Bonded Labor


Introduction -


Bonded labor is also known as debt bondage, it takes place when a person is forced to work in order to pay off a particular debt, also they are paid very less or sometimes they are not even paid.

This practice has been existing for almost the last 100 years, it is most widespread in south Asian countries such as India and Pakistan often the entire family has to work so that they can clear all their debts.[i]

It sometimes even  takes form of various others types of laborsuch as slavery and trafficking , despite of the whole thing being illegal and also the whole practice got abolished in 1976 despite of it  the laws are hardly enforced due to which the poor people have to suffer and almost their whole life is spent in paying off all the debts .

The international labors day is celebrated throughout the globe for honoring the working class, but are these workers really respected or are they happy no one goes and keeps a tab on this they have just kept a day which should be celebrated and has introduced a few laws which almost has no value. Now along with the ongoing Covid19 the things have become worse all the laborers are suffering because of it and some are even dying, but the government has rarely done something useful to help them and improve their conditions.[ii]  Indeed the conditions of these workers have changed there are more education and health care facilities many poor people now own phones and has access to water and other necessities  however they are hardly able to live a dignified life , most of them are harassed on daily basis and those people despite of inflicting so much torture say that these workers should be happy with whatever they get .Now after this pandemic the lives of such workers have become worse they are now not even getting the little privileges that was earlier somehow provided acts like , Minimum Wages Act  and Industrial Disputes Act might be suspended for 3 years to attract more capital thus now it is sure that the working conditions of the workers will decorate further now . [iii]

There is even a village in Uttar Pradesh known as Bandhua which means bonded, the term bonded labor has been given different names in different places such as Hali,Kaimuti,Janouti,Kamiah,Gothi, Gassi Gallu,Panal Pathiran

History –

These practices are really old and has been existing in almost all the periods of history  , one of the main reasons for the continuance of such heinous practices in the present is caste ridden social structure , they were earlier known as Dasas and different sages had predicted the meaning of this term in different ways . Manu has defined them as persons captured for battle, those enslaved in return for food, those who are born in houses of masters, those who are bought, those given away by theirparents,etc.  Historians have also argued that this practice was established in some Latin America countries and then European settlement.[iv]These practices were a boon for the masters as they could make these laborers to do hard work at very less cost and sometimes even, they had to pay nothing.

Laws related to bonded labor -

As per article 23 of the Indian Constitution traffic of human beings and other forms of labors were prohibited following which the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act was passed in 1976.


Article 21 - This is another important article that prevents exploitation against any human lives and their liberty basically it secures the right to life and personal liberty.

So, any practice of bonded labor will be prohibited under this article



Article 39 -  This article deals with directive principles of state policy , in this article the constitutional provisions directs the state to secure the right of livelihood , and also it asks the state to ensure that no citizen is faced out of economic necessity to enter into any practice which is not meant for them .


Article 42 - This article says that the state, shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work.


Article 43 - It directs the state for ensuring that the works should provide decent standard of living


Apart from the above-mentioned provision acts like The Contract Labour Act,1970; Minimum Wages act 1948; Interstate Migrant Workmen Act 1979 as well as the Indian Penal Code are a few legislations which deal with the subject of bonded labor.[v]



Conclusion –

 There are several reasons why this system is still there mostly it happens due to higher rate of interest apart from that it happens due to the caste system as well. It is a type of agreement between two parties which actually is completely void as well as a punishable offence despite of that it still exists in various places. There have also been several initiatives by the National Human Rights Commission to curb this practice even the Supreme Court has condemned this practice and has said that this practice should be stopped. But this is not enough the need of the hour is that more and more steps must be taken against this system and we should always raise our voice whenever possible, this system degrades the human to a commodity and they should be seriously punished for this.

Throughout our life we are mostly surrendered by people who tries to teach us about class and caste discrimination , we were even told to stay away from people who belong to backward classes even marriages did not happen between lower cast and higher caste people , they were not allowed to temples and what not this is the reason why most of them had no option but to work as bonded labors and get exploited almost every day . So, more and more efforts for the strict implementation of law must take place by the government in cooperation with the employers’organizations and society.



Akanksha Chowdhury
Amity University