18 November 2019
Eight bonded labour traffickers sentenced to life imprisonment
Submitted by Anonymous on 09 January 2017
The Court of Additional District and Sessions Judge sentenced eight labour contractors to life imprisonment on 24th December 2016 in Dharmagarh, Odisha. The eight were indicted for trafficking 14 labourers from Odisha for bonded labour and for torturing and cutting off the right hands at the wrist of two of the labourers. One of the traffickers remain absconding.
The Judge, Ananth Chandra Behra, termed the incident a “heinous crime committed against the society”, and passed judgment sentencing the eight accused to life imprisonment— the longest sentence a bonded labour offender has ever received in India.
“This verdict will send a strong warning message to middlemen, contractors and labour agents who remain unregulated. They function with absolute impunity. They are well versed with unleashing violence and drawing labour force out of trafficked migrants”, said Roseann Rajan, an advocate who assisted the prosecution in this case.
Dialu Nial and Nilambar Mahji were the two unfortunate victims of the cruel hand-chopping episode. The two men along with 12 other labourers were falsely promised secure jobs but were trafficked from Odisha for labour in December 2013. When the labourers sensed deceit, they seized the first opportunity to escape. Dialu and Nilambar were the only two victims who were caught by the traffickers.
For the next 15 days, Dialu and Nilambar faced intense physical violence and were forced to work in the labour contractor’s house and in his field. The traffickers held them responsible for the loss they incurred in losing the labourers. Dialu and Nilambar remembered the trafficker’s words, “I will kill you both. I will not let you go.”
At the end of the fortnight, the traffickers threatened to kill the men and gave them a choice: lose your head, your right leg or your right hand. Dialu and Nilambar both lost their right hands at the wrist.
That morning, while it was still dark, Dialu and Nilambar braved the ordeal of securing their bleeding hands and walking for several kilometers before they found human support and medical help. “I thought I was going to die”, recalled Dialu. “They came after us but we hid beside a rock. They came so close to us but we escaped alive.”
News spread about the ruthless incident rapidly. IJM stepped in and helped provide rehabilitation support to Dialu and Nilambar. They slowly recouped from their horrific experience and graduated from IJM’s aftercare programme for rehabilitation in August 2016. Just a few months later, Nilambar passed away suddenly, before he got the chance to witness justice.
The conviction secured in this case is a landmark move by the Court proving that trafficking and bonded labour offences will not be tolerated. The accused persons were convicted for crimes under sections 16 & 17 of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and Sections 120B, 307, 323, 326, 364A, 365, 342, 370, 506, 420 of the Indian Penal Code.