Orissa bonded labourers rescue themselves from clutches of serfdom

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Koratpur (Orissa), May 6 (ANI): Over 11 elders including women and a couple of children hailing from Orissa's Koratpur District managed to save themselves from the clutches of serfdom in an obscure village of Karnataka.

They reached Orissa on Wednesday, where a voluntary forum apprised the District Labour Officer and facilitated their return to their native village.

The role of middlemen luring poor landless labourers came to light due to the efforts of Pragati, the non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Despite of employment schemes and poverty alleviation programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), many tribals here either migrate to other states in search of work or fall prey to the promises of such middlemen.

The workers, who were rescued, recalled that middlemen lured them and promised to provide them employment, food and shelter, but betrayed them following which they were left deserted in the unknown place.

Later, it was ascertained that the place in Karnataka was Lingathalli and it bordered Andhra Pradesh.

It was also revealed that initially the middlemen told them about work at the port city of Visakhapatnam, but later took them to Lingathalli, where they were herded in a hovel and made to work sans proper food and water.

According to Baidei Khara, a woman labourer, they had to start their work early in the morning and continue till late hours of night, due to which they fell sick and there was nobody to attend to them.

As a result, one woman with her two children fled from the spot and reached Koratpur, where she disclosed the plight of other bonded villagers.

"They did not provide us food and water. So we fled away from there during night. We were facing a lot of problems there. Without food and water we suffered from stomach problems. No one cared for us. They did not even pay our dues," said Baidei Khara, a woman labourer.

Pravakar Adhikari, Secretary of Pragati noted that these villagers migrate because the NREGA has not been implemented properly in the rural areas.

"I had seen the people, who were migrating from Kukudaput; I tried to stop them but they left by saying that they don't get work over here and hence they have to leave. This is the main problem.

The NREGA scheme has not been implemented properly in Nandapur block because the villagers don't even get an application form from the village council office to enroll themselves in the NREGA scheme," said Adhikari.

"Those people, who want to work are not getting any work. If they get work over here, then they will not have migrate," she added.

Despite a ban on bonded labour, it is still widely prevalent in many parts of rural India.onded labourers are overworked and underpaid and made to do just about anything their employer wants. They are not even paid minimum wages at times, which makes it tough for them to run their families.

They are denied basic amenities such as drinking water and medical aid. Their children are deprived of schooling and are instead made to work to help their families repay the loans.

Bonded labour is exploited in sectors such as domestic work, brick-kilns, rice-mills, mining quarries and carpet weaving.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 prevents the economic and physical exploitation of the poorer and weaker section of society and Article 23 of the Constitution forbids the use of forced labour. (ANI)

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