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New Delhi The two-day National seminar on bonded labour organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) concluded in New Delhi on February 15 with several suggestions for prevention and elimination of bonded labour in the country. It was felt that most of the bonded labourers belong to the Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes communities and the official statistics do not match the ground realities of bonded labour, which continues to manifest not only in the agricultural sector but also in any sector of employment including brick-kilns, stone quarries, salt fields, leather manufacturing units, brothels, massage parlours, placement agencies or trafficking and so on.

It was suggested that a National Task Force should be set up to examine the obstacles and challenges in the implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and subsequent schemes introduced.

Some of the other important suggestions were: Revise Minimum Wages Act of 1948 and make it a Living Wages Act by bringing at par the minimum wages of a skilled labourer with the lowest paid employee of the central government as per the 7th Pay Commission and focus on preventive measures such as working out methods to integrate local development work under social welfare schemes like MGNERA with the lean crop season to check migration and possibility of bonded labour, bringing uniformity in the rescue, release and rehabilitation process of the bonded labourers in the entire country and ensure that rescue, release and rehabilitation happen simultaneously by giving powers to the DMs to release immediately funds from a dedicated corpus as an emergency to avoid delay and inconvenience to the beneficiaries. All financial transactions in this process should be digitized, according to an NHRC release.

Chairing the concluding session, Justice D Murugesan, Member, NHRC, said that the Commission would further deliberate Son all such important suggestions and finalize its recommendations to the government for implementation towards prevention and elimination of bonded labour in the country. 

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