As India turns 68 on the 15th of August this year, an online campaign ‘#StandForFreedom’ by a network of NGOs called Bandhua 1947 is looking to create awareness about the age old problem of bonded labour. Even after over 6 decades of independence, bonded labour remains one of India’s serious issues despite several governmental interventions.
Bonded labour - or debt bondage - is probably the least known form of slavery today, and yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people, says a NHRC report. A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay. Fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution are illegally taken away because of a debt or other obligation.
Siddharth Kara, author, activist and one of the world's foremost experts on modern day slavery and human trafficking in his book Bonded Labor - Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia writes that there are 11 million bonded labourers in India today.
Labourers toil in brick kilns, rice mills, rock quarries and many other industries, often for 18 hours a day with little rest or food. They are often prevented from leaving their work premises or allowing their children to attend school. Families sometimes remain trapped in bondage for generation after generation while trying to repay a debt as little as a few thousand rupees.
Despite the statutory prohibition, bonded labour is widely practiced. The worst affected are the children and women particularly those from poor families. The legal framework against bonded labour provided in the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 is supported by other legislations like the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
But most of us are unaware of the problem and in order to generate a large-scale awareness around this issue, the campaign has been launched.
To support the campaign all you have to do is take a piece of paper and write “I #StandForFreedom with @Bandhua1947” or “I #StandForFreedom this Independence Day” and a picture of yourself with this sign and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can share this on your social media platforms also.