Prelims Level
Mains Level
Prelims Syllabus : Rights Issues Mains Syllabus : GS II - Indian Constitution- Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, significant provisions and Basic Structure.

Why in News?

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has conducted a seminar on “bonded labour” recently.

About Bonded Labour:

  • It is a practice in which employers give high-interest loans to workers who work at low wages to pay off the debt.
  • The Supreme Court of India has interpreted bonded labour as the payment of wages that are below the prevailing market wages and legal minimum wages.
  • The Constitution of India prohibits forced labour under Article 23 (Fundamental Rights on Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour).
  • Bonded labour was historically associated with rural economies where peasants from economically disadvantaged communities were bound to work for the landlords.
  • Bonded labour is found to exist in both rural and urban pockets in unorganized industries such as brick kilns, stone quarries, coal mining, agricultural labour, domestic servitude, circus, and sexual slavery.
  • According to International Labour Organization (ILO) there are 1.17 crores bonded labourers in India (2014).

Reasons for the Persistence of Bonded Labour:

  • The lack of awareness among workers and employers
  • Low conviction rates
  • Social bias towards bonded labour
  • Migratory nature of bonded labour
  • Weaker implementation of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976.

Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976:

  • The Act extends to the whole of India but implemented by respective State Governments.
  • It provides for an institutional mechanism at the district level in the form of Vigilance Committees.
  • Vigilance committees advise District Magistrate (DM) to ensure the provisions of this act are properly implemented.
  • The State Governments/UTs may confer, on an Executive Magistrate, the powers of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class or second class for the trial of offences under this Act.
  • Under the Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers (2016) financial assistance to the extent of Rs. Three lakh is provided to the released bonded labourers along with other non-cash assistance for their livelihood.
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