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Bonded Labour System in India

Despite India's many strides in economic growth and prosperity, millions of people are still trapped in a form of modern-day slavery, known as bonded labour or debt bondage. This article will explore the prevalence of this system across India and how it affects those caught within it.

What is Bonded Labour?

Bonded labour, also known as debt bondage, is a form of involuntary servitude that occurs when an individual or family takes out a loan. The borrower then agrees to work for the lender in order to pay off the debt. This type of arrangement can last for years and even decades as the debt often accumulates interest over time making it nearly impossible to repay. In addition, bonded labourers are not typically paid wages but instead receive food and shelter from their employer which further entraps them within this system.

Prevalence of Bonded Labour in India

According to recent estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), India has one of the highest concentrations of bonded labourers in the world with around 18 million people living under this form of slavery. This number represents approximately 10% of India's total workforce and includes both adults and children who have been forced into labour due to poverty or other forms of exploitation such as caste-based discrimination or gender bias.

Many cases involve farmers who take out loans from money lenders only to find themselves unable to repay these debts due to fluctuating crop prices or other factors beyond their control leading them into perpetual servitude without any hope for escape.

Effects on Victims

The effects on those trapped in bonded labour are far reaching with many suffering physical abuse, psychological trauma, loss of freedom and social exclusion among other things. Those working in hazardous occupations such as brick kilns often experience dangerous working conditions including exposure to toxic materials while receiving little if any payment for their efforts leaving them at risk for permanent disability or even death due to occupational hazards.

Additionally, victims may be subjecting long hours with no rest days while facing threats from employers if they attempt leave leading many individuals into despair with some taking extreme measures like suicide just so they can escape this oppressive situation once and for all.

Causes & Contributing Factors

  1. Poverty:
    One major factor driving people towards bonded labour is economic hardship caused by poverty where individuals need funds urgently yet lack access formal banking services forcing them take loans from local moneylenders at high interest rates trapping them within this cycle indefinitely unless they manage find another source income outside these arrangements.
  2. Caste Discrimination:
    Another factor contributing towards prevalence bond labor is caste based discrimination whereby certain lower castes are more likely end up being employed by wealthier landlords than others creating an environment where members said communities must rely upon exploitative practices just survive day-to-day life.
  3. Gender Bias:
    Women too face significant disadvantages when it comes accessing financial resources thus making it difficult women break free from bondage since there usually few alternatives available . Additionally, women tend bear brunt domestic responsibilities causing additional strain financially speaking limiting opportunities engage productive employment outside home putting further pressure onto already strained budgets pushing households deeper into debt bondage chains.
  4. Lack Legal Protection:
    Lastly, there inadequate legal protection against exploitation meaning most workers do not know rights nor have access justice mechanisms allowing employers take advantage their vulnerable situation. This lacks legal framework further entraps victims as they cannot seek help from authorities nor apply formal complaint channels leaving them little choice but accept unfair and oppressive terms of employment.

What is Being Done to Combat Bonded Labour?

The Indian government has taken several steps combat this issue including passing the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 which makes it illegal employ bonded labour in any form however, due antiquated laws and weak enforcement mechanisms many cases still go unreported. Additionally, awareness campaigns have been launched educate people about dangers debt bondage while providing alternative sources income such as vocational training or microfinance programmes so individuals can become self-sufficient without relying upon exploitative practices.

Furthermore, organizations like International Justice Mission (IJM) are actively working towards rescuing those trapped within these systems by providing legal assistance filing complaints against offenders as well advocating for better protection rights all workers regardless caste or gender status. In addition, initiatives such Child Labour Free Zones have been established certain areas India where children are especially at-risk exploitation helping ensure that future generations do not fall prey same fate their parents did.

Bonded labour remains a significant problem India with millions of people trapped in oppressive arrangements out desperation poverty or discrimination making it difficult escape unless help is provided from outside sources. Despite efforts being made by various organizations tackle this issue there much more needs done order eradicate this form slavery once and all allowing affected individuals reclaim freedom dignity they deserve.

Written By: Muskan Sharma, Student, 3rd Year, B. Com LL.B. (H), Institute of Law, Nirma University.

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