July 21, 2021 10:06:47 am
DIALU NIAL had life ahead of him in 2013. He was 18, and the first from his family to step out of his village in Odisha’s Kalahandi district for work. Today, the Dalit youth says, he has nothing to look forward to.
“I am glad I survived and I am alive, but there is nothing to look forward to when I wake up,” says Nial, who lives with his 70-year-old mother in a partially thatched house in Piplaguda village.
Nial was among 12 villagers who were promised jobs by a labour contractor, Parbesh Dundi, and his men at a brick kiln in Raipur in 2013. They were paid an advance of Rs 14,000 each. But instead of Raipur, they were made to board a train to Hyderabad. Sensing danger, 10 of them escaped while Nial and another villager, Nilambar Dhangda Majhi, were caught by Dundi and his aides and tortured.
The contractor demanded the two repay the Rs 1.4 lakh he had paid to all the 12 labourers. When they said they can’t, the contractor and his men chopped one hand from the wrist of each. While Nial survived, Majhi died three years later of prolonged illnesses.
On Monday, Dharamgarh Additional District and Sessions Judge Bandana Kar sentenced Parshuram Nayak – the last of the nine accused in the case – to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. Nayak was an associate of the middlemen and had assisted them in finding the labourers, including Nial and Majhi.
In 2016, eight other accused, including Dundi, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Nial says he is happy with the court judgments. But more than justice, survival is his immediate concern.
Unable to find work or a match, Nial feels his life is stuck in the horrors of that night of December 15, 2013, when his right palm was chopped.
“Our family depended on rope-making for a living. No one ever left the village to look for work. I was sixth of seven siblings,” Nial says, recollecting what made him take up the contractor’s offer. “When we learnt about this work, my father and I agreed because it was good money. For us, it meant an escape from our poverty.”
After his physical recovery, Nial says, he started looking for work again – but in vain. “I understand I am not skilled but I am ready to work in school or office premises, water plants, be a gardener, sweeper… something to pull me through this life. I made repeated requests at the district office but there was no response”
Currently, Nial and his mother depend on the government’s free ration scheme to manage two meals a day. While Nial gets Rs 700 as social security pension, his mother gets Rs 500 pension under the government’s Madhu Babu Pension Yojana and 5 kg rice.
In 2014, after the Supreme Court’s intervention, the state government had sanctioned Rs 6.75 lakh relief for Nial and Majhi. They also got Rs 1.25 lakh under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. But the money was exhausted over the years, in family functions among other needs, says Nial.
Majhi’s wife Manjula, who lives in Nuaguda, 13 km from Nial’s village, says the court verdicts in the case make little difference.
“I lost my husband even before the first judgment was announced. I have been taking care of my children by myself,” says the mother of two. “Whatever punishment they get will never be enough, it will not bring back my husband.”
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