Increased ex gratia mooted for rescued bonded labourers

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended increasing the monetary compensation for rescued bonded labourers. An ordinary bonded labourer should get Rs one lakh up from Rs 20,000, woman or child labourer Rs two lakh and disabled labourer Rs 4.5 lakh, it said.

Speaking at a workshop on ‘Elimination of bonded labour” at the Vikasa Soudha here on Friday, Justice D Murugesan, a member of the commission,  suggested collection of labour cess from employers and giving it to the released labourers.

Justice Murugesan emphasised the need to set up special courts to deal with cases of human rights violations. He said non-release of certificates was the reason for long delay in paying compensation to the sufferers.

He also pointed to a flaw in the rules that the Central and state governments share the compensation of Rs 20,000.

“The Centre does not release its share unless prosecution and conviction happen. This provision will defeat the purpose. We had objected to it. We should have faith in the district collectors or deputy commissioners. Why want proof of rescuing bonded labourers,” Justice Murugesan said. Many applications for compensation are pending across India, he said and suggested that districts have a corpus of Rs five lakh for the purpose.

‘K’taka shows the way’

Justice Murugesan hailed Karnataka for its interest in abolishing the practice of bonded labourers. “We had six such workshops in different states but Karnataka is the only state where the minister, the chief secretary, principal secretaries, deputy commissioners and a large number of officials turned up,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Secretary Arvind Jadhav said that since 2001, as many as 2,774 bonded labourers had been rescued in Karnataka, with about 2,000 labourers being rescued during 2001-02 alone. Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, H K Patil, said the government had set up a Bonded Labour Review Committee, which worked for eight months and gave 22 recommendations.

The government is examining them and will implement them. He directed officials to dispose of 7,000 applications for compensation before July 30 this year.

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