Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, July 28:
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has threatened to take coercive action against the district magistrate (DM) of Nupada district in Odisha, if he failed to provide details of bonded labouers in the district and steps taken by the administration for issuance of release certificates to them within six weeks.
“Let a copy of the comments of the complainant dt 1 May this year and a report of the DRDA Project Director, Bolangir be transmitted to the DM Nuapada to submit his reply within six weeks positively, failing which the Commission may be constrained to issue coercive process u/s 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993,” said an order of NHRC.
The commission has also questioned what prevented the DM Nuapada from issuing release certificates to the released labourers while the DM Bolangir issued release certificates to the labourers, who were rescued from different railway stations.
Following a complaint lodged before the commission that the district administration, Nuapada had violated Sec 2(e)(f)(g) of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act by failing to issue released certificate and provide rehabilitation and social security benefits to the released labourers, the commission asked the DM to furnish a report.
Responding to it, the district collector said in his report that it has taken appropriate action in rescuing the 619 labourers of Nuapada, Bargarh districts of Odisha and Mahasamund district in Chhattisgarh from the railway station at Khariar Road and the labourers were advised to return back to their respective villages.
The collector reported that legal action had been taken against seven numbers of unscrupulous agents/ contractors, who were involved in the trafficking of the labourers from Odisha to other states. However, the report said that since the migration by the labourers were voluntary, they were not entitled to be issued release certificates and other social security benefits.
However, as per another report of the Project Director, DRDA Bolangir, about 362 release certificates have so far been received from the releasing authority out of which 215 have been rehabilitated. A proposal for the rest 147 have been sent to the Panchayati Raj department for release of rehabilitation assistance but no amount had been received so far.
“The report of DM Nuapada claims to have rescued 619 labourers. No list has been enclosed by DM Nuapada in his report about the detailed names and addresses of the released labourers. The DM Nuapada has taken the plea that since the released labourers had voluntarily intended to visit the concerned states for brick kiln work, they were not entitled to any release certificates. Now, it is strange to notice that when DM Nuapada is the releasing authority and he has denied to issue any release certificates, how could the Project Director DRDA Bolangir acknowledge to have received 363 release certificates from the releasing authority,” asked the Commission.
“If the release certificate with respect to only labourers of Bolangir Dist have been issued, what prevented the DM Nuapada to issue release certificates with respect to other released labourers,” the commission further said.