Fighting India’s bonded labour during the COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 1; Empowering India’s poor so they don’t return to bonded labour – Part 2

Trafficking survivor Devendra Kumar Mulayam, who hails from Shahapur in the Chandouli district of Uttar Pradesh, had to begin working at age 12 to help pay off the two loans his father had taken out. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

Fighting India’s Bonded Labour During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 1

By Rina Mukherji

PUNE, India, Sep 22 2020 (IPS) – One of the worst fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the closure of industries in India, which caused thousands of migrant labourers to return home to villages in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. In a region where the poorest have always been subjected to bonded labour, child labour and slave trafficking, it has meant revisiting the past.

“Uttar Pradesh has seen 35 lakh [3.5 million] workers return home. Azamgarh district alone has seen 1.65 lakh [165,000] returnees. Of these, only 10,000 people could be given employment under MNREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act],” activist and Rural Organisation for Social Advancement chief functionary, Mushtaque Ahmed, told IPS

MNREGA guarantees 100 days of wage employment to a rural household where the adults are willing to undertake unskilled labour.
Of late, as the country has progressed into a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, and some workers — who comprised the bulk of the skilled labour in industrial belts — have returned to work.


Empowering India’s Poor so They Don’t Return to Bonded Labour – Part 2

By Rina Mukherji

PUNE, India, Oct 5 2020 (IPS) – One day, while the rest of his family were out at work, Kamlesh Pravasi from Jigarsandih village in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh was “abducted when I returned home one day from school, by a contractor’s goons,” he told IPS. The then 12-year-old Pravasi, who was in the sixth grade, was forced to work in bonded labour in a brick kiln because his father could not repay a Rs 5,000 ($68) loan he had taken out from the contractor in order to pay for medical treatment for Pravasi’s sick brother.

Pravasi, along with his two younger brothers, was made to work from the early hours in the morning (from around 2 or 4 am) until 7 pm in the evening, for little or no payment. The family, comprising his parents and six siblings, could do little to alleviate their plight.


Source- IPS

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