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Choice of work, education, better income needed for bondage survivors to remain free — study

The study involved 88 respondents, including children, who are survivors of human trafficking in UP and Bihar and have been reintegrated with help from NGOs.

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New Delhi: Survivors of bonded labour and child labour in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are still in need of a decent income and freedom from debt, and believe that choice of work and self-representation are critical to their sustained liberation, a new study says.

Published Monday, the study, called The lived realities of sustained liberation in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, India: an evaluation of survivor experiences, was conducted by Freedom Fund, a leading organisation in the global movement to end human trafficking, in partnership with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices. It aimed to assess the realities of liberation for survivors of human trafficking, and whether this liberation can last.

The study evaluates the findings of 88 semi-structured interviews with survivors of trafficking in Bihar and UP. Of the respondents, 68 were men and 20, women, while 55 of the participants were above 18 years and 33 were children.

The individuals interviewed were victims of debt bondage, forced labour and extremely exploitative child labour. The study assessed the responses of survivors one to three years after they had received reintegration support provided by four NGOs in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh: The National Institute for Rural Development, Education, Social Upliftment and Health (NIRDESH); Centre Direct; Manav Sansadhan Evam Mahila Vikas Sansthan (MSEMVS); and Pragati Gramodyog Sansthan (PGS).


Also read: World Day Against Child Labour: Covid and reverse migration could push more children to work


Choice of work, going to school, savings — what freedom means to survivors

Choice in terms of labour is what 18 per cent of the adults said when asked what freedom meant to them, whereas for 16 per cent, a decent income or freedom from debt contributed to the feeling of overall freedom. Among children, 20 per cent said that education or the opportunity to learn a vocation was their idea of freedom, while 13 per cent said they saw freedom in being able to play with friends and 11 per cent said that having enough of an income would help them to feel free.

The report stated that the most common thread across the interviews was that survivors still needed more financial support to pay for land, build or repair adequate housing, start businesses, pay for weddings and buy equipment such as irrigation pumps and sewing machines. The survivors also said they would like to be in a position to save money, and to have some financial security.

When asked about their most important needs for their own and their family’s wellbeing, most mentioned education, housing, and income. In fact, 27 per cent of the survivors said that financial security was the most important need for them, while 25 per cent said that building or repairing their home was their greatest priority, and 22 per cent also said that the family’s happiness was their goal.

35 per cent of the adult survivors said that they hoped for education in future, while 28 per cent had hopes for decent work. 18 per cent also wished to have their own businesses. Among the children, 31 per cent hope for decent work in the future, and 23 per cent want a good education.

The study also found that freedom from debt bondage, teaching people about their labour rights, offering NGO support, improving worker protections and providing essential services like healthcare, are all instrumental in ensuring survivors don’t end up returning to the trap of debt bondage and labour exploitation.


Also read: Anti-trafficking Bill has scope for confusion. Here’s what will work: BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi


 

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