New Delhi: The Supreme Court said Tuesday had a new suggestion for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Supreme Court said NHRC may consider framing guidelines for protection and rehabilitation of bonded labourers. This would be particularly helpful during the prevailing situation of COVID-19 pandemic.
Bonded labour rampant in UP, Bihar
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Krishna Murari was hearing through video-conferencing a plea. It alleged authorities in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar failed to take prompt action to help 187 victims of bonded labour. These labourers were working in brick kilns in these states.
The bench, which disposed of the plea, observed that NHRC had already passed directions on the issue. It asked the petitioner to approach the commission for further directions. “The NHRC may consider issuing guidelines for protection and rehabilitation of bonded labourers,” the bench observed.
Response to plea
The apex court had June 3 issued notices to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar seeking their responses on the plea. It was filed by social worker Zahid Hussain, seeking urgent release and rehabilitation of victims of bonded labour. Among them, pregnant women and children, are being allegedly held at three different brick kilns in UP and Bihar, he said.
The plea has been filed through advocate Srishti Agnihotri. It said that May 11 this year, the NHRC had taken cognisance on the complaints. The commission had directed the district administration of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh and Rohtas in Bihar to take appropriate action.
Bihar, UP governments’ replies
During the hearing on Tuesday, the advocates appearing for both UP and Bihar apprised the bench about the action taken by them.
Advocate Gopal Singh, appearing for Bihar government, told the bench that authority has taken steps in the matter. Singh told the SC bench that Bihar is dealing with the issue of migrant workers.
The plea had also sought a direction to the authorities to frame ‘specific guidelines to release, protect, rehabilitate and repatriate bonded labourers during the COVID-19 pandemic’. It had alleged that despite NHRC’s direction, the administration has not taken appropriate steps. Due to the failure, these bonded labours are working in ‘perilous and inhuman working conditions’ the plea further stated.
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