The ILO has worked closely with the Government of India and the social partners for the past eight years, seeking to develop effective means to reduce vulnerability to bonded labour. Initially, this work was done in the context of a sub-regional project (Promoting Elimination of Bonded Labour in South Asia - PEBLISA, funded by the Government of the Netherlands) that covered also Nepal and Pakistan, which face similar issues. In India, the project worked in selected Districts of the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, addressing household vulnerability to over-indebtedness and bonded labour primarily in the agricultural sector. The interventions developed and field-tested offered useful lessons for testing on a larger scale and with workers in more diverse occupational settings.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) subsequently invited the ILO to present a new concept note for a next phase of programme implementation, building on the lessons learned through PEBLISA, refocusing and upscaling the interventions. In addition to Tamil Nadu where the pilot project is operational since July 2008 in brick kiln and rice mill sectors, the ILO is currently supporting the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa to develop and implement their state plans of action.
This project establishes close collaboration with the federal Government and state governments to develop and implement a “convergence-based” approach for the prevention and reduction of vulnerability to bonded labour. Activities aim to have a direct impact on migrant and other vulnerable workers who are most at risk of falling prey to exploitative intermediaries or employers. It engages closely with government, trade unions and with employers in the sectors concerned.
Based on experiences and lessons learnt from the previous project, Promoting Elimination of Bonded Labour in South Asia - PEBLISA, funded by the Government of the Netherlands, this project has adopted the following four pronged strategy, working in both the source and destination areas of intra-state migrant workers:
Ensuring social protection for workers and their family members, through convergence of existing government schemes and services, both at source and destination areas, to reduce their indebtedness and poverty situation.
Empowering the workers by imparting rights-based awareness education through workers’ organizations/trade unions and enabling them to organize themselves and engage in collective bargaining.
Implementing workplace improvement measures in close collaboration with the employers and their organizations
Exploring improvements in recruitment systems and working conditions including regulation of payment of wages and advances through active social dialogue process among tripartite partners.
The project beneficiaries are the women, men and children living and working in the selected clusters of workplaces. The beneficiaries include nearly 6000 families who live and work (for part of the year) in the brick kilns in Chengalpattu area of Kanchipuram, and 3000 workers who live and work year-round in rice mills in the Red Hills area of Tiruvallur.