BENGALURU: Kodigehalli police and Labour Department officials rescued five bonded labourers from a borewell digging unit in Sahakara Nagar, on Monday. The bonded labourers, all men aged between 18-27 years, hailed from Betul district in Madhya Pradesh. The rescue operation was conducted after one of the labourer’s father informed an NGO in MP and the district administration there contacted the officials in Bengaluru.
The International Justice Mission (IJM), an NGO which supported the operation, stated in a press release that among the rescued, four were working in the unit since November 2019 while another had joined them in June.
“The labourers were informed about the work when the owner’s visiting card was passed on to them in their village in Betul. They called the owner to enquire and he promised them `10,000 as monthly salary. However, they were not paid the promised wage and were only given `200 to `1,00 each, only if any urgent need arose. They did get accommodation and were forced to live in a truck,” the release stated.
“The labourers said they could only eat two meals a day due to scarcity of ration and the available time to cook. Their work started from 6am and continued till whenever the day’s borewell digging was completed, which was often late at night. When the labourers asked the owner for their wages, he would tell them that he will put it into their bank accounts soon, however, this never happened. The labourers also stated that every month they were telling the owner that they want to return home, especially after the pandemic began. But, the owner said they can leave only when he gets replacements. This way, the owner held them as bonded labourers, exploited them and did not even pay them the prescribed minimum wages,” the release added.
A case has been registered under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 at the Kodigehalli police station in this connection.