MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Indian court has ordered the labor ministry, police and New Delhi government to report on efforts to rehabilitate people rescued from bonded labor, after allegations that many did not receive support they were legally entitled to.
The order issued by the Delhi High Court on Monday came in response to a petition claiming that the government has failed to provide rehabilitation, including jobs, education and cash compensation.
“The government has the responsibility to rehabilitate these workers,” said Nirmal Gorana, convener of the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour, who filed the petition last week.
The petition included a list of bonded workers who were rescued over the last two years but had not been rehabilitated, as well as details of people who have been reported as trapped in bonded labor but have not been freed.
Police must provide a list of all cases registered with them during the past five years, “especially of child victims who have been treated as bonded laborers”, said the court order.
The court has given the government bodies one month to submit status reports on steps taken to rehabilitate bonded workers.
India banned bonded labor in 1976, but it remains widespread, with millions from the marginalized Dalit and tribal communities working in fields, brick kilns, rice mills, brothels or as domestic workers to pay off debts.
The Indian government announced plans in 2016 to rescue more than 18 million bonded laborers by 2030, and increase compensation for rescued workers by five-fold as part of its efforts to tackle modern slavery.
However, delays in getting compensation, paperwork and lack of proper rehabilitation leads to many falling back into bondage, campaigners say.
Across India, villagers are lured by traffickers with the promise of a good job and advance payments, but they often end up trapped in debt bondage.
Gorana said that India’s capital, New Delhi, is a hotspot for bonded labor, because it draws migrants from around the country who come in search of work.
“Migrant labor is more likely to get trapped in bonded labor,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
He said that authorities have not done a survey in the last decade to determine of the state bonded labor in New Delhi and the number of people trapped in it.
“We wanted the government to carry out this survey and identify the many new forms of slavery that have come up,” Gorana said.