Bonded Labour in India

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 31, 2022, 11:09

Bonded labour is where people work for very low or no wages. We also call bonded labour debt labour. People get trapped in Bonded Labour in India due to loans with high-interest rates with no means of repayment. The lenders then employ them as bonded labourers.

Origin Of Bonded Labour in India

The practice of Bonded Labour in India goes back thousands of years. The caste system disadvantaged lower castes significantly. They had no means to sustain themselves financially and no collateral to provide against a loan. Lack of knowledge and collateral made them vulnerable to becoming bonded labourers under the creditor.

Contemporary Bonded Labour in India

Bonded Labour in India continues to be a societal evil even today. According to the Ministry of Labor and Employment, there are still over 300,000 people trapped as bonded labour.

Children are another vulnerable group that becomes Bonded Labour in India for their parents' loans. 98% of these children are from lower castes spending most of their childhood working like slaves.

Laws Against Bonded Labour in India

The Indian Constitution provides several safeguards against bonded labour. Article 21 of the Constitution allows the right to life and freedom to live with human dignity. It cannot be amended and directly opposes the exploitation of Indian citizens through bonded labour.

Article 23, on the other hand, directly abolishes Bonded Labour in India. Articles 39, 42, and 43 state that an Indian citizen has the right to a secure and adequate livelihood, and the working conditions should be humane.

The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act came into effect in 1976. This act seeks to protect the weaker sections of society from being exploited physically and economically.

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Why does Bonded Labour continue to be an issue in India?

Despite constitutional safeguards, Bonded Labour in India continues to plague the poor. The main reason is poverty. The historically marginalized castes and tribes lack the required education to know their rights. Furthermore, they don't have the adequate skills needed for most jobs.

Landlords exploit this and employ these marginalized people for low wages to work under deplorable conditions. They lend money at high interest and get physical work done until the loans are repaid.

Women and children are the most vulnerable forms of Bonded Labour in India as they do not have a strong voice in society. Women get trafficked for the flesh trade, and children are employed as manual labour until the family repays the loan.

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Continued Efforts to Eradicate Bonded Labour in India

Once freed, the bonded labourers still cannot feed themselves. They are financially weak and continue to be vulnerable. The Government of India and several NGOs are working to provide financial assistance and rehabilitation of rescued bonded labourers. The Central Government funds all of the financial help for cases of Bonded Labour in India.

Regular surveys at the district level evaluate the impact of financial assistance. Appropriate funds get allocated for awareness programs and evolutionary studies. The rescue operations of Bonded Labour in India are followed up by convicting and punishing the perpetrators of this evil practice.

NGOs play a big part in educating business owners and trade unions about the evils of Bonded Labour in India. They also conduct raids and rescue women and children used as bonded labourers. Upon completing a rescue operation, the NGOs work with the government to rehabilitate the labourers and help them live with dignity.

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FAQs on Bonded Labour in India

Q1: How many individuals are Bonded Labour in India today?

There are still about 300,000 people trapped as Bonded Labour in India today.

Q2: Which act abolishes Bonded Labour in India?

The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act makes Bonded Labour in India illegal.

Q3: What is the main reason for Bonded Labour in India?

The main reason for Bonded Labour in India is poverty.

Q4: When was the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act passed to abolish Bonded Labour in India?

The Bonded Labor Act (Abolition) Act was passed in 1976 that abolished Bonded Labour in India.