Trafficked bonded labourers rescued from Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh

A women and minor girl, who were working as bonded labourers in a house in New Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh, were rescued in a daring effort by National Campaign Committee for the Eradication of Bonded Labour (NCCEBL), Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Women Welfare Society Delhi and Delhi Police on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday ( 21st – 22nd September). Bonded labour which is a form of modern-day slavery has spread its tentacles in India. The latest rescue comes days after a minor girl was rescued from a house in Shaheen Bagh. Bonded labour is any labour or service rendered under the bonded labour system, and is illegal in all of its forms. The Bonded Labour System (abolition) Act 1976 provides definitions as to what bonded labour is according to the law. A bonded labourer is a labourer who incurs or has presumed to have incurred a bonded debt. A bonded debt is an advance obtained/presumed to have been obtained by a bonded labourer under or in pursuance of the bonded labour system restrictions in employment and movement, working on nominal or no wages and beggar work. In their complaint to Shalimar Bagh police station, the rescued woman — identified as Tara Garji from West Bengal, and the minor tribal girl from Jharkhand said that they were trafficked to Delhi and placed under an employment agency. They were soon employed as domestic workers by residents of BN-63 (West) Shalimar Bagh, who are Deepika, Kamya, Sandeep, and Sanju. The minor girl has identified Vikram as the person, who trafficked her from Jharkhand, while Tara was trafficked from West Bengal to Delhi. The rescued duo, while talking about harsh working environment claimed that they were made to work from 7am to 11pm without any breaks. They also claimed that their wages were withheld and were bonded labourers in the household. The employers continued the subjugation of the workers by not allowing them to eat fresh food and were fed stale food. The employers never allowed them to take any leaves, and were forcefully confined in a locked room, said the rescued duo in their police complaint. They have also alleged that they were regularly harassed and beaten by their employers, when they asked for holidays. While leveling allegations of misconduct by their employers, the duo said when the police and NCCEBL, HRLN and Women Welfare Society Delhi team arrived at their employer’s residence to rescue them on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, they were still locked up inside their room and were later forced to stay on the roof. The rescued duo in their police complaint have requested that an FIR must be lodged against the residents of the BN-63 (West) Shalimar Bagh and Vikram. They have also asked for the recovery of their earned wages since the time of employment and repatriation to their native place. NCCEBL national convener Nirmal Gorana said, “Domestic workers are protesting and marching for their rights, however their voices are not reaching the governments. Their demands are falling on deaf ears. The domestic workers, who are unionized, have to voice their right for emancipation and social security loudly to be heard. ” “All the people who are being trafficked from tribal belt to metropolitan cities are succumbing to bonded labour. That is why Domestic Workers Act is necessary to provide them with employment, social security. Right to decent work, which was enshrined in the guidelines of International Labour Organisation, will only be realized if the Act is fully implemented,” said Nirmal Gorana. Surprisingly, even after the rescue of the bonded labour their statements are yet to be recorded by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Saraswati Vihar under the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 1976 and relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.