Bonded labour: Paradox of Punjab?s prosperity

PTI | ByPriyanka Khanna
May 07, 2004 04:26 PM IST

Despite stringent laws in place, the inhuman practice of bonded labour and child labour continues unabated in Punjab.

Social WelfareOn May 1, Labour Day was celebrated all over the world, but for nearly 1 million, bonded labour in the northern Indian state of Punjab, it had little or no significance. ActionAid India estimates there are some half a million bonded labourers in agricultural sector and another three hundred thousand people in bondage in brick kilns in Punjab. The problem is particularly acute in Malwa region, which accounts for approximately three hundred fifty thousand of the total agricultural bonded labourers and two hundred thousand of the total people in bondage in the brick kilns.

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"The Malwa region is still ruled by feudal ethos and the literacy rates among the marginal groups like the dalits is low here. The situation particularly serious amongst dalit women," the 2001 Census report states.

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The story of two young boys, Deepak and Vishal, is just one glaring example of this inhuman practice prevailing in one of the most prosperous states in India. They were sold to two prosperous landlords in Moga district at the age of eight and six, respectively. Oldest among five children of Jyoti, a domestic help in Phillaur district, and Jeevan, a rickshaw puller, the boys were put into bondage by their grandmother, in 2001, while on a trip to their grandmother's village to spend their summer vacations.

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