Lahore    -   The Lahore High Court on Friday ordered the release of 13 bonded labourers from a brick-kiln.

The labourers who were released included six men, five women and two children. Justice Shahid Mubeen passed the order in a habeas corpus petition filed by the family head Shamir Ahmad. The petition was represented by Sheikh Javed Rashid Advocate.

Earlier, court bailiff Zafar Iqbal recovered the labourers from a kiln and produced them before the court. On the other side, the kiln owners through his counsel pleaded that the labouers were doing work at the kiln under an agreement they reached with the kiln owner. He denied the allegation of bonded labour.

As per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, Bonded Labour System is a system of forced, or partly forced labour under which a debtor enters, or is presumed to have entered into an agreement with the creditor.

Under such “agreement”, “in consideration of an advance (peshgi) obtained by him or by any of the members of his family… and in consideration of the interest, if any, due on such advance (Peshgi), or in pursuance of any customary or social obligation, or for any economic consideration received by him or by any member of his family; bonded labourer would render, by himself or through any member of his family, or any person dependent on him, labour or service to the creditor, or for the benefits of the creditor, for a specified period, or for an unspecified period, either without wages or for nominal wages.”

Such agreement “allows” the creditor to “…forfeit the freedom of employment or adopting other means of livelihood for a specified period or for an unspecified period, or forfeit the right to move freely from place to place, or forfeit the right to appropriate or sell at market value any of his property or product of his labour or the Iabour of a member of his family or any person dependent on him.”

The main issues pertaining the system include loans and advances extended by creditors to ensure timely availability and supply of labour thereby the creditors keep the labour under control. The bonded labourers cannot get freedom for generations. However, a few of them move the court and get released but such labourers having awareness about their rights are a few in number. Thus the ignorance of law and fundamental rights let the creditors particularly the kiln owners get propser at the cost of the labourers’ freedom.