NHRC urges Odisha to wipe out bonded labour system

Bhubaneswar: Expressing concern over the prevalence of bonded labour in the state, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today called upon the Odisha government to implement the laws in letter and spirit to eradicate the menace.

“There seems to be some gaps in implementing the laws, which prohibit bonded labour in the state. We receive maximum number of complaints of bonded labour from Odisha after Uttar Pradesh,” NHRC member Justice D Murugeshan said here at a national-level workshop on elimination of bonded labour organised by NHRC.

Justice Murugeshan said, most of the complaints received from the state are in ‘Bartan’ system in which upper caste people employ lower caste families for a pittance like 15 kilogram rice a year.

“Bartan system is a major violation of human rights of a person. The government officers implementing laws must identify bonded labourers and rescue them. Rehabilitation of the rescued with alternative livelihood is most important so that they will not migrate again,” he added.

Addressing the gathering, Odisha Chief Secretary A P Padhi asked the officials engaged in implementing the laws to ensure that the freed bonded labourers get jobs in different schemes like MGNREGA, Health Schemes and others.

“The district magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates, state labour officers and members of vigilance committees should release and rehabilitate the bonded labourers under the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and other related legislations,” Padhi said.

Suresh Chandra Swain, convener of Odisha Goti Mukti Andolan, an organization working for bonded labour, said, “the NHRC should ask the state government to increase the assistance amount from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2 lakh.”

As per the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011, Odisha has a total 6353 bonded labourers of whom 5413 have been legally freed, according to an official release.

Since 2011, a total of 1747 bonded labourers have been identified.

“The state government has so far rehabilitated 493 bonded labourers and has sought permission from the Centre for rehabilitation of the remaining 891,” the release said adding that the state and Central government contribute Rs 10,000 each to a bonded labourer under the rehabilitation scheme. PTI AAM SUS