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Reuters: free-labour tradition banned in Southern India

POSTED January 26, 2021

Reuters: free-labour tradition banned in Southern India

“Bitti chakri” outlawed in Karnataka state

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Thousands of Dalits (of a low class or caste) have been working for free for years, as part of “bitti chakri.” The tradition, whereby lower-caste people provide free labour to upper-caste homes, is now banned in India’s Karnataka state, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

“This form of slavery is not like debt bondage, where people are forced to work to pay off loans. Here there is no loan, just an understanding that a Dalit person is obligated to work for a landlord, practically for free,” Kiran Kamal Prasad, founder of the Jeevika charity that fought against bitti chakri, explains.

Although the Indian government outlawed bonded labour in 1975, implementation of the law has not always been easy. Now there is a ban on the specific practise of bitti chakri, which is now recognized as bonded labour in Southern India.

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