ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Labouring for Freedom

Human Bondage: Tracing its Roots in India by Lakshmidhar Mishra (New Delhi: Sage), 2011; pp xix + 487, Rs 1,500.

The Indian state is at its best in winning international accolades for making altruistic laws, which are honoured more in their breach than in their observance within the country. The enactment of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act by Indira Gandhi in 1976 was greeted by a lot of hullabaloo at the time, when newspapers both in India and abroad splashed reports about the release of bonded labourers, the radio spread messages about their rehabilitation, and stories were circulated describing how they were marching forward to a bright future.

The present book demolishes this official myth, and also reveals – to our utter shame – that the oppressive feudal practice of bonded labour is very much alive and kicking in the India of the 21st century. It is a well-documented volume, brought up to date, and an important addition to the hitherto published major critical studies on bonded labour, beginning with the 1985 collection of essays Chains of Servitude (edited by Utsa Patnaik and Manjari Dingwaney), and followed by M M Rehman in his Society, Economy and Education of the Deprived in 1992.

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