By Pradip G More*
As many as 35 bonded labourers, belonging to Pithora tehsil of Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh, have been rescued from a factory at Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu. This happened after Dalit Foundation activists Rajim Tandi and Devendra informed me about their detention in the factory and physical assault by the owner. They were forced to work without pay as they were brought by an agent, and not allowed to go out of the factory.
I forwarded all the information to the local leader of the Dalit Foundation, Pandian, who approached local organisations and met the District Legal Aid Cell and the District Collector in order to organise a rescue operation. All the 35 labourers, along with women and children, were rescued. Our fellow Muniaraj was part of the team. They have sent back by train to their home to Chhattisgarh. Now Pandian and team are following up with legal case against owner of the company and the agent from Bihar.
A video clipping complaining about their plight in Sivakasi where they were staying for more than two months had already gone viral in the social media in Chhatisgarh, which helped expedite the rescue operation, reports “The Hindu”. Based on the direction of the Principal District Judge, A Muthusaratha, a “one-stop crisis team” and three Judicial Officers, along with the sub-collector, Sivakasi, and police team raided cardboard boxes-making units at Sukravarpatti and M Pudupatti.
The officials found that the workers were from Chhattisgarh and rescued them. The workers complained about non-payment of salary as promised by the agent who had brought them. The agent had collected the salary from the factories but had not paid them as promised. As they wanted to return home, all the rescued persons were taken to a marriage hall in Sivakasi. The officials made the agent pay their salary.
Those who took part in the rescue operation included Judicial Officers V. Paramveer, S. Santhanakumar and S. Kalyana Marimuthu, and a team of police from Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, led by its Sub-Inspector of Police, Rajeswari.
*Deputy director, Dalit Foundation