Periodic intervention by voluntary agencies to rescue bonded workers not withstanding, bonded labour is prevalent in many districts of Tamil Nadu in rice mills, brick kilns and other places.
Details of prevalence of bonded labour, obtained by Evidence, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, using the Right to Information Act, for the period from January 2010 to June 2014 reveal that 44 per cent of rescued workers were from Orissa and other northern States.
Most of the released workers belonged to Scheduled Castes and many employers had engaged children in their units. But no arrest had been made during the period even after registration of cases.
According to the RTI data, 864 bonded workers were rescued from nine districts during the period. They included 52 children (below 14 years) and 420 women.
Tiruvallur district accounted for the highest number of 509 bonded labourers, and 379 among them were from North India. Interestingly, there are no bonded workers in The Nilgiris, Theni, Tiruchi, Tiruvarur, Tuticorin, Karur and Dindigul districts as per the data. According to the applicant, data could not be obtained for Cuddalore, Madurai, Nagapattinam, Sivaganga, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram, Ramanathapuram and Krishnagiri districts.
Though the laws are clear that a rescued bonded labour shall get Rs.20,000 and 2.5 cents of land, a survey conducted by Evidence indicates that only six persons among the 864 had received Rs.20,000. As many as 165 rescued labourers got Rs.19,000; three of them were given Rs.2000 each; 690 labourers received just Rs.1,000 and three could get 2.5 cents of land each.
The replies under the RTI Act also showed that 551 persons were engaged in rice mills, 106 in brick kilns, 78 in sugarcane cutting and other menial jobs. According to A. Kadir, executive director, Evidence, 131 cases had been booked against the employers but not a single person had been arrested.