National Commission on Labour (1967)||
28.63 Bonded labour can best be described in terms of debt bondage fixed for a time or a lifetime or hereditarily descending from father to son in some cases. The system grew out of acute indigence and helplessness of tribal and semi-tribal communities in the grip of a precarious subsistence economy. There was a combination of reasons for the depression of this section of the rural population: uneconomic holdings, meagre income from forest produce, high incidence of rent, insecurity of tenure and so on. To these were added the social compulsions which constitute the "ostensible" and immediate causes of the system. These are: the necessity of incurring expenditure over marriage, avoidable expenditure on birth and death and general economic depression. Bonded labour is known by various names such as Halia and Muliyas or Nagrnuliyas in Orissa, Nitmajoor in Bengal, Harwais and Baramasiyas in North Bihar, Kamia in South Bihar and Chotanagpur, Har-washee in parts of Madhya Pradesh, Sewak and Haris in U.P., Adiammars in Travancore, Che-rumas in Malabar, Holyas in South Kanara, Pannyals in Tamil Nadu, Palerus in Andhra, Hali in Gujarat, Sagri in Rajasthan, Jeetha in Mysore and Seri or Sanji in the Punjab.
28.64 The earlier efforts to deal with this problem were through legislation. The Bihar and Orissa Kamiauti Agreements Act, 1920 declared the agreements entered into between Kamias and their masters void unless (i) full terms of the agreement were duly embodied in a document, (ii) a copy of the document was given to the Kamia, if the period of agreement exceeded one year, (iii) the Kamia's remuneration under the agreement was fair and equitable and (iv) his liability was completely extinguished within the terms of the agreement. But the Act remains a dead letter. The Kamia system continued under a different name called Harwai in other parts. This only emphasises that mere legislation is no remedy for difficulties arising out of economic compulsions. With slow improvement in economic conditions, enforcement of tenancy laws, security of tenure and opportunity for employment, the system has shown signs of disintegration. Growing monetisation of the agricultural economy, development of agriculture, availability of institutional credit, spread of education and greater awareness have also somewhat mitigated the evils of this system,