The government has identified and released more than three lakh bonded labourers till March 31 this year, Parliament was informed on Monday.
“We have information regarding number of bonded labourers identified and released in various states till March 31, 2015,” Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.
His statement revealed that as many as 3,00,175 bonded labourers were identified and released till March 31, 2015.
The maximum number of bonded labourers were identified and released in Tamil Nadu (65,573) followed by Karnataka (64,600), Maharashtra (50,441) and Uttar Pradesh (35,572).
The least number of bonded labourers were identified in Uttarakhand (5) followed by Gujarat (64) and Jharkhand (196).
The government has adopted a three-pronged strategy for abolition of bonded labour. The Centre enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to check forced labour.
The Act empowers Executive Magistrates to exercise powers of Judicial Magistrate of first or second class for trial of offences.
The law also provides for vigilance committee at district and sub-divisional levels to identify and rehabilitate bonded labourers.
A centrally-sponsored Plan scheme for rehabilitation of bonded labour is under implementation since 1978 by which central government contributes Rs 10,000 for each case of rehabilitation out of the total package of Rs 20,000. The remaining Rs 10,000 is paid by the state.
The Act provides for punishment of imprisonment for a term of up to three years and fine up to Rs 2,000 for extracting forced labour under the bonded labour system.
Under the Act, identification, release and rehabilitation of freed bonded labour is a direct responsibility of the concerned states/UTs.
The Constitution of India vide Article 23 prohibits forced labour.
In a separate query, Dattatreya informed the House that as many as 4,196 National Child Labour Project (NCLP) special training centres are operational.
For the 2015-16 fiscal, the target is to bring 45,000 child labourers into the mainstream, he added.
In the last fiscal, as many as 97,833 children were brought into the mainstream under the project as compared to 64,050 in the 2013-14 fiscal.