Odisha Human Rights Commission talks tough on caste-based labour

BHUBANESWAR: THE Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on Wednesday said, prosecution would be initiated against those employing people from lower caste and Dalit communities for customary services and paying them remuneration below specified minimum wage.

Acting Chairperson of the rights panel Justice BK Mishra met Collectors of four coastal districts on elimination of bonded labour system as per the directives of National Human Rights Commission.
Caste-based bonded labour system has been prevalent in many parts of the coastal pockets where members of barber or washerman communities are employed in customary services in exchange for measly remuneration. The system is called “Bartan.”

“If someone is found to have employed another person at less than the specified minimum wage, he or she would be prosecuted under Section 108 of IPC. Such employment would be deemed as bonded-labour system,” said Justice Mishra said.

Under the “Bartan” practice, upper caste families provide about 15 kg paddy per head as advance to each married male in exchange for services to be delivered to all members of the family throughout the year without any remuneration. Similarly, someone delivering services under duress too would be constituted as bonded labour system.

Labour Secretary G Srinivasan informed that identification of caste-based bonded labourers would be carried out through district vigilance monitoring committees and steps would be taken to rehabilitate them.

Director (Special Projects) of Panchayati Raj Department, Girish SN said, the department has earmarked about Rs 4.5 lakh per district to identify bonded labourers.

Labour Commissioner Sachin Ramachandran said, awareness campaigns would be mounted in block and panchayat levels for identification of bonded labourers. According to Socio-Economic Caste Census-2011, there are 8400 bonded labourers in the State. The Government has hiked the rehabilitation amount of bonded labourers from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh.


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