BONDED LABOUR SYSTEM (ABOLITION) ACT, 1976
The phenomenon of bonded labour is a “vicious circle” where each factor is responsible for further subjugation and apathy of the bonded labourers. The first part of the chain forming the vicious circle is the survival capabilities of this system. It is a relic of colonial and feudal system, which is still continuing. This relic is deeply rooted in the social customs and traditions, treating it as a normal practice. This results in the creation of a “hierarchical pattern” of society forming unequal classes in terms of superiority and inferiority. The so-called higher classes then commit all sorts of atrocities upon the considered lower classes. The system of bonded labour is an outcome of certain categories of indebtedness which have been prevailing for a long time involving certain economically, exploited, helpless and weaker sections of the society. The bonded or forced labour system was known by different names in different parts of the country like Begar, Sagri or Hali, Jeetham etc. The problem of bonded labour was closely linked to the broader socioeconomic problems of surplus labour, unemployment/under-employment, inequitable distribution of land and assets, low wages, distress migration, social customs etc. The issue of ‘bonded labour’ came to the forefront as a national issue, when it was included in the old 20-Point Programme in 1975. It was the 5th point of the Programme which stated that “bonded labour, wherever it exists will be declared illegal.” To implement this, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Ordinance was promulgated. Which was later on replaced by the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. It freed unilaterally all the bonded labourers from bondage with simultaneous liquidation of their debts. Concepts of bonded labor system
• Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) [Article 2(i)] —The term forced or compulsory labour shall mean all work or service, which is exacted, from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily. • Universal Declaration of Human Rights —On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 4 says: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” • UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery (1956) — Under this Convention debt bondage is defined as “the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his personal service or those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined”. • As per I.L.O. Report on Stopping Forced Labour (2001) — The term (Bonded Labour) refers to a worker who rendered service under condition of bondage arising from economic consideration, notably indebtedness through a loan or an advance. Where debt is the root cause of bondage, the implication is that the worker (or dependents or heirs) is tied to a particular creditor for a specified or unspecified period until the loan is repaid.
The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
Scope And coverage
It extends to the whole of India and it come into force on the 25th day of October, 1975. The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything in consistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act, or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this Act.
Definition of Important Terms used
(a) "advance" means an advance, whether in cash or in kind, or partly in cash or partly in kind, made by one person (creditor) to another person (debtor);
(b) "agreement" means as...