The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report, which alleged that there are 97 people who cannot extricate themselves from bonded labour in P K Nagnur village in Athani taluk of Belgaum district.
The apex human rights body has issued notices to the District Magistrate and Deputy Commissioner of Belgaum, asking them to conduct an inquiry into the issue as per the provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act and submit a report within three weeks.
The NHRC also asked the officials to take immediate steps for the release and rehabilitation of the 97 labourers, and also of other such bonded labourers.
The media report dated March 24, 2013, which was forwarded by an NGO, said that the 97 labourers had allegedly taken advances from the landlords.
They were made to work as bonded labourers as they were unable to repay the advance because of the high rate of interest.
Last year, they had submitted petitions to the Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate of Belgaum, Chikkodi Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Assistant Commissioner and the Athani Tahsildar, in addition to staging protests, but the administration has not made any effort to get them released, the news report had stated.
The NHRC has also observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the bonded labourers.