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Letter from PM to CMs can ignite Swacch Bharat Abhiyan-like campaign against bonded labour

New Delhi: Human rights experts have suggested that a letter from the Prime Minister to chief ministers will help prioritise the issue of bonded and migrant labour. During an open house session hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), participants discussed the issue and felt that the root cause of this menace lies in the agrarian crisis, which needs to be addressed on priority in the country, a senior NHRC official said on Saturday.

"It was also suggested that a letter from the prime minister to the chief ministers will help priorities this issue on the lines of mission mode campaigns, like the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan," the NHRC said in a statement. NHRC Member Justice P C Pant said that a preventive approach is needed to end bonded labour, as it has acquired various "new forms and dimensions" with changing times and vocations since the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was enacted in 1976.

Pant said bonded labour contracts are not purely economic in India and these are reinforced by custom or coercion in many sectors such as agriculture, silk, mining, match production and brick kiln industries. He said that robust inter- state coordination mechanisms involving all ministries, agencies, trade unions and NGOs are required to address the issues of migrant workers, who may end up becoming bonded labour.

D M Mulay, Member, NHRC, said that for the robust implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, it will be necessary to increase the conviction rate of those involved in subjecting people to bonded labour to act as a deterrent. Jyotika Kalra, Member of the rights panel, said that the NHRC has been very proactive in taking cognisance of complaints related to bonded labour.

She suggested that NGOs should try sending online complaints to the commission by geo-tagging photos showing bonded labour. Online complaints are easy for quick processing, monitoring and effective action to catch the culprits, she said.

NHRC Secretary General Jaideep Govind said that the social and economic marginalisation of weaker sections and their inability to move out of their respective groups makes them particularly vulnerable to forced labour and human trafficking.

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