Bonded labour is still a rampant problem in Karnataka state.
Bonded labourer’s masked as daily wage labourers.
“I am a single parent having two children. My husband died five years ago. He took Rs. 10,000 loan from a landlord. I was working for Rs. 100 per day for five years to repay this loan. The landlord harassed me and my children. Five to six months I escaped from my village but the landlord soon caught me.” said, Janakiamma, who lives now in the rehabilitation centre at Mandya district.
Amulya, Janaki’s daughter said that she saw her mother suffer. She used to cry daily when her father died. “I did not get proper food and sleep when my mother was working for the landlord,” she added
The State report of the labour department says that, there are 1597 bonded labourers across the state, in nine districts. But many other organizations report state that the state government data does not give the whole picture
According to the Jeeveeka report, there are 15730 bonded labourers across the state. Another NGO, International Justice Mission reports estimate that there are five lakh bonded labourers across the state. Most of the labourers working in Manufacture, agriculture, construction sector. According to the report, 33.3% bonded labourers are migrated. They are coming from Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
Recently, several rehabilitated bonded labourers protested in the city.
They claimed that state government officials provided false data to the centre without proper investigation. They demanded the release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers and the removal of an officer who submitted wrong information in the report and allegedly humiliated the labourers.
Dr. Devappa, sub-coordinator at Jeeveeka said “Government officials provided false data to the centre. They are hiding the real statistics. They do not tell real stories of bonded labourers. They are forcing to these workers to state that they are not bonded labourers”
Some of these workers are working only for food; they do not get a salary.
Kiran Kamal Prasad Coordinator of Jeevika said “There is confusion in the law. Every district officer has a duty to identify the bonded labourer, due to this confusion no one is taking responsibility to rescue bonded labourers. Investigation method of bonded labourers has errors. They only investigate through a questionnaire. But due to the fear of owners as well as landlords they hesitate to speak up.”
Activist Lokesh from Mandya said he is working on identifying bonded labourers. The main problem about bonded workers is the backwardness and illiteracy.
L.K Atheeq a Principal secretary of Rural Development and Panchyat Raj department said, No error in the government data, If any organisation will give information to us, then we will identify this and we will take a proper action.
L.Madhvrao Peshwa, lawyer in labor relations, said “Bonded labour is still an issue because the government has failed to implement bonded labor act effectively.”