Updated: August 5, 2021 3:45:08 am
TWENTY-TWO WORKERS from Telangana were rescued from South Goa on Wednesday after an NGO complained to the district administration, alleging that it was a case of bonded labour.
The workers were engaged by a sub-contractor to carry out a project of railway double tracking in Quepem taluka of South Goa.
Government officials, however, said that after inspection it was found that it was not a case of bonded labour but of non-payment of full wages by the sub-contractor.
After the administration intervened on Wednesday, the due wages of Rs 2.32 lakh were paid to the rescued labourers by the contractor.
The rescue was conducted by Quepem Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Nilesh Dhaigodkar along with a labour officer and representatives of Anyay Rahit Zindagi (ARZ), an NGO. The operation was launched following a complaint from Foundation of Sustainable Development, which works in Telangana.
The ARZ said the workers were being paid less than minimum wage and were living in unhygienic conditions.
In a letter to Dhaigodkar, who is also the Deputy Collector, Tracks and Towers Infratech (Pvt) Ltd, the contractor engaged by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited that is carrying out the double tracking project, said they had engaged one Bapanikunta Narsimha Reddy “for the supply of unskilled labours” but they learnt from the NGO in Telangana that he had not paid “suitable wages” to them.
It said it has now paid the pending wages on behalf of Reddy “as per instructions” of the SDM.
Dhaigodkar said there were 22 workers, including a 72-year-old woman, from Telangana. Some of them arrived in Goa in February-March followed by the others. Four arrived only 15 days ago. He said it was not a case of bonded labour and the huts in which they lived near Assolda in Quepem were also in “livable conditions”.
South Goa Collector Ruchika Katyal said, “The case is being forwarded to the labour department for further necessary action in the matter.”
The double tracking of the railway line from Castle Rock in Karnataka to Kulem in South Goa, has been met with staunch opposition from green activists. In the assembly session that concluded on July 30, the opposition had upped the ante against the BJP government over “destroying” Goa’s green heritage by executing three linear projects, including the double tracking of the railway line.
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