Bonded labour: Rampant yet hidden problem

Menace believed to be prevalent in brick kilns, gaushalas and farms

It took Ramanna (name changed) and his family 10 years to break free from bonded labour. Ramanna was forced to work for a meagre wage of ₹300 per week in a brick kiln in Chamundipura in Ramanagara to clear a loan.

He was rescued three years ago, and is one of the fortunate few to have regained his freedom. Thousands of bonded labourers are believed to be worked to the bone in brick kilns, gaushalas and farms in rural Bengaluru, Kolar, Chikkabellapur, Mysuru, Bidar and Tumakuru districts.

“Bonded labour is a rampant yet hidden problem in the State,” said Lukose Vallatharai, former State labour commissioner. Speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Changing facets of modern day slavery and bonded labour’ organised by International Justice Mission (IJM) on Friday, he said, “People in search of livelihood are forced into doing odd jobs, where they are exploited.”

According to research on the prevalence of bonded labour in three districts of Karnataka (Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural and Ramanagara), conducted by IJM, of the 16,70,734 labourers in the State, 5,58,334 were found to be bonded labourers. The study was published by International Journal of Human Trafficking in 2018.

As per Labour Department figures, only 1,765 have been rescued till date. Most of the bonded labourers are being brought from Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh.

Krishnappa Kodipalya, Director of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, said that the department had presented a report to the central government on bonded labour in the State in 2013, based on which funds were allocated for rehabilitation and skill development of the rescued victims.

Using technology

However, technology has turned out to be the biggest deterrent for government agencies and NGOs, which are into rescue operations. According to experts, traffickers are using technology to strengthen their network.

“The traffickers are using technology to ensure that they continue to get cheap labour. Most traffickers have created fake identities and use technology to protect themselves from the police,” said Sonikutty George, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF.

The panellists also spoke about how crypto currency is being used by the traffickers to transact with middlemen across the country.

The panellists called for the creation of a Bondage Network Alliance to keep the crime in check.

IJM will be conducting a state conference on combating bonded labour on September 20 and 21.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/bonded-labour-rampant-yet-hidden-problem/article24719247.ece