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Caste Based Slavery

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The Indian Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of 1976 prohibits any service arising out of debt, including forced labour and bonded labour. The legal definition of ‘the bonded labour system’ recognizes force as including not only physical or legal elements, but also including deprivation of alternative choices, economic circumstances, and a derived compulsion to choose a particular course of action, such as providing underpaid or unpaid labour(1).

In spite of the encompassing and seemingly progressive legislative framework, the use and abuse of Dalit bonded labourers in India remains endemic within a range of occupations and branches, both rural and urban, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, domestic work, and cleaning. A report by Anti-Slavery International in 2008, revealed that dalit bonded labourers are employed to carry out the most physically straining and menial types of work in industries such as silk farms, rice mills, salt pans, fisheries, quarries and mines, tea and spice farming, brick-kilns, textile and domestic work(2).

Lack of implementation of the legislative frameworks, failure of the authorities to observe the laws, and impunity of perpetrators are the most common obstacles to eliminating forced and bonded labour in India.