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Bonded labourers rescued from goushala in Bangalore city
One child aged 13 and one minor aged 17 were also working at the gaushala as bonded labourers
Bangalore, 11 November 2017: 13 victims of bonded labour and trafficking including five children were rescued from a gaushala in Mahadevapura by the Bangalore Urban District Administration and the local Police, assisted by International Justice Mission (IJM) on 9th November 2017. Nine victims were working as bonded labourers while four were their children, aged between one and 12, who were also confined to the gaushala. The victims belonging to three families were working in the gaushala for between seven months to one year.
One more family who had worked in the gaushala for three years as bonded labourers left the facility six months ago after the male labourer’s father accepted the advance of his son as his debt. The son had taken an advance of Rs 30,000 over the last three years, however the supervisor of the factory said Rs 70,000 is now due with interest added. After leaving the facility the son has been trying to secure the release of his father.
On 10th Nov 2017, an FIR (#591/17) was registered at the Mahadevapura Police Station against the owner of the gaushala and the supervisor under IPC 370 (Trafficking of Persons), the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016. After conducting an enquiry with the victims, MK Jagadish, Assistant Commissioner, Bangalore Urban also issued release certificates to the bonded labourers declaring them as free from the clutches of bonded labour and any agreements with their employers at the gaushala.
The victims all belonging to the indigenous Irular community are from Rayakottai in Krishnagiri District Tamil Nadu. The men were forced to work in the gaushala from 4:30 am to 6:30 pm everyday while the women began work at 6:30 am. They were only able to take short breaks for meals during this time. Their daily work included feeding several hundreds of cows, buffalos, goats and pigeons in the gaushala. Then they were tasked with milking the cows and the women were particularly used to collect the cow dung. Apart from this, cleaning the premises and tending to sick cows and burying cows that had died was also a part of the work.
The male labourers were promised monthly wages of Rs 7,100 while the women were promised Rs 6,100. However they had to work all the days of the month without any breaks to secure this wage. Most of the labourers stated that they could not usually work more than 20 days a month as they were too tired or sick on the other days due to the heavy work load. The manager of the gaushala used to then pay them accordingly for the number of days worked only. This usually amounted to between Rs 4,000 – Rs 5,000.
However once they were paid this amount all the labourers were forced to take their wages to the supervisor, also an employee of the gaushala. He used to then take away most of their wages towards the advance and interest he charged over the advance. He used to only leave each labourer with Rs 1000 – Rs 1,500 from their monthly wage. No food was provided and the labourers had to manage all their expenses with this amount. When they needed more money for survival during the month, they were forced to again borrow it from the supervisor at an exorbitant interest of five percent per month.
Although the rescued labourers had taken advances ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 30,000 the supervisor said they need to pay back between Rs 15,000 and Rs 70,000 if they want to leave the facility. In this way they were trapped and could not seek any alternative employment. They were also confined to the facility and never allowed to go out to the market or their village as a family. Only one member of a family could go out at a time to buy provisions and that person also had to return by 8:00 pm after which the gates were locked.
“Those who escaped were brought back from Rayakottai and severely beaten by the supervisor,” a 35 year old male labourer said who worked at the gaushala for three years along with his wife. “The supervisor told my wife and me that if we tried to escape without paying back the advance we will be caught and our kidneys will be removed and sold. We were afraid of the supervisor as he is very violent and he knows where we live. If anything happens to us the supervisor must be held responsible. Even when the cows attacked us and we were injured we had to pay for treatment ourselves. I only borrowed money from the supervisor for my family’s survival when we were in the gaushala.”
All the labourers have been repatriated to Rayakottai by the Karnataka government and are eligible for compensation and schemes due to rescued bonded labourers under the Central Sector Scheme (CSS).