CHENNAI: In a massive drive on Wednesday, about 550 bonded labourers including several women hailing from Odisha and Chhattisgarh were rescued from a bricklin bonded labour-labour intensive Tiruvallur district about 55 km from here.
The labourers belonging to 180 families were rescued from the same brick manufacturing unit, functioning under inhuman working conditions at Pondavakkam in Ponneri taluk, where over 450 people were rescued in a similar drive five years ago, officials said.
“The rescued bonded labourers were forced to work from 3 am with mere weekly wages of Rs 400 for a family. They have also suffered verbal abuses, while a woman was not allowed to visit her native place to take care of ailing husband, who subsequently died,” Ponneri Revenue Divisional Officer M Narayanan, who conducted an enquiry told Express.
“Six persons including the bricklin owner’s brother have been arrested under three sections including the Bonded Labour Act, which are non-bailable,” he said, adding that the owner identified as Vengal Rao belonging to Andhra Pradesh was absconding.
As per statistics, Tiruvallur district topped the list of bonded labour-prevalent districts in the State with neighbouring Kancheepuram ranking second between 2005 and 2014. A total of 1250 bonded labourers were released during the period and nearly 700 in Kancheepuram district during the 10-year period.
International Justice Mission India, an NGO working in the field of rescuing bonded labourers, which tipped off the government authorities about their plight, claims that the rescued people have been paid an advance of Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000 before being moved to Tamil Nadu. “Their freedom of movement was curtailed with only one person in the family allowed to visit outside for buying provisions. The living conditions were deplorable and they survived with just Rs 400 per week,” Mathew, Spokesperson of International Justice Mission India, who visited the spot, said.
Nearly 100 children in the families of bonded labourers were getting education through schools situated in the locality, sources claimed. The families were brought from six districts of Odisha including Nuapada, Balangir and Kalahandi, besides some from Chhattisgarh for the seasonal brick-making works in early January this year.
Meanwhile, Tiruvallur District Collector E Sundaravalli has ordered immediate medical treatment and interim relief of Rs 1000 for the bonded labourers. Officials with the Collectorate said that the rescued people would be returned to their native places in a couple of days with relief certificates.