In an operation early on Tuesday, the Wadegera police in Yadgir district's Shahapur taluk rescued 18 persons, including nine women and four children, who were allegedly bonded labourers at a private sugar factory.

“We were forcibly kept in the factory,” said 50-year-old Pundalik from a village in Aurad taluk of Bidar district. “When some of us wanted to go back to our village, we were beaten up by [labour contractor] Goodusab. He had brought us to the factory after promising us good work and paying us an advance ranging from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 30,000 for a pair of labourers.”

The rescued labourers claimed they were not provided any shelter and were forced to sleep on an uncovered lorry. They were also denied proper food and drinking water, they said.

When they complained about the poor conditions and expressed a desire to go back to their villages, the labour contractor allegedly threatened them with dire consequences, demanded that they repay the advance and forcibly kept them inside the factory.

Superintendent of Police B. Roopa, who visited the Wadgera police station on Tuesday and spoke to the rescued persons, said arrangements were being made to send all the labourers back to their villages. The contractor was taken into police custody and cases under sections 343, 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code registered against him.

The lorry in which the persons were transported from their villages has also been seized.

The sugar factory officials were not available for comment.