The Apps and Credit Cards that Aim to Prevent Debt Bondage

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Debt BondageForced LaborPreventionTechnology & Tools

In the eastern Indian state of Odisha thousands of rural families are beginning the seasonal migration in search of work. This year, however, the Indian government has introduced several measures that aim to protect workers from falling into debt bondage, ranging from an online registration app, a 24/7 helpline, credit cards for loans, and work contracts with brick kiln owners.

Thomson Reuters Foundation explains how these tools will work in practice:

This year [the government] launched the ‘shramik sahayata’ (workers’ help) app allowing villagers to register online before migrating and has established helpdesk kiosks and a phoneline for migrants.

“We are setting up five helpdesks in destination states where labourers are going to spend six to eight months working,” said Odisha labour commissioner Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav.

The Odisha government has also helped to draw up direct contracts between workers and 100 kiln owners in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in an effort to cut out agents and end the practice of debt bondage.”The exploitative middleman will slowly cease to exist,” Jadhav said.

“We are looking at tying up with banks to pay workers directly using savings bank accounts and they can also avail advance money through labour credit cards.”

Campaigners estimate that around 100,000 people migrate from Odisha annually, most ending up working in brick kilns where their wages are deducted to pay off an advance loan. Yet the labor required to pay off the loan is extreme as workers need to produce around 700,000 bricks over the course of 6-8 months to pay off a debt of $300.

The government says it aims to reach 2.5 million migrant workers with its new prevention program by March 2018.

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