Kannur: Dismissing all the claims of the state government that there was no bonded labour cases in the state, an NGO that is headquartered in Chennai and works across South India states, claimed that intervened in 16 cases in Wayanad and Kannur in the last two years and rescued and rehabilitated 16 of them. The Foundation for Sustainable Development that concentrates in Kannur and Wayanad now, will also spread their activities to Kasargod this year, said state programme coordinator CK Dinesan.
“Till date, 17 men and five women from Wayanad could escape the clutches of their employers and in Kannur, one man and six women could escape. Most of them were employed in textiles, plantations, domestic jobs and direct marketing,” said Mr Dinesan. He added that the government was still confused about which department should deal with the cases.The state is still acting on the 1976 Bonded Labour Abolition Act and the punishment to the employer would be a maximum three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2,000. In Kannur, an Odisha boy was rescued from the house of an advocate.
Ignorance about the crime is still preventing the public and officials from reporting cases. “Once bonded labour is suspected, it should be reported and investigated by the district magistrate or sub divisional magistrate by forming a committee of officials from departments including labour. The case should be verified by the executive magistrate who should immediately conduct a summary trial according to section 21.
“The victim should be given a release certificate and whatever debts he/ she has to the employer should be waived off. The victim is also eligible for an immediate support of 125,000 and a rehabilitation package later,” he said. Of the 16 cases, only seven were chargesheeted. One case was settled out of court and one is under process. In three cases, the bonded labour charge is yet to be included.