Tribals and rescued bonded labourers across the State, who met here on Friday for a consultation, demanded the enforcement of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. The meeting was organised by several bodies including Adivasi Solidarity Council, Human Rights Foundation, Social Awareness Society for Youth, IJM, and SIRD.
Besides, the consultation urged the National Human Rights Commission to undertake a comprehensive survey on the prevalence of bonded labour across the country and to reinforce vigilance committees to play a proactive role in identification and eradication of bonded labour. It also called for necessary amendments to the act so as to make it more stringent and meaningful.
The major issue brought up during the consultation was that the officials who represented the government were not taking adequate steps for proper rehabilitation. Speaking to Express, Ramesh of Mokkathurai in Kancheepuram, who was rescued from a rice mill during March 2008, said that they were not able to get any rehabilitative assistance except for the Rs 20,000 received per head, for his spouse and himself.
Ramesh was born in the rice mill where his parents were working for the mill owner for a meager amount and for small quantities of rice. He was forced to follow their suite due to illiteracy.
He is not even aware of his birthday or any of his family members including his last child. Even after six years, after he was freed from bond labour, Ramesh could not get a land-title and had run around for over five years to get a family card.
Plight of many rescued bonded labourers who attended the consultation was not that different from that of Ramesh. Kanniyammal, another bonded labour who was rescued last month was yet to receive any of the assistance from the State.