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Labour Ministry Wants 15x Hike in Rehab Cost of Bonded Labourers

Rehabilitation cost per labour is equally borne between the Centre and the state

The labour ministry has proposed a massive increase in rehabilitation cost of bonded labourers from Rs.20,000 to up to Rs.3 lakh, a fifteen-fold jump that may cost the government dear but could benefit the BJP-led NDA regime politically as majority of the estimated one million bonded labourers in the country are Dalit farmers.
A draft note on the ministry's website for inviting comments said that henceforth the revised scheme will be centrally administered, with rehabilitation package of Rs.1 lakh per adult male beneficiary. Rehabilitation cost per labour under the scheme is equally borne between the Centre and the state and was last revised in 1999.

“For special category beneficiaries such as young chil dren, the rehabilitation assistance shall be Rs.2 lakh while for disabled people it will be Rs.3 lakh,“ the note said.

ET had last month reported that the govern ment is planning to substantially raise assistance under the scheme.

As per the proposal, Rs.1.25 lakh out of the assistance of Rs.2 lakh for special category ` people will be deposited in annuity scheme while Rs.2 lakh of the Rs.3 lakh for disabled people will be deposited in the annuity scheme.

The government currently provides a financial assistance of Rs.20,000 for rehabilitation of all kinds of bonded labourers, be it men, women, children or physically challenged people.

Bonded labour, sometimes also referred as debt bondage or debt slavery , involves a person's pledge of labour or services as security for the repayment for a debt or other obligation. The services required to repay the debt are undefined as is the duration of work, leading to huge exploitation of these labourers at the hands of their employers.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, provided for the constitution of a vigilance committee at district and sub-divisional levels in each state and union territory for identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers in the country .

Following this, the government launched a centrally sponsored scheme for rehabilitation of bonded labourers in 1978 under which assistance up to Rs.4,000 per bonded labour was provided. This was raised Rs.6,250 in 1986 and further to to Rs.10,000 in 1995 before fixing it Rs.20,000 in 1999 which is prevat alent till date.

The Economic Times, New Delhi, 22nd Sept. 2015

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