CBCI Office for Labour
Consultation Workshop on Bonded Labour
Venue, Sewa Kendra, Patna
Date, October 26, 2018
Bihar Regional Commission for Labour in collaboration with CBCI Office for Labour organised a state level consultation on ‘Bonded Labour and labour standards at workplace’ at Sewa Kendra, Patna on October 26, 2018. Archbishop Willam D’ Souza, the metropolitan of Patna Archdiocese who inaugurated the workshop, recalled his experience of working against the bonded labour system prevalent in our country in 1970s. He said, in olden days the bonded labour was prevalent in the rural areas and now the urban setting was more vulnerable to these kinds of evils. Fr. Jaison, Secretary to CBCI Office for Labour reminded the participants the commitment of the Catholic Church to fight against all kind of exploitation at the workplace. He quoted Pope Francis explaining the Book of James, which asserts that ‘the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your filed are crying aloud’. Pope likened those who exploit the workers to bloodsuckers and were committing mortal sin.
27 participants representing different dioceses and religious congregation attended the training program. Mr. Nirmal Gorana of HRLN New Delhi was the main resource person for the day. He started his sessions with a personal note that Jesus had been always his inspiration in his work for the bonded labourers. He said the network with different religious institutions and faith is a need of the time to address issues of exploitation and poverty among the vulnerable sections of the society today.
Bonded labour is a form slavery continue to exist in India even after 72 years of Independence. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 lists the following situations as the different cases of bonded labour. 1. Forced Work. 2. Restriction on Movement to avail alternate employment to sustain a livelihood. 3. Human Trafficking (Labour purchased for exploitation) and wages paid less than the minimum notified by the Government. If one or more conditions are satisfied it would amount to bonded labour. In the words of supreme court of India, “We are, therefore, of the view that when a person provides labour of service to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the words “forced labour” under Article 23.” The participants were made to understand through the sessions of the workshop how a bonded labour rescue operation is conducted and what are the line departments of government involved in the whole process. The Bonded labour abolition act also prescribes stringent punishment including three years rigorous imprisonment to the offenders.
The workshop also had a session on Human Resource Manual for the Catholic Church Institutions by CBCI Office for Labour which was approved and mandated by the Standing Committee of CBCI. It prescribes measures to improve the dignity and respect the employees should enjoy in our institution. Social dialogue and democratic process to improve the working conditions and productivity of the worker are enshrined in the document prescribed by CBCI. The workshop concluded with the formation of a working group to plan and put forward the learning of the workshop in the Bihar Region.