Over 50 Dalits are working as bonded labourers in Ragimarur village of Arkalgud taluk despite the system being banned 37 years ago.
An NGO raised the issue which prompted a visit by Hassan Deputy Commissioner Anbu Kumar to the village on Monday.
The NGO, Jeeta Vimukta Karnataka (Jeevika) identified the Dalits, including three youths, who, they say, have had to go into bonded labour to clear loans taken by their parents for marriage, house construction or rituals years ago.
The landlords provide food three times a day and annually retain one month’s wages towards interest on the loan and capital repayment.
A labourer Shivaraj, son of Shivaiah, told Express: “I had to discontinue my studies and work as a bonded labour to clear `45,000 borrowed for my sister’s marriage 10 years ago. My father died after a prolonged illness, so I have to do it.”
Arun, who had cleared SSLC, also became a bonded labourer to clear `50,000 borrowed by his father.
Ravish from the same village, also working as a bonded labourer, has been receiving `35 per day for the last eight years (the legal minimum wage, at present, is `172). Nagendra and Sannaswamy said they were forced to work every day. Jeeta Vimukta Karnataka claims that the district has over 800 such bonded labourers.
Seven Dalits from this village allegedly ran away to other cities in fear as they were unable to clear the loan borrowed by their parents for house construction.
Sources said the landlords charge 5 per cent interest per month if the labourer do not come for work.
Most of the labourers are yet to clear the loan. Many of them have been serving as bonded labourers from childhood.
A Jeevika member, Yogesh, told Express: “Despite submitting a detailed report with a list of bonded labourers to the Assistant Commissioner, the district authorities are yet to take steps to free and rehabilitate them.