their statutory minimum wages, instead they received two kilograms each (husband and wife) of raw rice per day against their hard labour rendered. Most of the labourers belong to the Scheduled Caste category (Musahar) and worked more than 10 hours a day. They were trapped in a customary bonded labour system in which they were not free to move out or to be employed elsewhere.