29 bonded labourers rescued

Twenty-nine bonded labourers from eight families were rescued from a eucalyptus tree plantation at Kuguru village in Anekal taluk on Saturday.

The victims were held in bondage for over six years. They used to work as woodcutters in eucalyptus plantations in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. All the eight families hailed from Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu and the victims include 10 children, in the age group of eight months to 17 years, who travelled along with their parents but did not work, according to Sarjapur police who have booked a case against the owner of the plantation for trafficking and under various sections of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. The owner is absconding. Assistant Commissioner M.G. Shivanna led the rescue efforts.

The victims came to Bengaluru around six years ago, working for a different owner. The present owner took their custody by paying ₹80,000 to the previous owner and an advance of ₹40,000 to ₹60,000 to each of the eight families. Though he had promised them a wage of ₹600 per person, he was paying them only ₹250 a week — ₹35 per day — while the minimum wage for woodcutters is ₹565 a day. He was also taking these labourers to other plantations across Tamil Nadu. The labourers would spend between two weeks to a month working at each plantation. The labourers only got one day off every two weeks, said International Justice Mission (IJM), the NGO that helped the authorities with the rescue efforts.

“The labourers had to live in makeshift tarpaulin tents at each plantation and were not provided with any facilities. With their meagre wage of ₹35 per person per day they had to manage all their expenses, including for food. When they told the owner that they would like to leave and work elsewhere, they were threatened and told to pay back the advance amount first. In this way the labourers were exploited and held as bonded labourers for up to six years,” the IJM said in a statement. One of the rescued labourer, a 26-year-old, told the district administration that he had sought leave of two months to get treatment for chest pain but was denied it.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/29-bonded-labourers-rescued/article30001127.ece