February 12, 2021 4:11:52 am
FIVE bonded labourers in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna district were allegedly made to pick coins out of hot oil as punishment, with the incident coming to light after they escaped and approached the district administration. The authorities later rescued around 20 more people, with 11 of them minors.
According to officials at the Raghoghar Police Station where a case has been registered, the labourers were punished after they spilt some liquid jaggery that they were preparing. According to the labourers, 15 of them were taken to a temple to make them admit before the deity as to who was responsible, and there, forced to dip their hands into a vessel of hot oil and take out coins.
The police have arrested Roman Kanjar, on whose field some of the men worked as labourers and who is accused of enforcing the “punishment”. The injured received treatment at a government hospital.
Raju Sheriya, 18, one of the five who escaped, said, “I along with a few others picked out the coins, but many refused and were beaten up.” The next day, he escaped. The eldest of four children of a brick labourer from village Rajpura, Sheriya said he started working at the age of 16.
Akshay Kumar Temrawal, Subdivisional Officer of Raghoghar, said, “The labourers were scared of even the administration and police officials. We gave them accommodation, food and took them into confidence to get an FIR registered.”
Temrawal said 15 of the labourers were found to be working as bonded workers (paid below minimum wages, not allowed to leave) and had been sent home to five districts. “They will be given Rs 20,000 by the government for rehabilitation,” Temrawal said.
Sheriya said Kanjar gave them two meals a day and Rs 25,000 once a year. “We lived in a small shed in a compound behind his house.”
After they escaped, Sheriya and the other four met Narendra Bhadoriya, the district president of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, who in turn approached the district administration. Subsequently, a team of officials rescued 16 people, including 11 minors and five women.
Bhadoriya said that while a government survey had identified 60 people in bonded labour in Guna district, “as per our knowledge at least 5,000 people are working under such conditions”. “Many who are rescued have no option but to return to such inhuman labour practices as the government has failed to successfully rehabilitate them and give them employment.”
“We are waiting for the medical report and based on its findings, further sections will be added against Kanjar,” Station House Officer of Raghoghar Police Station M M Malvia said.
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