Human Bondage: Tracing its Roots in India

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Lakshmidhar Mishra

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    To the “exiles of civilization,” condemned to bondage for generations

    Freedom Song

    The sweetest

    and best

    of all symphonies

    is not

    the song of mehfils,

    nor the murmur

    of streams

    flowing through the hills

    and into the sea,

    nor the plaint

    of the cuckoo.

    It is the sound

    of laughter,

    anywhere, of everyone.

    It is the sound

    of a chain breaking.

    Thank you for choosing a SAGE product! If you have any comment, observation or feedback, I would like to personally hear from you. Please write to me atcontactceo@sagepub.in

    —Vivek Mehra, Managing Director and CEO, SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi

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    List of Tables

    • 5.1 Incidence of Poverty in India 74
    • 9.1 Land Utilization Statistics 162
    • 9.2 Agriculture Dependent Population Break-up 162
    • 9.3 Estimates of Ceiling Surplus Land 163
    • 9.4 Leasing of Land by Non-cultivating Landowners to Tenants 167
    • 14.1 Average Daily Earnings of Workers of Rural and Agricultural Labor Households in Agricultural and Non-agricultural Operations 262
    • 14.2 Daily Earnings of Male Workers in Rural Labour Households 263
    • 14.3 Daily Male Earnings versus National Average 263
    • 14.4 Daily Female Earnings versus National Average 263
    • 14.5 Daily Earnings of Male SC Workers versus National Average 264
    • 14.6 Daily Earnings of Female SC Workers versus National Average 264
    • 14.7 Indebtedness among Rural Households in States/UTs 269
    • 14.8 Percentage Distribution of Debt among the Indebted Rural Labor Households by Purpose 271
    • 14.9 Percentage Distribution of Debt among Indebted Agricultural Labor Households by Purpose 272
    • 14.10 Percentage Distribution of Debt of Indebted Agricultural Labor Households by Source of Debt 273
    • 23.1 Plan Period and Outlay 443
    • 23.2 States Covered Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme 444
    • 23.3 Services Rendered by Barbers and Washermen 451

    List of Abbreviations

    ADMAdditional District Magistrate
    AIRAll India Reporter
    APAndhra Pradesh
    APLAbove Poverty Line
    ARCAgricultural Refinance Corporation
    ARDCAgricultural Refinance and Development Corporation
    BBCBritish Broadcasting Corporation
    BDOBlock Development Officer
    BGVSBharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti
    BLS(A)Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act
    BPLBelow Poverty Line
    CAPARTCouncil for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology
    CASCollective Action for Sustainability
    CBOCommunitybased Organizations
    CD BlockCommunity Development Block
    CFBCommunity Food Bank
    CFWCommittee on Fair Wage
    CMChief Minister
    CPIConsumer's Price Index
    CPI (ML)Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
    CPRCommon Property Resources
    CTUOsCentral Trade Union Organizations
    DCDeputy Commissioner
    DGDirector General
    DG (LW)Director General (Labour Welfare)
    DMDistrict Magistrate
    DRIDifferential Rate of Interest
    DWCRADevelopment of Women and Children in Rural Areas
    ECExecutive Committee
    E&DEntitlement and Deprivation
    EPZExport Processing Zone
    EPF & MP ActEmployees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act
    ERRPEconomic Rehabilitation of Rural Poor
    ESIEmployees' State Insurance
    FIIForeign Institutional Investment
    FIRFirst Information Report
    GBGoverning Body
    GDPGross Domestic Product
    HALHindustan Aeronautics Limited
    HMSIHonda Motorcycles and Scooters India Pvt. Ltd.
    HIV/AIDSHuman Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired
    Immune Deficiency Syndrome
    IASIndian Administrative Service
    IAYIndira Awas Yojana
    ICFTUInternational Confederation of Free Trade Unions
    IHDInstitute of Human Development
    IITIndian Institute of Technology
    IIDCIndustrial Infrastructural Development Corporation
    ILCIndian Labour Conference
    ILOInternational Labour Organization
    IMFInternational Monetary Fund
    INCIndian National Congress
    IPCIndian Penal Code
    IRDPIntegrated Rural Development Project
    J&KJammu and Kashmir
    KGKilogram
    LBWLow Birth Weight
    LAMPSLarge Agricultural Multipurpose Primary Societies
    LPGLiberalization, Privatization, and Globalization
    LLJLabour Law Journal
    MARIModern Architects of Rural India
    MFIMicro Financing Institutions
    MLAMember of the Legislative Assembly
    MLCMember of the Legislative Council
    MM&PMines, Minerals, and People
    MPMember of Parliament
    MNCMultinational Corporations
    MOUMemorandum of Understanding
    MPMadhya Pradesh
    MPCEMonthly Per Capita Expenditure
    MSPMinimum Support Price
    MTNLMahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited
    MW ActMinimum Wages Act
    MYRADAMysore Resettlement and Development Association
    NACNotified Area Council
    NABARDNational Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development
    NALCONational Aluminium Company
    NCANational Commission on Agriculture
    NCAERNational Council of Applied Economic Research
    NCDHRNational Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
    NCLNational Commission on Rural Labour
    NCLPNational Child Labour Project
    NCRLNational Commission on Rural Labour
    NCTNational Capital Territory
    NDPNet Domestic Product
    NDTVNew Delhi Television
    NGONon-governmental Organization
    NHRCNational Human Rights Commission
    NIRDNational Institute of Rural Development
    NREGSNational Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
    NSSNational Sample Survey
    NSSONational Sample Survey Organization
    OBCOther Backward Caste
    OUPOxford University Press
    PDRPeople's Democratic Republic
    PDSPublic Distribution System
    PEBLISAPrevention and Elimination of Bonded Labour in South Asia
    PILPublic Interest Litigation
    PMPost Mortem
    P.S.Police Station
    PMTPasumpan Muthuramalingam Thevar
    PNDTPrenatal Diagnostic Technique
    PORPSParticipatory Organizations of Rural Poor
    PUCLPeople's Union for Civil Liberties
    PUDRPeople's Union for Democratic Rights
    PWDPublic Works Department
    ROAPRegional Office for Asia and the Pacific
    RBIReserve Bank of India
    RFLPRural Functional Literacy Project
    RMKRastriya Mahila Kosh
    RORRecord of Rights
    RRBRegional Rural Banks
    SACCSSouth Asian Coalition on Child Servitude
    SAPAPSouth Asian Poverty Alleviation Programme
    SCScheduled Caste
    SCSupreme Court
    SCASpecial Central Assistance
    SCPSpecial Component Plan
    SDDPASociety for Development of Drought Prone Areas
    SDMSubdivisional Magistrate
    SEWASelf Employed Women's Association
    SIDBISmall Industries Development Bank of India
    SIHSubsidized Industrial Housing Scheme
    SGSYSwarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana
    TPDSTargeted Public Distribution System
    TDCCTribal Development Cooperative Corporation
    TLCTotal Literacy Campaign
    TRYSEMTraining of Rural Youth for self-employment
    TUTrade Union
    T&VTraining and Visit
    UCUtilization Certificate
    UKUnited Kingdom
    UNUnited Nations
    UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme
    UNICEFUnited Nations Children's Emergency Fund
    UPUttar Pradesh
    UPAUnited Progressive Alliance
    USUnited States
    USAUnited States of America
    UTUnion Territory
    VDAVillage Development Association
    VOVoluntary Organization
    WBWest Bengal
    WPWrit Petition
    WHOWorld Health Organization
    ZPZilla Parishad

    Foreword

    Before I speak about this book I must say a few words about its distinguished author. Dr Lakshmidhar Mishra, whom I have had the privilege of knowing for over two decades, is a rare and remarkable life in our times. He is an exception to the popular stereotype of the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. An administrator by profession, a sensitive humanist by conviction, Dr Mishra has brought to bear upon his sociological studies a rare insight. His earlier two works, Burden of Bondage and Child Labour in India, bear eloquent testimony to his deep and abiding concern for the contemporary state of Indian society at the grassroots.

    At a conference of the chairpersons of the National Human Rights Institution, a bronze medallion which the participants carried back as memento, bore the bearded picture of the great French scholar and internationalist Réne Cassin, a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt's Committee, preparing the draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The draft was adopted by the Third General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Professor Réne Cassin was conferred the Nobel Prize for Peace by a felicitous coincidence, on the December 10, 1968. Asked why there was a need for a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Professor, who was the chief draftsman of the Declaration, said, in a great understatement, that such a Declaration was necessary because “Men are not always good.”

    These words “not always good” can be a fitting epitaph on the grave of the 20th century. This was a “bloody” century, where over 230 million people had been killed in wars, civil strife, riots, and commotions not unrelated to religion, language, ethnicity, and a whole host of artificial divisions erected by man.

    This book brings out another aspect of the eternal pathos of human suffering because of relentless human avarice. The theme of the book must have caused great inner suffering for this sensitive author. Large tear drops would have smudged his manuscript. The author writes:

    The monstrous cruelty of the white slavers and their African collaborators, the depthless anguish of the captured Africans, the destruction of entire villages by slave-raiders, the slave fortresses dotting the West African coast—we know of these things. The more we know of them, the less we know them. These events, these enormities barely writhing a tear from us today. We are inured to grief by the endless barrage of more contemporary images.

    We are reluctant to exert our enfeebled memory, imagination, and empathy. Our act of forgetting shields our sanity. But buried memories and concealed truths are dragons' teeth. They will force us to gather a frightful harvest.

    The situation of child labor and bonded labor in India is grim, be it in the stone quarries, brick kilns, carpet industry, the lock industry, the glass industry as a pervasive metaphor for the man, as human being, not always good. The author dedicates the book to those who carry the burden of bondage. He calls them the “exiles of civilization condemned to bondage for generations.” The book is sad and revealing. But then all these have been said before again and again. It needs to be retold because nobody seemed to listen. One hopes Dr Mishra's tireless effort awakens our society from its cruel slumber of indifference.

    The publishers have earned our gratitude by promoting this sensitive publication.

    Bangalore

    July 21, 2008

    Justice Shri M.N.Venkatachaliah, Former Chief Justice of India and Former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission

    Acknowledgments

    The primary inspiration and motivation for Human Bondage: Tracing its Roots in India came from watching a film, Amistad, during my tenure with the ILO, ROAP, Bangkok, as a Senior Advisor. This entailed compiling the experiential perceptions and insights acquired through the victims of tutelage in different forms in different parts of the country and bringing out this issue-based work.

    The film presents unmistakably a rather sad and depressing manner in which a microscopic minority section of the society arrogates to itself all the power, position, and pelf and acquires an unmerited command over all the resources—human, material, and financial—and becomes perfect over a period of time in the art of subjugating the majority who are poor, deprived, and disadvantaged, the “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” “the dumb, mute, and expressionless,” who have eyes to see and ears to hear but no tongue to speak. I have watched this film time and again to perceive and internalize the plight and predicament of those who are reduced to a servile status of body, mind, and spirit and who, without freedom, dignity, decency, and equality to which they are entitled as any other human being, become non-beings or half beings for no fault of theirs.

    My wife Sanjukta has been a tower of motivation and strength for this work. In the words of Kalidasa in Raghuvansa, she has been “my unfailing companion, counselor and friend” whose inestimable and invaluable sacrifice in unhesitatingly shouldering a major share of domestic responsibilities made it possible for me to carve out a substantial portion of my time and to devote myself to this work day and night continuously for five years. I am beholden to her for her practical and sage-like mature advice to steer a particular course and do justice to issues which bring happiness, relief, and succor to large cross-sections of society (who for generations have been deprived of the same for no fault of theirs)—regardless of the fact that determined and committed social action does stir up many hornet's nests, who are least enthusiastic about such an action and who tend to react violently to it.

    Hon'ble Justice Shri M.N. Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India, former Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, and former Chairperson of the Committee which reviews the constitutional provisions has been a constant source of inspiration, motivation, and strength to me for 20 years. He was gracious enough to write the foreword to my earlier publication entitled, Child Labour in India. He has been gracious enough to write yet another moving foreword to the present work, Human Bondage: Tracing its Roots in India. I am beholden to him for finding time to go through this long manuscript and to write a deeply moving and insightful foreword as also for the unceasing stream of encouragement provided to me to enable me to carry the present work to its logical close.

    Vivek and Vidyutlata Pandit from Vasai taluka of Thane in Maharashtra, the founders of Vidhayak Sansad (1979) and Shramjeevi Sangathana (1982) have carved out a niche for themselves in the hearts and minds of millions of the underprivileged and marginalized for their unremitting and dedicated social work over a period of three decades. For me it has been a treat to associate myself in whatever way I could to buttress the vigor and intensity of their monumental social work. I remember having celebrated International Labour Day along with late Shri Vijay Tendulkar, the celebrated Marathi playwright on May 1, 1994 (when I was DG, CAPART) at the headquarters of Vidhayak Sansad and Shramjeevi Sangathana, when I had the first glimpse of Shiralkar's scintillating piece, “The Joy of Freedom.” That poem had provided the first basic impulse in me to author Child Labour in India and Human Bondage: Tracing its Roots in India now. I am deeply indebted to both Vivek and Vidyutlata for their continuous inspiration and motivation for the present work.

    I owe a deep debt of gratitude to a number of senior colleagues—Shri T.S. Sankaran, Dr B.D. Sharma, Shri P.S. Krishnan, Shri Anil Bordia, Shri D. Bandopadhyay, Shri P.S. Appu, Dr Bhupender Singh, Late Shri S.R. Sankaran, Shri Ramakant Rath, Dr J.P. Das, Shri B.N. Yugandhar, and Smt. Arundhati Ghosh, who have been role models for me and whose lives and works have been a perennial source of inspiration for me.

    I would like to record my deep sense of appreciation for the constant encouragement and support received from friends, batchmates, and well wishers in the service and outside—Shri Padmanath Gopinath, Late Shri Padmanabh Vijay, Shri K.B. Saxena, Shri N.C. Saxena, Shri Bipul Bhattacharya, Smt. Teresa Bhattacharya, Late Shri Pratap Mukhopadhyay, Late Shri Pritiman Sarkar, Shri Sanujit Ghose, Shri R.B. Pathak, Smt. Anita Agnihotri, Shri Satish Gopal Agnihotri, Shri Ashok Dalwai, Shri Gagan Bihari Dhal, Smt. Anu Garg, Shri Saurabh Garg, Late Shri P. Narayan Moorthy, Shri Ashok Jaitley, Shri Muralidhar Asthana, Late Shri P.P. Prabhu, Shri V. Anand Rao, Shri M. Mohan Kumar, Late Shri Sudip Banerjee, Dr P.D. Shenoy, Shri Ashok Sahu, Shri Satyanarayan Sahoo, Shri Surjit K. Das, Late Shri Varindra Kumar Sharma, Shri Anil Swarup, Shri Suraj Bhan, Ms Anital Kaul, Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Professor C.S. Venkatratnam, Professor Gopal Iyer, Professor Manjit Singh, Professor C.S.K. Singh, Professor Mahavir Jain, Professor Navin Chandra, Dr (Mrs) Anju Gupta, Shri Babu Mathew, Ms Lyola Tegmo Reddy, Peter Von Rooij, and Coen Compier. But for their constant motivation and exhortation, I would not have been able to complete this work.

    My former teacher Professor G.K. Das, former Director, South Campus, Delhi University and former Vice Chancellor, Utkal University, has been a “friend, philosopher, and guide” to me, who had been continuously exhorting me to take up this work and bring it to a logical close. I am deeply indebted to him as also to his wife, Mrs Bulbul Das for their encouragement.

    In the National Human Rights Commission where I am currently working (since August 18, 2006) as a Special Rapporteur, Hon'ble Member Justice Shri B.C. Patel (former Chief Justice of Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir High Courts) who is looking after issues and concerns related to bonded labor and child labor has, ever since he joined the Commission in July, 2008, been exhorting me to take up this work and bring it to a logical close on the strength of my long association with the subject for over 30 years. He has been a source of constant inspiration and strength to me in this venture. I am deeply indebted to him.

    Yet another noble soul—Justice Shri Amar Saran, currently a Judge in Allahabad High Court—has constantly been in the background exhorting me to take up this work for the benefit of those unfortunate cross-sections of humanity who, for no fault of theirs, have been victims of endless social discrimination and economic exploitation. His own contribution to the cause of identification, release, and rehabilitation of bonded laborers is extraordinary, and of inestimable value.

    Last but not the least, my grateful thanks are due to Shri Madan Lal who typed the text of the manuscript and to Shri Manoj Kumar Nuna who helped me in editing the typed texts and taking the final print-outs for the manuscript.

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    About the Author

    Lakshmidhar Mishra is currently Special Rapporteur with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He holds a doctorate in Educational Planning from the Intercultural Open University, Netherlands.

    He has held important positions in both state (1964–78) and central government (1979–2000) and took voluntary retirement on 30th September, 2000, when he was Union Labour Secretary in order to join the International Labour Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of UN, in a senior position.

    He is a prolific writer and has over 300 articles and 15 books to his credit. These cover a wide range of subjects—labor welfare to rural development, health and education, mobilization and organization of the poor and deprived for social justice, etc. Many of his articles have been published in journals of national and international repute.

    As a socio-legal investigating commissioner of the Supreme Court, Dr Mishra submitted three voluminous and valuable reports on the plight and predicament of workers in brick kilns and stone quarries. A condensed version of the work he did for the apex court has since been published as Burden of Bondage in May, 1997.

    For his outstanding contribution to public service and, in particular, in the field of adult literacy and education, Dr Mishra has received a number of awards such as National Unity Award, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Award, Dr Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Award, Sramik Bandhu Award, Saheed Dhoom Das award, etc.

    Dr Mishra has carried out the following studies and investigations in his capacity as Special Rapporteur with the NHRC, which are of great interest and relevance for the poor, deprived and disadvantaged sections of humanity:

    • A study on poverty, hunger, starvation and malnutrition and malnutrition-related deaths of tribal children in 15 tribal districts of Maharashtra.
    • Investigation into the affairs of stone quarries and prevailing debt bondage in the stone quarries of Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh.
    • Investigation into admission and continuance of children in the jails of UP and incarceration therein.

    So far—from 2006 to 2010—he has submitted over 100 reports to the Commission on issues such as bonded labor, child labor, migration, trafficking, mental health and custodial justice and reforms.

    Scholarship tinged with clear perception, deep insight, empathy, sensitivity and commitment with which the studies and investigations have been conducted and reports submitted make all his publications interesting and relevant to the poor, deprived and disadvantaged sections of the society.


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