Bonded labour, which has camouflaged into “different forms of slavery”, can be ended by changing the feudal mindset and attitude of people and not by legislation alone, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said on Tuesday. “Bonded labour is a blot on our society. Feudal thinking is the major reason behind it. Kings and saints have tried to bring reforms over centuries but this practice continues. Exploitation has become a psychological nature and Dalits and other marginalised communities suffer a lot,” he said.
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Dattatreya, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, was addressing a gathering on the inauguration of a two-day ‘National Seminar on Bonded Labour’ hosted by the National Human Right Commission at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. “Bonded labour today has camouflaged, changed in form into different forms of slavery… We have adequate laws and legislation and we are also trying to revamp the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. But to eradicate this scourge, we must change the psyche of the society and feudal thinking of people, which unfortunately still persist,” he said.
NHRC Chairperson Justice H L Dattu in the opening address called for adopting a “holistic approach” to tackle “emerging form of forced labour and trafficking”. “We require dual approach as it involves vulnerability of victims and impunity enjoyed by the exploiters,” he said. Emphasising that the Centre is committed to eliminating bonded labour, Dattatreya highlighted the Centre’s decision to increase the financial assistance of Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh per adult male beneficiary under the Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme.
“In order to avoid delay, the transfer of the amount to the beneficiary account will be done directly from District National Child Labour Project Society,” he said. Dattu in his address said that despite several laws, plans, policies, programmes and schemes, the records of national governance, public investment and development action “yield little matching evidence” of substantive work towards elimination of bonded labour.
“It amounts to an outright denial of unalienable human rights and is one of the worst kinds of violation of human rights. In order to end this menace, radical reforms in social services and administration of efficient delivery of services are urgently needed with the help of different stakeholders in government, civil society and other institutions.
“A set of time-bound targets should be fixed with the unified, galvanised and expanded efforts to help the poorest masses,” the rights panel chief asserted. The seminar is being attended by members of various State Human Rights Commissions, legal experts and law students.