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New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is organising a two- day national seminar on ‘Bonded Labour’ on February 14 & 15, 2017, at Auditorium, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Teen Murti Bhawan, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. It follows regional workshops on the subject held by the Commission in various parts of the country. Justice H L Dattu, Chairperson, NHRC will inaugurate it. Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya,will be the Chief Guest.

The seminar is divided into three thematic sessions, which will be chaired by Justice D Murugesan, Member, NHRC. These will cover various aspects related to the prevalence of bonded labour and challenges in its elimination, relief and rehabilitation of the rescued bonded labourers in different parts of the country as well as international best practices on sustainable human development and bonded labour, according to an NHRC release.These will be addressed among others by eminent speakers including those from International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), representatives of Centre and state governments.

The NHRC has been receiving spate of complaints from time to time regarding exploitation and harassment of persons who have been victims of bonded labour system. Some of these complaints related to non-payment of wages or payment of wages lower than notified minimum wages, long working hours and indecent behaviour with women folk. The maximum number of complaints pertain to labourers employed in brick kilns and stone quarries.

In almost all cases, the DMs rest content by filing a prosecution for non-maintenance of records and registers.  The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act does not permit any compounding of the offence or reaching a compromise between the bonded labour keeper and the bonded labourer, the NHRC release said.  The action and conduct of DMs in a large number of cases would amount to abatement of an offence as defined in Section 20 of the Act.  The DMs are, however, not sufficiently aware of the provisions of the law (including case laws) and have treated the entire issue rather casually. Vigilance Committees at the district and sub-divisional level are not being re-constituted after expiry of two years.

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