In a single biggest raid in recent years against the “bonded labour system” in the State, Revenue and Police officials on Thursday raided a stone quarry unit on the outskirts of Bangalore and rescued 19 migrant labourers. Among them nine are minors.
The rescued labourers are from Mahbubnagar district in Andhra Pradesh. They alleged that they had been working since past 13 years as bonded labourers at the quarry, situated near Kempasagara in Magadi taluk.
The freed labourers were handed over to a non-government organisation as the Social Welfare Department is yet to take initiatives to rehabilitate them.
“This was the single biggest such raid in recent years. Based on credible information we conducted the raid,” Magadi tahsildar B.R. Harish Naik told The Hindu over telephone on Sunday.
While narrating their ordeal to the officials, the rescued labourers alleged that each worker was being paid just Rs. 300 per week, which is against the minimum wage Act. Also, persons concerned at the quarry had been preventing the labourers to step out from the quarry boundary even in case of medical emergencies.
The labourers were living in huts and under the rocks. While many of them suffered minor injuries during blasting, women and children were malnourished, a police officer, quoting the victims, said.
“During our interaction with them, they said they were not given adequate rest and sufficient food,” the officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
The rescued families had been given an “advance amount” ranging between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 15,000 around 13 years back.
Since then they were working at the quarry, owned by Phalanetra, for at least 10 hours in a day.
The alleged bonded labour incident came to light on Thursday when Kannappa, one of the victims, managed to escape and met an activist in Bangalore.
While the migrated labourers claimed that they had been confined inside the quarry boundary, the local residents have different versions about the allegations of bonded labour system, said Mr. Naik. “The local residents have reportedly said that they had hired the rescued labourers on several occasions,” the tahsildar told The Hindu.
The labourers were subjected to medical examination in Magadi.
Magadi tahsildar has submitted a report to the Ramanagaram Deputy Commissioner V. Srirama Reddy about the incident. He also requested the Ramanagaram district administration to initiate action against the persons concerned of the quarry as “the workers were paid below the prescribed minimum wage and denied freedom of movement.”
The criminal activity on part of the quarry owner against the labourers has not been proved so far. The department will conduct further investigation into the issue, a senior police officer said.
The Magadi sub-division police said that they would investigate the case, registered under certain provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, against Mr. Phalanetra.