`Rehabilitation of bonded labourers must be total'

SALEM, AUG 1. Economic empowerment is the vital need for rehabilitated bonded labourers in the State, the Special Rapporteur of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mr. K. R. Venugopal has said.

Reviewing the performance of Salem district in the areas of rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labourers here recently, he said that restricting the exercise of rehabilitation of bonded labourers as per the existing rules would not suffice.

They need total support to restart their lives for which economic empowerment is the inherent necessity," he said adding that Salem being one of the five districts in Tamil Nadu with a high incidence of bonded labourers, rehabilitation should be total.

Lauding the efforts of Tamil Nadu Government in the areas of rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labourers, Mr. Venugopal said that about 35,000 bonded labourers had been identified in the State of which 13,500 had already been rehabilitated.

Salem district had 1,087 bonded labourers and 878 of them had been rescued.

A rehabilitation package to the tune of Rs 1.48 crores had also been carried out. He urged the officials not to cover up the exact status of the bonded labourers' issue in the State.

"We should be transparent on the issues that concern with humanism."

Strict monitoring

He urged the officials to pay special attention to certain areas where lacunae persisted. There should be strict monitoring of the rehabilitated labourers who tended to return to bondage.

The rehabilitation work also generally suffered due to frequent transfer of officials concerned.

A report on bonded labourers in Salem district, which was submitted to him, pointed out that most of the labourers belonged to low-income groups and below poverty line.

Dalits formed a major section followed by Boyars and other backward castes.

A recent survey by NGOs had identified the presence of bonded labourers in Salem district. The Salem Collector, A. Sukumaran said that efforts had been taken up to verify the claims and necessary follow-up action.

Extra attention was being paid to relief and rehabilitation package to deter the rescued labourers from returning to bondage.

Cheque handed over

Later Mr. Venugopal handed over a cheque for Rs 75,000 to one Thenmozhi who was rescued. Mr. Venugopal conducted a detailed enquiry and recommended adequate compensation for her to the Tamil Nadu Government, which immediately released a sum of Re 1 lakh.

As the first instalment of Rs 25,000 had already been paid, the remaining amount was handed over to her at Salem.

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