The Minister of State for Labour, Kodikunnil Suresh, on Tuesday pulled up his own Ministry for not doing `anything concrete’ to eradicate the growing problem of bonded labour in the country.
The note given by them (the Ministry) does not even reflect the number of people under bondage, he said while addressing a consultation on bonded labour organised by the Labour Ministry and the International Labour Organisation here.
In the same breath, the Minister said he couldn’t blame officials enough as there was `not much budgetary support’, and called for involving the Ministries of Social Empowerment as well as Tribal Affairs to address the issue effectively.
Despite a Supreme Court judgement in 2012 calling for a survey of total number of people involved in bonded labour as well as setting up vigilance committees, the Minister noted that these committees had either not been constituted or were `dysfunctional’ in many districts.
According to the ILO, there are about 20.9 million people in bonded labour globally, half of whom are in the Asia-pacific region. About 90 per cent of such labour caters to the private economy.
In India, despite being banned, bonded labour is largely prevalent in brick kilns, stone quarries, food processing, rice mills and domestic work in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Bihar, among others. Most of the people forced into such labour are Scheduled Caste and Tribal migrants, burdened by severe indebtedness, the ILO noted.