Bonded labour in modern era?
The story of the Bangladesh Navy rescuing 13 boys from bonded labour in Dublarchar has actually brought to the fore glimpse of an organised crime much bigger than we may want to believe. These unfortunate boys, malnourished and in frail health had to work 16 hours a day, often under extreme weather conditions. By all means, it was a fortuitous rescue attempt that ended well but from what appeared in the media report, it is but a tip of the iceberg that demands a full-scale investigation.
We are extremely disturbed to learn that as many as 2000 young boys are suspected to have been handed over to various fish traders in those areas in recent times. And according to the local Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), 192 boys have been rescued so far from the clutches of the syndicate members.
It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that bonded labour of the worst kind goes on in the country in this modern era when our constitution safeguards the right to freedom of each and every individual. When we have a functional civil administration down to the upazila level and union council at the village level and a number of law enforcing agencies in operation, how could men, women and children be forced to such wretched life remains a disturbing question. We believe a large number of young boys and girls who have been forced into bonded labour or fall victim to trafficking need all the vigil and protection they can get from the community. In most cases they walked out with strangers who gave them the promise of decent work with lucrative salary and other facilities, which in reality were but hoaxes. Greater awareness at the community and family level has to be created by social leaders with the support of various non-government organisations working on the subject of trafficking.
Following up on the case at Dublarchar we would urge the government to launch a massive drive in the coastal islands and other remote locations to find and rescue men, women and children toiling to their peril as bonded labour.