- The political economy of unfree labour in South Asia: determining the nature and scale of debt bondage
- The Indian journal of labour economics
- Volume | Issue number
- 53 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Unfree labour used to be a main feature of a pre-capitalist mode of production which dominated agricultural work and life all over the South Asian subcontinent in the past. Households of landless communities were attached in servitude to substantial landowners in a non-monetised relationship which often lasted from generation to generation. The transformation to agrarian capitalism which already began in the late-colonial era did not liberate the landless communities from their state of dependency and inferiority. The paper discusses the prevalence and spread of neo-bondage as a form of labour attachment in the lower echelons of the informalised economy. Freed from the means of production this large segment of the workforce, at drift in rural or urban localities and equipped with vulnerable social identities, has to sell its labour power in advance in order to make a living. The number of people working in debt should be counted in crores rather than in lakhs. Emancipation of these men, women and children from their state of servitude can only be realised on the basis of decent and dignified terms of employment.
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