Kamaiyas, a traditional form of a bonded labor

Kamaiya is the traditional form of bonded labor. It is a system of slavery and the slaves are known as Kamara or Kamaiyas. It is a particular form of labor relationship where a farm laborer serves a master or landlord in particular as a repayment of the loan taken in advance by himself or his forefathers.

They exchange labor for debt based on written or oral contract to their employers. They are used as virtually unpaid labor for the cultivation of land and other domestic activities.

Usually the amount the family borrowed is little but they were unable to calculate their debts and often were cheated by the landlords. When they couldn’t pay it on time, it multiplied and they were in debt for generations. Kamaiyas are the tangible assets that the landlord can sell to others as well. It is the extreme form of labor exploitation.

The women from the Kamaiya family were double victim of the servitude as they had to help their husbands on the landlord’s land as well as work on their own land. Although they were not the direct contractors of the debt, they were subjected to serve the masters. They might also have to work at the master’s home for which they dod not get direct wages but only meals.

This system prevailed in the hilly regions of Nepal and also in Terai where poverty rate was high. However, the system was abolished and the government freed the Kamaiyas from their debt and slavery.