It is a story of a journey made by a man with a vision in his eyes to give a healing touch and palliative care to the sufferers of one of the most heinous crime against humanity called Bonded Labour System.
Swami Agnivesh and his renowned Organization' Bandhua Mukti Morcha (BMM) have come a long way in the dogged struggle of liberation of Bonded Labourers across the country ever since its inception in the year 1981.
During these twenty-five years of consistent fight, BMM under Swami Agnivesh with deep compassion for the cause as of today has something to share with the world. It gives immense pleasure that BMM as of today managed to get released well over one lac seventy six thousand bonded Labourers and bonded child labourers across the country from the satanic clutches of their employer
BMM has set two objectives, one to root out the stigma of bonded labour system from the country and more importantly bonded child labourers and second to see that they get full rehabilitation package to which they are lawfully entitled and thereby to prevent them relapsing back in to this trap.
For BMM the journey was never an easy one and tremendous hardship and challenges became synonymous with this fight, but the struggle to bring smile back to a child traumatized by agony of child labour does worth it. It is pleasurable to see those children rescued from the drudgery of child labour merrily walking to schools in uniform with a bag of books in their hand.
The service to humanity is indeed invaluable but BMM feels well paid when we see these children standing in a row for Morning Prayer with their eyes closed, hand folded and beautiful lips singing the glory of God. Despite lack of adequate funding resources, providing education to these children always remained top priority for BMM. As of today three hundred children of bonded labourers and those rescued from hazardous working condition are receiving elementary education in seven schools run by BMM in Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan.
We would like to give a brief account of activities and its profile to you for perusal
It is a voluntary organization registered under Society Act of 1860. Its Registration No. is S/26763/94. It is also registered with Ministry of Home Affairs for Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
A twenty five years of BMM's struggle
Right from its inception, BMM (BLLF) has been struggling very hard to combat this menace. The magnitude of this issue may be well imagined as captains of Industries and services have not only muscles power but they enjoy political clout in the corridors of power. To combat all these, BMM had to adopt a multi pronged strategy which it continues to follow unrelentingly. However in this course of time, new modalities were adopted to cause dent on this issue. These are outlined as under:
1. To identify bonded labour in various sectors of economy, their release and rehabilitation. BMM adopted a two told method i.e. direct intervention and through courts.
2. To address the related issues i.e.
(i) free and compulsory education elementary to all children upto the age of 14. (ii) Implementation of prescribed minimum wage rigidly. (iii) Introduction of National Minimum Wage. It should be equivalent to first day salary of new entrant class IV employee of the Govt. (iv) Provision of one kg of cereals to all poor children for each day of schooling as a measure of food security to the poor family.
3. To carry out awareness campaign against this abominable system in the areas having predominance of bonded labour and child labour.
4. To organize Regional and National seminar on bonded labour and child labour to highlight the plight of this poor lot and to design measures to mitigate their abject condition.
Some Important achievements
It will be of interest to mention our achievements and persistent efforts being made in this direction.
1. Against all odds, Bandhua Mukti Morcha (BLLF) has achieved the release of over 1,76,000 bonded Indians from the shackles of slavery. Of these, about 25000 were children. A large number of them have been rehabilitated. From the Carpet Industry alone, about 10,000 children mostly migrants were rescued and sent back home.
2. BMM set up non-formal education centres for child labour in stone quarries Faridabad and in brick. Another one has been set up in Garhi (slum area) East of Kailash, South Delhi..
3. Another unique venture of BMM is that of providing vocational training skills and basic education/literacy to ex-bonded child labour at Dayanand Shilp Vidyalaya, Gurukul Indraprastha, Faridabad. Around 100 child trainees have passed out successfully.
They had undergone one year training in two trades i.e. tailoring and carpentry combined with training in education/literacy, yoga and spiritual development.
BMM and Saharia Bonded Labourers
The Saharia tribes are concentrated in the states of Madhya Pradesh (Mostly in the Shivpuri, Guna and Veedisha districts) and Rajasthan (mostly in the Baran district). Originally forest dwellers, they have been forced to move out of their original vocation and livelihood due to increasing depletion of forest resources. Continuous drought and lack of other resources to fall back upon has made them even more vulnerable. They are mostly landless and do not have any profitable skills or training. Illiteracy is rampant in the community and they are not in a position to access the government benefits and welfare schemes that are meant for them. As a result, they are mostly forced to work as daily wage earners either in their own state or have to migrate out to other states in search of work.
The only source of earning left for the Sahariyas was that of farm labour (Since most of them are landless unskilled). However, this source of income is also gradually receding with the mechanization of farm labour. In addition, indebtness to moneylenders and farm owners leads to the situation that even when they get work, they often have to work for meager compensation; there are instances where Sahariyas are working on meager wages to repay the loans. Their parents had taken. This has resulted in the Sahariyas being forced in to new occupations like stone quarrying. However, the change in occupation pattern has not stopped the way in which they are exploited. rather , it has in fact increased the exploitation . Thus the major reasons behind their powerlessness and vulnerability is that they don't have the appropriate skills, the required resources; financial and educational, to lead a life of dignity. Bandhua Mukti Morcha runs a Skill training center in Banskhedi village of Shivpuri Block In the neighbouring Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. It Was stated in July 2003, and funded in part by the ministry of Tribal welfare, The project involves resettlement and rehabilitation of Saharia families whose conditions were worse than even that of the bonded labourers in th adjoining stone quarries as well as stone quarrying machinery and land and money for building homes have been arranged for these families at Banskhedi Village. Vocational training centers have been established at Banskhedi and Padoda villages. Seventy-five men and women in total 25 women in dari -making, 25 men in Tailoring and again 25 in Tailoring at Padoda are getting training. Besides each trainee is provided with a stipened of Rs, 1000 per month. Along with training , they are being actively involved in health , sanitation , and self help group programs . Saharia women have been organized in to self-help groups (SHGs) have been formed -presently 5 groups of women have been formed.
A special programme of awareness generation among people was undertaken in the areas having predominance of child labouers was carried out in the states of UP, Maharastra and Karnataka. It comprised long marches, holding of meetings enroutes, both during day time at important places and at evening at halting places. Wall writings, pasting of posters, distribution of hand bills and stickers were also done. About 4 thousand to 5 thousand kms were covered during these marches. Local MLAs, MPs and other distinguished people addressed the audience. This programme created a good impact, not only on parents and people, but the respective local administration was also sensitized.
After persistent efforts, BMM has been able to get a slot for broadcasting information about rights of labourers, wage rates, etc. with All India Radio. This programme has been enforce for the last 10 months. The unorganized labourers are being benefited in the terms of wage rates prescribed by the Government.
Apart from direct action through persuasion and pressure, BMM has successfully fought legal battles in Courts including Supreme Courts for liberation of bonded labour and their subsequent rehabilitation. In the case of stone quarry workers in Faridabad, a long legal battle has emerged. It was started in the year 1982, yet it is going on. It now hinges on provision of houses to ex-bonded labourers. Under the direction of the Supreme Court, a piece of land has been earmarked by the local administration for this purpose. Now, we have to pursue the cases of bonded and child labour, with the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi for their liberation, and rehabilitation and payment of due wages. This channel for legal action in respect of bonded and child labour has proved speedy and effective. The nature of these issues is such that without legal action, justice cannot be delivered.
- Anti Slavery International Award - London, 1990
- Freedom and Human Rights Award - Bern, Switzerland
- Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhawana (Peace & Harmony) Award - New Delhi, India 2004.
- Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Peace Prize)- Sweden, 2005.
- M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award 2006 - Banglore, India
Recently Released Bonded Child Labourers from Delhi
In Continuation of our previous efforts, BLLF has campaigned against social evils like Bonded labour, Dowry, Female Feticides, Alcoholism, Violence against women, Gender Injustice etc and also intervened in the area of Rescue and Rehabilitation of Bonded laborers, their Livelihood, Capacity building and Education. Among all these, this year elimination of Child bonded labour is on priority agenda of the organisation. The organisation is concentrating in National Capital of India- New Delhi. The system of Child Bonded Labour is being practiced on large scale in New Delhi. Thousands and Thousands of Children's are brought from different parts of country and engaged in different hazardous and non- hazardous industries in unhygienic condition for unlimited period of time in less than nominal wages. BLLF has started its campaign against this in Delhi and in this context the organisation conducted three raids in the year 2006 at East of Kailash, Garhi ( Mamraj & Shera Mohalla ), Sarai Kale Khan and Kilokari, near Asharam, New Delhi and rescued around 180 Child Bonded Labours from hand embroidery factory with the assistance of Sub Divisional Magistrate Smt. Sonika Singh, Defence Colony, and SHO- South Delhi. The rehabilitation of all these 180 bonded children's is going on at their respective place of origin by the respective district administration. Under rehabilitation package, each child is enrolled in formal school and scholarship of Rs. 100/ month to each children has been sanctioned, Rs. 20,000 is allotted to their parents to take up some livelihood. Also, those who don't had House and land were sanctioned a house under 'Indira Awas Yojana' and land under different scheme of respective state. The Organisation is monitoring very closely the rehabilitation process of these children and mounting pressure on the district administrations whose progresses are slow, to sped up the process of rehabilitation.
Organisational structure and Human Resources
BMM is a voluntary registered organization with a democratic set up. There are 15 members of the standing committee. These members are well known social activists. Its official functionaries are Chairperson, General Secreary and Treasury. BMM has its own secretariat including professionals and field staff (teachers, activists etc.) In all 50 persons are in effective role to execute its activities and projects. They have developed ethics of zeal and dedication to the holistic cause of bonded and child labour. Depending upon the nature of the project, additional staff is recruited to meet the requirements. Further, the registered office is located at Central Place, 7 Jantar Mantar Road, and New Delhi - 110 001 and easy to approach. Logistically, it is reasonably equipped; having computers, fax machines and a number of telephones.