21 July 2019
Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and police arrest Anekal brick kiln owner in trafficking case
On 9 October, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) along with the District Administration and the Karnataka police arrested an Anekal brick kiln owner under Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 370, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976. Eleven people belonging to three families from Bolangir, Odisha, among them three young children who were also working and a one year old, were rescued. They had been working in the kiln as bonded labourers. Once the workers were released from the kiln, they were taken to Attibele Police Station, Anekal Taluk where the police, district officials, directed by Tahsildhar Hanumantharayappa, and the AHTU performed detailed inquiries.
“This is one of several recent and notable cases in Bangalore Urban in which the AHTU, the District Administration, and the police have responded effectively,” said Esther Daniel, Director of System Reform of IJM, an NGO which brought the case to the attention of the AHTU and joined in the rescue.
The labourers were not allowed to return home to their villages for festivals or funerals. All were paid below minimum wage and were forced to work on all seven days from 5:00 am till 7:00 pm. All of the families are from villages in Odisha and are members of Scheduled Tribes in Odisha. One family had been working in the kiln for almost a year while the others came more recently.
One of the released workers said, “I heard from my daughter who lives in my native village that my granddaughter fell ill and passed away. When I asked the owner permission to attend the funeral, he did not allow me to go to my village. We can never leave the facility as a family. Even when we are allowed to go to the market or the hospital, the owner will send one of his men to watch us.”
All the rescued bonded labourers will return to their villages in Odisha and will be enrolled in IJM's two-year rehabilitation program.
Under IPC 370, which defines human trafficking, a person who employs multiple trafficked bonded labourers may be eligible for a sentence up to life in prison. In several 2014 cases in Karnataka, employers of bonded labourers were arrested and denied bail. Referring to a case from Ramanagaram, Honourable Justice Budihal R.B. wrote on denying bail, “Looking to the nature of the allegations made and the seriousness of the offence, I am of the opinion that at this stage, it is not proper for this Court to allow the petition and to release the petitioner on bail.”
IJM lawyer Ruth Thomas says, “The newly amended IPC 370 has been proven to be a powerful law in fighting human trafficking and bonded labour. Through arrests, bail denials, and prosecution this law is being translated into action by the AHTU, the prosecutors, and the courts.”
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