NewZNew (Chandigarh) : One day National seminar on the theme ‘youth for Justice- Protecting Poor from the Violence’ held at DAV College, Chandigarh on 17-11-2015 was organized by P.G. Department of Sociology of DAV in association with International Justice Mission, Office of New Delhi and HEAL Society, Chandigarh.
Dr. Lakhmi Dhar Mishra, Retd. IAS, former Principal Secretary, Govt. of India and Special Rapporteur of Human Rights Commission, was the chief guest in the inaugural session and delivered the key note address. Honourable Justice Mahesh Grover, Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh was the chief guest at the valedictory session and delivered valedictory Address.
Miss Samantha Abraham introduced International Justice Mission and their work. As we heard, IJM is a global organization whose vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible. They work toward this by rescuing victims, bringing the criminals to justice, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement to build a safe future that lasts. In India, they work specifically to rescue and rehabilitate bonded labourers and minor girls from sex trafficking.
Dr. L. D. Mishra then gave the key note address, introducing the issue of bonded labour as one of the many violent crimes that the poor are most vulnerable to. Dr. L.D.Mishra gave a historical context for the pursuit of justice, and painted a picture for us of how bonded labour violates an inalienable right to freedom that every human being is born with. He spoke on the sacrosanctity of human life, which must shape our approach to addressing the issue of bonded labour. Dr. L.D.Mishra shared his own firsthand account of the abusive nature of bonded labour, including an example of workers who were kept in physical chains and subjected to the greatest degradation. Using his experience, Dr. L.D.Mishra noted the general apathy of individuals upon whom the responsibility lies to protect the vulnerable and encouraged participants to hold accountable the public justice system to work for the poor.
Following the key note address, Jai Singh then offered his thoughts on the importance of youth in addressing not only this particular issue, but in engaging local justice systems to bring protection for the poor. He noted that history has set a precedent for the impact that youth can have, even here in India when young people joined together to protest the public response to the Delhi rape case. With the current state of India being so high on the global slavery index, Jai Singh left the participants with this question: are you willing to take on the challenge of fighting for change?
The post-lunch session began with a video of renowned scholar Siddharth Kara of Harvard University discussing the prevalence of bonded labour in India, and ways in which we must address it. Siddharth Kara described how this crime has pervaded dozens industries in India, including brick kilns, rock quarries, etc. We also witnessed two survivors of bonded labour sharing their experience of abuse and exploitation, being confined to work under inhumane conditions with their families.
Professor Gopal Iyer concluded the session with a presentation on the violence that is inherent in the bonded labour system, and the role of research in reducing its prevalence. Using his own experience and research, Professor Iyer provided several case studies to demonstrate the need for protecting the vulnerable poor from this violent crime. He also expounded on the need for greater research in unveiling this hidden problem, and in improving the effectiveness of our response to the crime.
The seminar closed with a valedictory session in which a report of the day’s events was presented by Dr. Shantanu Dutta, Director of Public Engagements in IJM Delhi. Then the Honourable Justice Mahesh Grover, Chief Guest of the seminar, offered his valedictory remarks. Justice Grover, by quoting the late Nelson Mandela, made note of the fact that poverty is indeed man-made, and that it persists because we have not done enough to stop it. He added that there is not a single economy that has not paved the way of growth with the blood of the exploited. Bonded labour, in particular, is a violent crime that we often relate to the past, but Justice Grover offered many contemporary examples and challenged the youth to educate themselves on the matter and its legal implications.