CURTAIN RAISER: NHRC Workshop on Elimination of Bonded Labour and Child Labour with focus on illegal mining at Shillong, Meghalaya on 8th February, 2019 (07.02.2019)

New Delhi, 7th February, 2019

The National Human Rights Commission is organizing a day long Workshop on Elimination of Bonded Labour and Child Labour System with focus on illegal mining in Meghalaya at Yojana Bhawan Auditorium, Shillong, Meghalaya on Friday, the 8th February, 2019. Mr. Justice P.C. Ghose, Member, NHRC, will chair the workshop being organized in collaboration with the Government of Meghalaya. It will start at 09:30 a.m. and conclude by 3:30 p.m.

The workshop assumes significance in the light of coal mining without necessary permissions in the State despite a ban by the National Green Tribunal in 2014. On the 13th December, 2018, workers in a local ‘rat hole’ mine in the Jaintia Hills region of Meghalaya struck an aquifer (an underground source of water) which flooded the 370-feet-deep structure trapping at least 15 of them.

Impulse, a local NGO fighting child labour in Meghalaya estimates that there are around 70,000 children who work in the mines, either digging for coal or loading thousands of trucks bound for the energy-hungry industrial sector across India and into neighbouring Bangladesh. Allegedly, most of the under-age workers have been illegally trafficked into the region from Nepal and Bangladesh by agents working for mine owners. Desperate families are promised handsome salaries in exchange for their children’s work, but they often have no idea that they will end up living in dangerous slave like conditions.

The objective of the Workshop is to exchange of ideas and experiences amongst the participants on the issues related to bonded labour, child labour, migration and human trafficking. The modern forms of bonded labour like employment in mines, road constructions, constructions of malls/multi story buildings and agriculture forms may increase in the times to come ahead. Hence, the Commission believes that a proactive approach and measures are required to be taken to sensitize all the stakeholders and awareness about this menace prevailing in our society.

Besides Mr. Justice P.C. Ghose, Member, NHRC the workshop will also be addressed by Dr. Justice Aftab Hussain Saikia, Chairperson Meghalaya Human Rights Commission, Mr. Jaideep Govind, Secretary General, NHRC, Mr. Yeshi Tsering, Chief Secretary, Government of Meghalaya among others. The technical session will see presentation on Bonded Labour issue by the Government of Meghalaya with comments of the senior officers of the State Government. The participants will also include NGOs and representatives of brick kilns, stone crushing and other related industries. Academic, research scholars and Students/Research Scholars from IIM, Shillong, North-Eastern Hill University and Mahatma Gandhi University, Shillong.

The NHRC has been overseeing the implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 in different parts of the country as per the directions of the Supreme Court in 1997 to get involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. The Court's directions came while hearing a Writ Petition (No. 3922/1985) - People's Union for Civil Liberties Vs State of Tamil Nadu & Others. Since then,

Therefore, the Commission, in its endeavor to raise concerns on the continuance of bonded labour has been organising workshops to sensitize official machinery to work for its abolition in different parts of the country. It has organised 47 workshops on elimination of bonded labour so far.