From lack of awareness among workers and employers to low conviction rates, the Central and State governments’ efforts for eliminating bonded labour are facing many challenges, according to government officials who attended the National Human Rights Commission’s seminar on bonded labour here on Friday.
While inaugurating the one-day seminar, Union Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar asked why, when social evils like sati could be abolished in the country, bonded labour couldn’t. He said that the increasing cases of bonded labour needed serious attention.
Discussing the impact of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, NHRC member Justice P.C. Pant said implementation was the real problem. He said there was a need for greater awareness and for fast-track courts to deal with bonded labour cases.
Addressing the session for reviewing States’ implementation of the Centrally-funded bonded labour rehabilitation scheme, NHRC Registrar (law) Surajit Dey said: “One of the basic bottlenecks is with regard to conviction.”
The central scheme provides for a rehabilitation package of ₹1 lakh to ₹3 lakh, but it is linked to conviction in the case.
Making a presentation about the Rajasthan government’s work in the field, Joint Labour Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Jha said the State had identified and released 13,790 bonded labourers in the past five years, rehabilitated 10,188 and repatriated 3,602 to other States.
The Telangana government had no convictions yet since it was a new State, Joint Labour Commissioner E. Gangadhar said, admitting that there were “lots of gaps in convergence and communication between departments”. However, the State had identified 1,174 bonded labourers since 2012 and rescued 1,146.
The Uttar Pradesh government had provided rehabilitation to 149 bonded labourers under the new scheme, which was started in May 2016, the Coordinator in the office of the U.P. Labour Commissioner, Syed Rizwan Ali, said. Mr. Ali addressed Surendra Patel, a Deputy Secretary in the Union labour ministry who attended the session to interact with State representatives, and said that the Ministry had informed the State government that it had “missed” the funding proposals that were sent. He added that the proposals would be sent again.
Mr. Patel then told all State government officials present: “The Centre has no shortage of money. Please send us proposals.”
The representative of the Madhya Pradesh government, however, said the State had not received any funds from the Centre despite sending three proposals.