Tamil Nadu observes a day against bonded labour

Tamil Nadu saw a series of events commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the passing of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) on 8 and 9 February 2018. The events were organised collaboratively by Tamil Nadu’s Labour and Employment department, the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association (RBLA), educational institutions and NGOs.

Bonded labour survivors address the world through media
 
The events kick-started with a press meet at Chennai Press Club on 8 February. The RBLA addressed about 15 media houses – marking a first, for both survivors and media houses. Survivors Raman, Vasantha and Chinarasu narrated their harsh experiences in bondage and listed the challenges they face as survivors.

Dr. Krishnan from National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC) explained how timely and accessible rehabilitation processes would benefit survivors. Expressing her plight, Vasantha, a bonded labour survivor said, “There are others who are trapped in bonded labour system like we once were. In order for the world to hear about this, we have come to speak to you”. One of their requests to the State was that they declare 9 February as Anti-Bonded Labour Day.

“Our vision is to end bonded labour in Tamil Nadu,” states Tamil Nadu Government
 
As pioneers of the fight against bonded labour, Tamil Nadu government led the conversations on bonded labour across the State. On 9 February, officials from the State’s Labour and Employment Department and the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) were present in Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) to celebrate Anti Bonded Labour Day. Chief Guest, Hon’ble Justice Meenakumari, Chairperson, SHRC addressed the students, encouraging them to join the State in their work to end bonded labour in Tamil Nadu. Mr. Marimuthu, Additional Commissioner, Labour and Employment Department, welcomed the proposal and said that he will create a role for students to identify and report bonded labour cases. He added that the State has released 96 bonded labourers and provided rehabilitation assistance worth ₹17,20,000. He also stated that the State has formulated a State Action Plan and is working on a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure that officials pursue the fight against bonded labour until its end. “Our vision is to end bonded labour in Tamil Nadu,” said Mr. Marimuthu. “We are marching towards this vision. When we can say ‘There is no bonded labour in Tamil Nadu’, we will be proud.”

Extensive awareness programmes across Tamil Nadu
 
While the government is actively fighting bonded labour, students from MCC, Hindu College and also NSS students joined in raising awareness among colleges and general public. Holding placards and calling out slogans, students formed a human chain in Tambaram and participated in a rally and street play in Thiruvallur. Last but not the least, colleges like Stella Maris and MSSW opened their doors to train their social work students on bonded labour.

The 42nd anniversary turned out to be a significant day in the history of the fight against bonded labour. The events threw light on not only the crime, but also the realities of the victims, their ordeals and their stories of courage and grit. It was a day that had a massive impact in this journey to end bonded labour in Tamil Nadu.

Click here to read about the RBLA Press Meet.