Bonded Labour System in India is characterized by a long-term relationship between employer and employee, which is usually solidified through a loan or social obligation, and is embedded intricately in India's socio-economic culture marked by class/caste relations. Bonded labour contracts are not purely economic; in India, they are reinforced by custom or coercion in many sectors.
The Constitution of India which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949 as the Magna Carta of Civil liberties, enshrines under dedicated Article 23, a specific provision declaring traffic in human beings, beggar and similar forms of forced labour to be punishable offence. The Government of lndia has ratified the ILO Convention C029 on 30tn November 1954 which inter alia defines forced labour as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily" .
The traditional form of bondage or forced labour in India are known as Adiyamar, Baramasia, Basahya, Bethu, Bhagela, Cherumar, Garru-Galu, Hali, Hari, Harwai, Holya, Jana, Jeetha, Kamiya, KhundifMundit, Kuthia, Lakhari, Munjhi, Mat, Munish system, Nit-Majoor, Paleru, Padiyal, Pannayilal, Sagri, Sanji, Sanjawat, Sewak, Sewakia, Seri, Vetti. However, with the passage of time, new dimensions of bondage have crept in under different names. The system is much more intricate than mere economic or labour relations; it reflects the stratified social structure where one or more social groups work without consideration of minimum wages or other righlbased labour standards just for the sake of honouring social custom or for fear of possible reprisal in case of non-conformity, which more often than not are characterised by physical violence, ostracisation, etc.
Emerging forms of forced labour and traffic in human beings, especially of children and other disadvantaged sections of society, require a holistic approach for law enforcement as well as comprehensive rehabilitation mechanism for social, psychological, educational and economic rehabilitation.
Evolution of scheme
The issue of 'bonded labour' came to the list of national priority when it was included in the old 20-Point Programme in 1975. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Ordinance was promulgated on 25th October, 1975. This was later on replaced by the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Under the Act, it is the responsibility of State governments to identify, release and rehabilitate the bonded labour.
In order to assist the State Governments in the task of rehabilitation of identified and released bonded labourers, a Centrally Sponsored Plan Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour was in operation since May, 1978. Originally the Scheme provided for rehabilitation assistance up to a ceiling limit of Rs. 4000 per bonded labour to be equally shared by Central Government and State Governments on 50:50 basis. This amount was raised to Rs. 6250 w.e.f 1.2.86; and to Rs.10,000 w.e.f. 1.4.95. Out of this, Rs. 1000 was to be given as subsistence allowance to meet travel expenses etc. to the state of origin, in case the released bonded labour was to be repatriated to his or her native place/ State or for their subsistence until they are rehabilitated. With effect from 1.4.1999, only Rehabilitation assistance was enhanced to Rs. 20,000/-. The scheme was last revised in May 2000 wherein survey component, awareness generation activities and evaluation studies were included as additional items in the existing scheme.
Revised scheme guidelines
The revised Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme and came into effect from 17th May, 2016. The Salient features are as follows.
- Every bonded labour including child bonded labour in the country is covered under the Scheme.
- The State Governments shall not be required to pay any matching contribution for the purpose of cash rehabilitation assistance. The fund is released by the Ministry of Labour and Employment under the Scheme to the District National Child Labour Project Society and the District Project Society in turn releases the fund to the implementing agencies including the district administration.
- The amount of assistance for survey of bonded labourers is Rs. 4.50 lakh per district.
- The Rehabilitation package shall be
- Rs.1,00,000 per adult male beneficiary. Beneficiary shall have the option to either deposit it in an annuity scheme or receive cash grant. The District Administration will assess the cash requirement of the beneficiary and exercise its best judgement in the matter and put the money under annuity scheme with the consent of the said adult male.
- For special category beneficiaries such as children including orphans or those rescued from organised and forced begging rings or other forms of forced child labour and women, the amount of rehabilitation assistance shall be 2 lakhs out of which at least Rs 1,25,000/- shall be deposited in an annuity scheme in the name of each beneficiary and the balance amount shall be transferred to the beneficiary account through ECS.
- In cases of bonded or forced labour involving extreme cases of deprivation or marginalization such as trans-genders, or women or children rescued from ostensible sexual exploitation such as brothels, massage parlours, placement agencies etc., or trafficking, or in cases of differently abled persons, or in situations where the District Magistrate deems fit, the rehabilitation assistance shall be Rs 3 lakhs, out of which at least Rs 2 lakhs shall be deposited in an annuity scheme in the name of each beneficiary and Rs 1 lakh shall be transferred to the beneficiary account through ECS.
- The above benefits would be additionality to other land and housing elements, etc. of the original scheme as mentioned below:
- Allotment of house-site and agricultural land
- Land development
- Provision of low cost dwelling units
- Animal husbandry, dairy, poultry, piggery etc.
- Wage employment, enforcement of minimum wages etc.
- Collection and processing of minor forest products.
- Supply of essential commodities under targeted public distribution system.
- Education for children.
- The release of rehabilitation assistance has been linked with conviction of the accused. In cases where the trial has not been concluded, but the District Administration has arrived at a prima facie finding and proof of bondage, then the proposal for cash assistance shall not be stopped for want of details of conviction. However, final disbursement of cash assistance and non-cash assistance shall be made upon proof of bondage and other legal consequences as per judicial process.
- In cases where, on the conclusion of the summary trial, the District Magistrate (DM) / Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) concludes that the alleged bonded labourer is, in fact, not in a condition of bondage, but requires socio-economic assistance, the DM/SDM, may provide state assistance under any other scheme administered by them.
- In cases where, the DM/SDM find that immediate assistance is necessary for care and protection of the rescued persons during the pendency of the summary trial, such assistance including food, lodging, medical assistance, legal aid, provisions for victim's or witness' protection, etc., shall be provided under any other law or scheme forthwith, notwithstanding the entitlements prescribed under this scheme.
- State Governments/UTAs shall be required to concentrate their efforts on the following activities:
- The District Administration in a convergence approach shall undertake measures for providing safe and secure environment for the capacity building of child bonded labourers in coordination with all relevant Government departments. Accordingly, facilities for, ensuring their proper education, psycho social counselling short stay home till education upto class 12th, skill development shall be an integral component of the rehabilitation package.
- For addressing the special needs of female freed bonded labourers, State Government shall also provide financial and other assistance for marriage, apart from other capacity building measures mentioned earlier.
- For addressing the needs of the disabled persons, special care should be made available by the State as per national policy for disabled people apart from other capacity building measures.
- For adult bonded labour who do not come under any of the above categories, employable skill development training shall be a compulsory element of rehabilitation
- A Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Fund shall be created at the District level by each State with a permanent corpus of at least Rs.10 lakhs at the disposal of the District Magistrate which should be renewable. This fund will be utilised for extending immediate help to the released bonded labourers. The entire penalties recovered from the perpetuators of the bonded labour upon conviction, may be deposited in this special fund.
- lmmediate assistance of at least Rs 5,000/- shall be provided by the District Administration to the rescued person out of the District Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Fund at the disposal of the District Magistrate. Where the DM is satisfied that a particular rescued person requires more than Rs.5,000, he or she may disburse such higher amount as deemed fit, but limited to the maximum entitlement prescribed under this scheme. Any such advance amount shall be deducted from the Central cash assistance amount.
For the complete scheme details, click here.
Source : Ministry of Labour and Employment