During the era of the Emergency, the Movement of Sri Jai Prakash Narayan known as Sampoorna Kranty inspired some people to work for the betterment of India’s poorest and most marginalised groups. It was in the background that a group of young men in Delhi formed an organisation known as Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labour Liberation Front) in 1981. There was a coincidence that during the period of Emergency, the Indira Gandhi Government promulgated Abolition of Bonded Labour Act, 1976 which sought to abolish forced labour from India. However, the system remained prevalent in different parts of the country and in different sectors – agriculture, brick kiln, stone queries, the construction industry, mines etc. One of those involved with Bandhua Mukti Morcha was an activist from Punjab named Jai Singh, who in 1985 would found and lead Volunteers for Social Justice.
The inspiration to focus on bonded labourers came in 1982 when Jai Singh first took up the cause of the Brick Kiln workers in Punjab where both
the migrant labourers and local labourers were working in situations of bonded debt. There had been an incident of police firing in Jalandhar where brick kiln workers were demanding to be paid the set minimum wage. The brick kiln workers were beaten badly by the police. This prompted Jai Singh to file a Writ in Punjab and Haryana High Court which resulted in freeing 35 to 40 bonded labourers in the brick kiln industry.
It was this initial success convinced Jai Singh to take up the cause of Bonded Labourers in Punjab, Haryana and other Northern States. Thus Volunteers for Social Justice came into being. During the 80s and 90s Jai Singh filed several such Writ petitions to Punjab and Haryana High Court and through the instrumentality of Warrant Officers several Bonded Labourers in Agriculture and Brick kilns were released. Jai Singh extended his area of operation to other agencies like District Collectors cum Deputy Commissioners, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Commission, SC/ST Commission and so on.