In a shocking admission, Maharashtra Tribal Development Minister Vijaykumar Gavit informed the state legislature on Friday that a minor tribal girl - who died in September 2022 - worked as a 'bonded labour', a practice abolished 47 years ago.

Gavit's statement came in the Legislative Council and attracted strong criticism of the Opposition MLCs during a question on the issue of the Ashram Shalas in the state.

As Gavit replied to a query on the Ashram Shalas (schools) run for tribal kids, he was also asked to respond on the death of a 10-year-old tribal girl of Nashik six months ago.

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(Representational Image)Creative Commons

The Minister said that the girl had been taken to work in the adjoining Parner tehsil of Ahmednagar district but since she was not in good health, the family which employed her had dumped the girl outside her parents' home.

She was found with injury marks on her body and passed away during her treatment later, he said.

The enraged Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) demanded to know whether she had been 'sold', resulting in embarrassment for the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government.

The MVA members like Ambadas Danve, Eknath Khadse and Shashikant Shinde urged the minister to make a statement on her death, and Gavit said she was not 'sold' but was employed as a 'bonded labourer'.

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 (representational image).Reuters file

Janata Dal's Kapil Patil pointed out that 'bonded labour' is banned vide a law enacted in Maharashtra, and "it is shameful that the Minister openly admits to the prevalence of such a practice in the state."

He demanded an explanation from the Minister as to how the victim ended up working as a 'bonded labour', when this practice was abolished (in 1976).

Terming it as 'a reflection' of the government's inefficiency, Khadse said that the sale or bonded labour involving children is 'unpardonable' and demanded that the state government should take it very seriously.

(With inputs from IANS)