New Delhi: Concerned over the prevalence of bonded labour in the country, the government on Friday decided to initiate massive programmes to rehabilitate and provide alternative livelihood for people living in conditions of modern-day slavery.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that initially 10 critically vulnerable districts have been taken up to rehabilitate bonded labourers through the Centre`s ambitious National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).
The ten districts are Gaya in Bihar, Bastar and Kondagaon in Chattisgarh, Prakasam and Chittur in Andhra Pradesh, Kanchipuram and Vellore in Tamil Nadu, Bolangir and Bargarh in Odisha and Gumla in Jharkhand.
"We are going to take up these ten districts. We will locate the bonded labourers there, get surveys done, rehabilitate them and create conditions for alternative livelihood," Ramesh said.
The main instruments on the ground to locate and rehabilitate the bonded labourers will be womens self-help groups operating under NRLM, he said.
"Under NRLM umbrella through women self-help groups, we will initiate this projects in 10 districts which are considered to have a substantial population of bonded labourers," he said.
According to plan, the Minister said these groups will join hands with several NGOs on the ground and NRLM will become an institutional partner of the "Bandhua 1947 campaign" to combat bonded labour.
Bandhua 1947 is a national-level campaign in India aimed at mobilising people to advocate with their governments to protect millions currently vulnerable to bonded labour and fight for their rights. Shantanu Dutta, convenor, Bandhua 1947, termed as "a game changer" the Ministry`s decision.
"With partnerships and movements initiated by the government such as this one, solutions to fully eradicate bonded labour are no longer an impossibility," Dutta said.
According to the first Global Slavery Index published by an Australia-based group yesterday, about 14 million Indians are living in conditions of modern-day slavery.