ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

 Bonded labour, although prohibited under the Bonded Labour System Act of 1976, continues despite efforts to eliminate the practice. Bondage typically arises when an individual borrows money, at usurious rates, and is unable to repay the debt. Most vulnerable are landless, unemployed rural workers hired by small enterprises, particularly in the construction industry. The workers are placed in debt and are kept there by revolving loans from employers. Under these circumstances bondage can last a lifetime. Estimates of the number of affected labourers vary between 5,00,000 and 2.5 million, depending partly on the definition used. The Central government has repeatedly urged the states to detect, release and rehabilitate bonded labourers; the government has also offered matching contribuiions to meet financial outlays for the purpose. As of December 11, 1984, according to Ministry of Labour statistics, 173,814 cases of bonded labour had been identified of which 131,407 had received rehabilitation assistance. A 1982 Supreme Court decision defined the terms 'forced labour' to include labour or service to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage. In this context, 'forced labour' occurs throughout India, particularly in rural areas.

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