On Friday, the Nepalese authorities from the country’s Rautahat area rescued at least 38 Indian nationals, including 20 men, 18 women and children, working as bonded labours in a brick factory there.
The rescue operation was conducted on Wednesday after the police officers were tipped that a group of workers from Uttar Pradesh were working as bonded labourers in the Aman brick factory in Paroha Municipality, PTI reported.
Eventually, the rescued Indians were handed over to the Sashastra Seema Bal in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district after all the legal and administrative formalities were completed.
As per cops in Nepal, many men and women from different parts of UP are employed at Rautahat’s brick factories.
A lot of them continue to work despite poor working conditions. However, some quit in between to gauge better opportunities.
In 2013, 64 Indians, including 27 minors, working as bonded labourers in Southern Nepal were rescued by Nepalese authorities.
Nepal has been struggling with the bane of bonded labour for a long time. As per a 2013 report by ILO, this practice has been banned by the authorities in the neighbouring nation. However, it is still prevalent in some parts of the country.
The age-old problem of the Haruwa-Charuwa system of bonded labour is most prevalent in the Tarai. It stretches along the borders of the Indian states – consisting Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
As per this practice, adult labourers are assigned to plough mid-sized and large plots of land for high-cast landowners in the eastern Tarai region. They are called ‘Haruwa’.
On the other hand, Charuwa – who are usually children – are supposed to herd the cattle. Apart from these two, one more section exists, called Haliya. They were officially ‘freed’ in 2008, but only some still depend on their landowners due to a lack of opportunities. The catch behind the compulsion to work is that the landowners create a debt-bondage by providing interest at high rates to the marginalised workers, as per a 2022 report by Al Jazeera.
Due to their inability to repay, the workers are made to work for years, sometimes even generations. Under this practice, the most badly hit community is that of local Dalits – who are exploited by landowners in many aspects of life.
The feature by Al Jazeera made it clear that the straining bonded labour system was still prevalent, forcing the victimised workers from Nepal to resort to Gulf migration to escape debt bondage.
Nepal reportedly earned $8.1bn from remittances in 2020– about a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP).
The report also quoted ILO and stated that “opening up of foreign employment opportunities” could moderately dent the Haruwa-Charuwa system.
Among the several people interviewed by the publication, Mahato, 37, told Al Jazeera that Gulf jobs were ‘better’ than haruwa-charuwa. Still, the employee-employer relations were nearly the same.
In 2020, The Kathmandu Post reported that Nepali migrants in India were still not protected under the labour policies in India. It stated that hundreds of thousands of Nepalis working in Indian cities were discriminated against and felt unsafe.
“…Nepalis have been migrating to India since the early 19th century. Still, it remains so neglected that there is not even accurate data on Nepali migrant workers in India,” Prakash Chandra Madai, India labour migration expert, was quoted as saying by the publication.
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