A meeting of the Unorganised Sector Workers Federation urges State to act on human rights issues

A new campaign titled ‘no rehabilitation, no vote’ was launched by bonded labourers during the Unorganised Sector Workers Federation meeting here on Tuesday. Krishnammal Jaganathan, social service activist, inaugurated the meeting held here to review the rehabilitation efforts of bonded labourers of stone quarries.

The federation had undertaken a procession in November 2013 to highlight their demands and had also organised a public hearing in January 2014 on the rehabilitation measures required to be taken up by the government.

P.V.Rajagopal, a former Supreme Court Commissioner, said that the bonded labourers were given little importance because of the fact that they were a small powerless community and not a vote bank. “Moral commitment is missing among the politicians,” he said.

Announcing the launch of the campaign ‘no rehabilitation, no vote’ Mr.Rajagopal said that the review meeting has been organised to persuade the government to act on human rights issues.

“Bonded labour must be given priority. Those who have been freed have not been given houses or land or even a ration card. Many of them have not received release certificates and hence no proper rehabilitation has been provided to them,” said R.Geetha, additional secretary, Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam. “According to the Bonded Labour Abolishment Act, the government is mandated to provide house, land, and Rs. 20, 000 to bonded labourers who have been freed. But this is possible only if the revenue department issues release certificates. But the department officials do not do so and that’s the root of the problem,” she said.

She added that vigilance committees must be constituted in all districts and at State level, and very few of them are actually functioning at present.