Lack of a proper mechanism to identify bonded labour could be one reason why it still exists in parts of India, a Parliamentary panel said on Tuesday.
What is worse is that states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal have failed to furnish details on the status of bonded labour even after repeated requests from the Standing Committee on Labour, Committee head and CPI MP S Sudhakar Reddy said. The Committee submitted its 18th report to the Parliament on Tuesday.
"In spite of repeated requests for information, these states failed to furnish the details. In case of West Bengal, the state government did not submit the details of a few districts," Reddy said.
Reddy hinted that the lack of compliance could mean that the practice is still prevalent in these states, adding that the total number of bonded labourers in the country could be in thousands.
In the report, the committee noted that the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment did not even bother to convene a state labour ministers' meeting to address the issue of bonded labour. "The Cabinet may also be taken into confidence so that immediate remedial measures are taken to identify and rehabilitate bonded labour in coordination with the concerned state governments," the report noted.
The panel also demanded for a "realistic" 9.5 per cent EPF interest rate for 2005-06 and beyond. "9.5 per cent interest is not unreasonable in the prevailing scenario, particularly when the overall prices are rising rapidly," the report said.
Reddy said that lowering the EPF interest rate would affect 4 crore subscribers and a consensus should be evolved before any decision is taken.
"Whatever be the parameter in fixing the rate of interest, the interest of EPF subscribers should be safeguarded by providing them the interest at the rate of 9.5 per cent," the report said and asked the government to gear up its machinery to recover Rs 2,145 crore outstanding dues from defaulting establishments.