New Delhi, Jan 18 (PTI) National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Shama has called for regular inspections in rural areas of Karnataka to identify and prevent instances of bonded labourers after some such cases came to light recently.

Fifty-two bonded labourers, including 17 women and four children, hailing from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were rescued in Hassan district in December.

“There are lack of employment opportunities in rural Karnataka that makes it very easy for contractors to lure labourers and trap them. I am afraid to say that there must still be many cases of bondage existing and it must be one of the many,” Sharma said.

The matter came to light recently when one of the workers, who toiled for 20 days, escaped from the clutches of the gang by scaling the fence of the complex where they had been held captive, and informed the police about it.

The workers were allegedly held captive in sheds, taken to the fields for work and were beaten up when they demanded their wages.

NCW chairperson Sharma had constituted a three-member inquiry committee, led by herself, to look into circumstances leading to the workers being held in captivity.

The team gave its recommendations, asking the state government to conduct regular labour inspections.

“There are lack of employment opportunities in rural Karnataka that makes it very easy for contractors to lure labourers and trap them. I am afraid to say that there must still be many cases of bondage existing and it must be one of the many,” Sharma said.

“There must be regular inspections and there must be no place for excuses” she told PTI.

The NCW also recommended providing a safe environment for the victims, which includes rehabilitation through employment opportunities, education and financial aid for marriages among others.

The inquiry committee also urged the Hassan police officers to dwell deeper into the allegations relating to child labourers who claimed to have been made to work at farmlands.

The key findings of the inquiry committee included that no missing complaints were filed by the families of the labourers.

“The men and the women were beaten up on a regular basis. Meals were provided only twice a day to the labourers; the first at 4 am and the second at 10 pm -11 pm,” the inspection team said in a report Saturday.

It also said that tobacco and alcohol were given to the labourers between their meals to suppress their restlessness and the pain endured from the beating.

The committee also recommended organising various awareness programmes to spread awareness on the ill-effects of tobacco and alcohol on health.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.