It was reported, in 2008, that there were more than 11,000 children working as kamaiya bonded child labour. Children who work in the kamaiya system perform domestic chores, take animals to pasture, collect grass/hay, and participate in other farm activities. Many of them work over twelve hours per day. The kamaiya system was commonly known as an agriculturally based bonded labour system which were pervasive among Tharu indigenous people in the mid- and far-western Terai of Nepal. In July 2000, the Government of Nepal made a landmark decision to outlaw the kamaiya system and issued the Bonded Labour Prohibition Act in 2002 which was intended to provide comprehensive regulation prohibiting bonded labour. However, in the mid- and far-western Terai districts, children have been continuously affected by such practice.
The fact that the practice of kamaiya bonded child labour in the mid and far-western Terai is still widely practiced a decade after the abolition of kamaiya system raises an essential question about what preserves the practice. This study is an attempt to understand the complex factors that contribute to the prevalent practice of kamaiya bonded child labour in the mid- and far-western Terai of Nepal. In doing so, I use qualitative approach. I analyse relevant legal and policy responses, and discuss socio-economic situation of freed-kamaiya households. I also conducted a brief field research to gain more insight about the socio-economic situation.
The study reveals that although various legal and policy frameworkss with regard to the pertinent issue have been put in place, the implementation remains a big challenge. This may then affect the socio-economic dimensions. Moreover, the interplay of different factors such as poverty and household vulnerability; the elusive promise of education from the employers; and the widespread societal acceptance of such practice, have likely been preserving the kamaiya bonded child labour practice.