This was stated in a study conducted by the Mirpurkhas police from January to October about the release of bonded labourers.
The report said that after bonded labourers had been freed, no one came forward to lodge criminal cases under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1992. Therefore, investigation could not be undertaken and culprits could not be apprehended and brought to book.
It said that bonded labourers were released under habeas corpus petitions despite the fact that there was the special law which treated keeping forced labour as a cognisable offence.
According to the study, 648 bonded labourers were found by police from January to October and courts set them at liberty. Police took action mostly on the orders of courts.
The study said that because of police action, no victimisation by the landlords was reported and peasants were living as a free people.
During the current year, police conducted 31 raids and recovered 648 bonded labourers, including women and children, and produced them before magistrates.
According to the study, no complaint is filed by any freed labourer or NGO working for the cause, narrating the ordeal of bonded labourers. Rather the bonded labourers and organisations prefer to take the matter to the court.
The study said that all of the labourers belonged to the Hindu community.The report said that the peasants had been with landlords for two to five years and during raids they were found neither chained nor confined to four walls. All of them were in open spaces in fields.
The study recalled that the practice of keeping bonded labour was prohibited under the constitution and the law and debts used as pretext for enslaving people were void. “Even then, bonded labour has remained an issue in several parts of the country, particularly in Punjab and Sindh.
“The Supreme Court took notice of bonded labour practices in brick kilns in 1988 and declared advances given to bonded labourers as illegal.”
The study said that some human rights organisations had set up relief camps for freed bonded labourers with temporary arrangements. But these camps were poorly managed and had unhealthy sanitation conditions.
Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Sanghar were the districts where bonded labourers were released on the orders of courts, the study said.