Revenue officials are holding a detailed inquiry after rescuing 39 persons including eight women and 11 children from suspected bonded labour at a sugarcane grove in Alangudi taluk in the district on Saturday evening.

Acting on a petition from an organisation working for welfare of Adhivasis, a revenue team descended on the grove at Keezhathur village near Vadakadu and rescued the labourers housed in thatched tenements.

They labourers hailing from Pallineliyanur village and its surroundings in Villupuram district were shifted to a high school at Vadakadu where the revenue team conducted enquiries.

Officials continued to record the statements of the labourers on Sunday. “Only on conclusion of the detailed inquiry, we would be able to establish whether or not it was a case of bonded labour,” a revenue official here told ‘The Hindu’. The grove belonged to Pandurangan, a resident of Puducherry, the official said.

The labourers were sent to Pudukottai district by Pandurangan about three weeks ago and they had been working in his grove for “a very paltry wage”, alleged A.P. Kanniyappan, state coordinator, Adhivaasi Thozhamai Kazhagam.

The Kazhagam sent its team to Pudukottai district upon being alerted by an advocate of Puducherry about the pathetic state of the labourers. Some of the labourers had informed the lawyer over phone about their predicament, Mr. Kanniyappan said.

Labourers who had defaulted in payment after taking advances from Pandurangan were sent to various places for work, he claimed, adding that since the labourers were denied permission to venture out of the grove, education of their children was affected.

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