Today a prevalence study on bonded labour in Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural and Ramanagara was launched at a State Conference on bonded labour was conducted in Bengaluru by International Justice Mission (IJM) in partnership with the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department. St Joseph’s College was the hosting partner and National Law School of India University (NLSU) was the knowledge partner for the event. The Conference brought together senior government officials, judiciary, non-governmental organizations, academics, researches, media, and students through seven panel discussions. The Conference envisioned a Bonded Labour free state where the poor are not subjected to exploitation and violence, common in the bonded labour system.The Additional Chief Secretary to the Government, Dr DV Prasad, IAS was the Chief Guest of the event while Dr Lakshmidar Mishra, IAS, former Labour Union Secretary, Government of India was the Guest of Honor. At the inaugural session, Justice M N Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India released a field research prevalence study on Bonded Labour which International Justice Mission (IJM) had completed in Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural and Ramanagara districts in 2015.The need for a study was felt because the scale of Bonded Labour in India is under-reported, largely undocumented and unknown. IJM conducted the research study as a first step to provide reliable data on bonded labour to address this gap beginning with the three districts in Karnataka. In 2018, the study was peer reviewed and published in the International Journal of Human Trafficking.
The research study used a mark-recapture method to estimate the number of bonded labourers in the three districts by interviewing labourers at different market places. Once they arrived at the number of bonded labourers, based on the answers of the labourers to several questions posed by the researchers, this number was further extrapolated, keeping in mind the total number of labourers in the three districts, to arrive at an estimated number of bonded labourers in the three districts.4,306 labourers were surveyed between April and June 2015 across Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural and Ramanagara districts. The study captured data on 15 distinct industries across 3,765 worksites where manual labour takes place. The study also included interviews with 39 labourers currently living outside the targeted study districts (in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka), who had migrated into Karnataka in the last three years for employment opportunities.Based on the findings from the interviews, the study extrapolated that from an estimated total number of 16,70,734 labourers in the three districts, 5,58,334 or 33.4% could be bonded labourers. About 40% of those surveyed are in bondage in brick kilns, fish farms, plantations, rock quarries, rice mills, tobacco, and “other” industries. There was evidence of trafficking in 59.3% of the bonded labourers. Interviewed labourers were locals or had migrated from within the state and across the country to the three districts surveyed but 44.1 percent of labourers surveyed were from Karnataka. 92 percent of labourers surveyed belonged to SC/ST communities.50.5 percent bonded labourers originating from Karnataka were being paid below minimum wage while 36.6 percentage of bonded labourers worked all seven days a week. Migrant workers were more likely to have been trafficked than non-migrants and 79.5% of migrant labourers had taken an advance under the condition that they would migrate out of the state to work at the factory until the advance was paid back (64.1% of these were illiterate so it was unclear whether they understood the terms of their employment.).
In July 2016, the Ministry of Labour & Employment of the Govt. of India announced in the Rajya Sabha that the government plans to release and rehabilitate an estimated 1.84 crore bonded labourers across the country by 2030 while also strengthening prosecution in these cases. This study can be an aid to the government and civil society to fight this heinous crime of bonded labour.On Day one during the cultural evening a rescued bonded labourer from Ramanagara received an electric auto-rickshaw to ensure a sustainable livelihood. The survivor of bonded labour, Shivamma was rescued from a brick kiln along with her husband in 2014 after being held in bondage there for four years. In March 2017, the owner of the brick kiln was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Ramanagara sessions court.Shivamma had shared her story of bondage and freedom at an International Conference on Women Trafficking held in Mumbai in July 2017. This conference was conducted by the Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) in partnership with IJM. To honour Shivamma and help her family with a sustainable livelihood, the MSCW in partnership with Shigan eVoltz, a leading manufacturer of electric rickshaws, gifted an e-rickshaw to Shivamma at the Cultural evening at St Joseph’s college. The passenger e-rickshaw will be used by Shivamma’s husband Venkatesh and will supplement the family income. Dr Manjusha Molwane, Member Secretary of MSCW and the CEO of Shigan eVoltz BK Sinha presented the e-rickshaw keys to Shivamma in the presence of Mr. Krishnappa Kodipalya, Karnataka State Nodal Officer for Bonded Labour, RDPR.International Justice Mission (IJM) is a non-profit organisation that partners with local, state and national governments and grassroots organisations to protect the poor from violent forms of injustice such as bonded labour.
Since 2001, IJM offices in India have assisted state and local government officials in the release and rehabilitation of over 15,000 victims trapped in the bonded labour system. Our contract lawyers and social workers partner with the local District Administration, Police and Public prosecutors across states to ensure victim rescue, rehabilitation, and prosecution of perpetrators, and to help develop a thriving public justice system that delivers justice for all victims of violent oppression including among the poor. Bonded labour is a severe form of exploitation abolished by the Bonded Labour Abolition Act (BLA) in 1976. A Bonded Labour System is a system of labour where a person forfeits his rights and freedoms because of a debt or other obligation. In most cases, advance is used as a bait to trap labourers into bonded labour circumstances where the labourer is forced to continue to labour under severe restrictions of movement, employment and most often is paid less than the minimum wage. Under the Act and judgments of the honorable Supreme Court, there is no need to prove physical restriction for labourer to be bonded. A bonded labourer can be a man, woman or child. Victims of bonded labour are subject to oppression, abuse, and are denied basic human dignity and rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Proactive intervention on bonded labour cases demonstrates commitment to prioritizing and eradicating bonded labour crime from the nation.Human trafficking is defined in Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code, updated in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013. Someone is a trafficker if they recruit, transport, harbour, transfer, or receive one or more people using threats, coercion, abduction, deception, fraud, abuse of power, or inducement and that person or persons is exploited. Most cases of bonded labour are additionally cases of trafficking due to the use of threats, coercion, deception, and/or inducement in first initiating the relationship and then exploiting the workers by restricting their freedoms and paying meagre wages. Trafficking is a non-bailable, cognizable offense. In some cases with multiple victims of trafficking, the sentence can be up to life in prison.