2010 JEEVIKA Day Celebrations

samedi 25 septembre 2010.

Free Bonded Labour Strengthen the Nation Life Free from Bondage

JEEVIKA DAY

On 15-02-2010 at 6 pm - in Conference Hall, Legislators’ Home 2

Extent and Nature of Bonded Labour in Karnataka – Role of Government A Dialogue Presided over by Shri Kiran Kamal Prasad, Coordinator, JEEVIKA, Bangalore

Chief Guests : Justice K.G. Balakirshnan, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi Shri N. Sampangi, MLA, Bagepalli Prof. Ravi Verma Kumar, Renowned Advocate, Karnataka High Court & Supreme Court Shri P. Ravikumar, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panhcayat Raj, Karnataka

Sharing of Experiences by Taluk and District Leaders, JEEVIKA Bonded Labour Leaders, Karnataka Bonded Labourers and Agricultural Workers’ Union

Welcome Mistress of Ceremonies Vote of Thanks Basavaraju Manjula Muniratna Taluk Coordinator, Teacher – Res. Bridge Course, Taluk Coordinator, HD Kote Anekal Chikballapur

Let All Share Equally Let All Live Equally

A Report

Jeevika organized a Dialogue on Nature and Extent of Bonded Labour in Karnataka and the Role of the Government on 15 September from 6 to 7.30 pm at the Conference Hall of Legislators’ Home as a part of the 2010 Jeevika Day celebrations. The participants of the Dialogue were Justice B.C. Patel, Member, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, Dr. Ravivarma Kumar, Senior Advocate and former Chairman, Karnataka Permanent Backward Classes Commission, P. Ravikumar, the Principal Secretary to the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, the ministry that monitors the implementation of the Act on Bonded Labour in the state, Sri Sri Kiran Kamal Prasad, Coordinator, Jeevika, district and taluk level leaders of Jeevika and bonded labour leaders from different parts of Karnataka. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan who was to join in the Dialogue could not make it due to sudden illness. Kiran Kamal Prasad described the vision, origins and development of Jeevika right from 1990 in one taluk of Anekal to the state level from 1993 to the present. He shared the statistics on the sample survey of bonded labour in the entire state of Karnataka conducted by Jeevika in 2010. Nearly 2000 bonded labourers have been identified and applications have been submitted to the concerned officials for their release and rehabilitation. Though bonded labour is found in all he districts of the state, most of the bonded labourers identified and rehabilitated by the government are from the southern districts, while a few northern districts have refused to identify even a single case of bonded labour so far. The Karnataka Government has come out with a unique Action Plan on Bonded Labour in 2009. Yet the officials are very slow to take appropriate measures according to the Action Plan. He lamented that every time a new officer takes charge, the activists are required to exert a lot of effort in convincing them of their duty. In spite of the fact that the Karnataka Government has put in place a wonderful Action Plan, the present top level bureaucrat monitoring bonded labour at the state level refuses to take any measure according to the Action Plan, he noted. Then he brought out the various difficulties encountered by the activists. A majority of the bonded labourers are afraid to come out in the open and declare themselves as bonded labourers. The keepers of bonded labour create an intimidating atmosphere around them. The activists face various threats from them. Various Jeevika leaders from the different regions of the state, (northwestern Karnataka – Siddapppa Lingeri), northwestern Karnataka (Gopala), central Karnataka), southwest Karnataka – Basavaraj and Umesha, southeast Karnataka - Hanumantharayappa) very touchingly placed before the gathering of nearly 150 people the situation of bonded labourers in the different districts prevailing in the districts. Some of those leaders were themselves bonded labourers. One of them (Gangahanumaiah) described graphically several attempts by the slaveholders to kill him. P. Ravikumar acknowledged that he was moved by all the sharings. Had he known the type of meeting that was going to take place he would have brought with him all his colleagues in the department to the programme. Though he had been a district magistrate in most of the northern districts, he was not made aware of any case of bonded labour, he lamented. The day’s progrmme had opened his eyes to the issue, he acknowledged. He pleaded for support from non governmental organizations in tackling bonded labour. Prof. Ravivarma Kumar brought out in telling way that government machinery cannot deal with issues that require to be addressed with a heart. If it is sincere it must rope in the support of individuals and groups that can address the issue of bonded labourers in an effective way. In that respect, he pointed out that the Act on Bonded Labour mandates the district and sub divisional magistrates to nominate at least three leaders from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Communities on the Vigilance Committees on Bonded Labour. Further, he drew the attention to a directive from the Central Labour Ministry that former bonded labour leaders must also be involved in the efforts of the government in eradicating bonded labour. Then he described how bonded labour system is part of the caste system. He noted that there are 30,000 hamlets of dalits and adivasis in Karnataka which are segregated from the main villages. These are distinct ethnic communities kept separate from the dominant villages for the purpose of ensuring bonded and cheap labour. They are similar to the apartheid (living apart) system in South Africa abhorred and abolished a few decades back. He called upon the National Human Rights Commission to work towards abolishing Indian version of apartheid and thus also bonded labour system. Justice B.C. Patel pointed out that nil reports on bonded labour from the state governments cannot be accepted at their face value. The district magistrates must be held directly responsible for any case of bonded labour. He pointed out that inspite of many progressive laws and Supreme Court Judgements, the inquiries by the NHRC has proved the persistence of bonded labour to this day. He called upon the officials to respond to bonded labourers with a heart. Sri Nitish Ramesh, the young advocate who translated the speech of Justice Patel and a sympathiser of Jeevika, at the end made some useful observations to counter the apathy of the bureaucrats. He suggested that it should be mandated that fresh incumbents to offices supposed to take action on bonded labour must be made to go through a sensitistion programme on bonded labour. The programme was coordinated by Smt. Manjula, a teacher in the residential bridge course programme run by Jeevika in Anekal for bonded and other working children. Sri Basavaraju, the H.D. Kote taluk coordinator welcomed the guests and Smt. Muniratna, the Chikballapur coordinator gave a vote of thanks. Sri Ramaswamy, Sri Umesha, the cultural coordinators, Sri Narayanaswammy (Gudibande), Sri Chandrshekar Murthy (HD Kote), Sri Siddappa Lingeri (Yadgiri), Smt. Yashoda (Chennaptna), Smt. Nagaveni (Bagepalli), Smt. Amaravathi (Gudibande), on bonded labour at the beginning and the end of the programme. The programme was quite a success in that all the important people that mattered came together to deliberate on the issue of bonded labour in Karnataka. It was a matter of relief to hear from the PS of RDPR that he was enlightened on the issue. This attitude evidently opens up many possibilities for meaningful and effective action on bonded labour in Karnataka. It was heartening to hear from Justice B.C. Patel the firm stand taken by the NHRC on the existence of bonded labour and the requirement to take stringent action regarding it. Prof. Ravivarma Kumar’s illuminations on the intimate relationship of bonded labour system and caste system have thrown further light on the stand of Jeevika linking bonded labour and caste system in India. Much hope has been generated in the activists. We require to take forward the positive gains made at the Dialogue of Jeevika Day 2010 on September 15.


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