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Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said the National Rural Livelihood Mission would join hands with voluntary organisations to become an institutional partner of the Bandhua 1947 campaign to combat bonded labour. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said the National Rural Livelihood Mission would join hands with voluntary organisations to become an institutional partner of the Bandhua 1947 campaign to combat bonded labour. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

We haven’t finished bonded labour: Jairam Ramesh

Ramesh says millions of people are still enslaved even four decades after India enacted the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act

New Delhi: Campaigns to save millions from bonded labour in India had been unsuccessful, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh admitted on Wednesday, while announcing an ambitious plan to combat the menace in 10 districts spread over six states.

“We cannot say that we have abolished bonded labour. It may be true on paper and we have laws on it, but we haven’t managed to finish it," Ramesh said at an event organised by a non-governmental organisation in New Delhi. He said that millions of people were still enslaved even four decades after India enacted the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act.

Unveiling the plan that falls under the ambit of the rural development ministry, Ramesh said the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)—run by the rural development ministry—would join hands with voluntary organisations to become an institutional partner of the Bandhua 1947 campaign to combat bonded labour.

Bandhua 1947 is national-level campaign aimed at mobilising people to advocate with their governments to protect millions currently vulnerable to bonded labour and fight for their rights.

“Under the NRLM umbrella, we will begin pilot projects in 10 districts which are considered to have a substantial population of bonded labourers. We will locate the bonded labourers there, get surveys done, rehabilitate them and create conditions for alternative livelihood," Ramesh said.

Starting December, NRLM will fund projects in the following districts: Gaya (Bihar), Bastar, Kondagaon (Chhattisgarh), Bolangir, Naupada (Odisha), Gumla (Jharkhand), Prakasam, Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh), Kanchipuram, Vellore (Tamil Nadu).

The projects will help locate and rehabilitate bonded labourers, include them in self-help groups, provide soft loans and vulnerability reduction funds, besides help enrol them in special projects for alternative livelihoods including skill development, the minister said.

Earlier this month, Australia-based Walk Free Foundation in its first global slavery index revealed that India had the highest number of modern day slaves, estimated at between 13.3 million and 14.7 million. The study suggested that in India, slavery mainly involved people exploited by debt bondage and bonded labour.

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