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Virudhunagar: Mill owner dumps bonded labourers at railway station?

Of the 25 labourers, 24-year-old Topram was seriously ill and had to be taken to the government hospital. But, officials were the last to ‘know’ about the incident, source said.

Published: 22nd October 2021 05:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2021 05:26 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

VIRUDHUNAGAR: With no money or food in hand, twenty-five migrant bonded labourers, including three minors, from Chattisgarh were allegedly abandoned at Virudhunagar railway station by a Sivakasi mill owner. Of the 25 labourers, 24-year-old Topram was seriously ill and had to be taken to the government hospital. But, officials were the last to ‘know’ about the incident, source said.

The run-up to the incident started on Thursday morning when state coordinator for Dalit Foundation (based in Ahmedabad) K Kandasamy submitted a complaint with District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) claiming 25 youth belonging to an SC community from Chattisgarh are trapped in a Sivakasi-based paper mill. Claiming that they were being abused physically and mentally, he sought the DLSA to rescue the workers. 

When TNIE contacted DLSA on Thursday evening, the authorities said no such complaint was received. But, the officials from Department of Industrial Safety and Health claimed DLSA had informed them about a potential raid at a unit and that they are waiting for DLSA officials. However, no raid took place. When TNIE contacted Collector J Meghanatha Reddy, he said he will look into the matter. 

Labourer Ashok (31) said they were brought here by two agents on October 11 after promising decent jobs. “However, we were made to do menial jobs and we were physically and mentally tortured. When sought permission to return home, the owner refused and threatened us,” he said.  Another labourer, Ritesh, said they were left to starve for a whole day by the mill owner. “When Topram fell ill, he was treated at a local hospital. However, there is no improvement,” he said.  

Meanwhile, Kandhasamy said despite repeated calls to DLSA and to the officials, no one responded. “Somebody had tipped off the owner, who dumped the labourers at the railway station,” he said.  When the collector was contacted again at night, he said an enquiry is underway.

“As there are several versions of what happened, we are conducting a detailed inquiry. Until then, the minors will be taken care of by NCLP and others will be provided food and shelter by the district administration,” he added. 

Deputy Director of Dalit Foundation Pradip More said he received the information last week. “They had a fear that police have a nexus with the units. That’s why they approached DLSA. But what happened today is unexpected. The workers were made to sign an agreement stating they are going on their own will,” he added.



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