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
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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.