Madurai

Scarred and scared bonded labourers rescued from 3 States

Malicious lot: Eleven persons were arrested for employing bonded labourers rescued by Madurai Rural Police. Those sitting on the floor are owners of snack making units and those standing are brokers. Photo: G. Moorthy

Malicious lot: Eleven persons were arrested for employing bonded labourers rescued by Madurai Rural Police. Those sitting on the floor are owners of snack making units and those standing are brokers. Photo: G. Moorthy  

Shaven heads, malnourished bodies, burn scars, faces revealing psychological trauma and stuttering voices were all that one could see in the bonded labourers who were rescued from ‘murukku' making units in Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

Forty-two bonded labourers were rescued by the Madurai Rural Police after Superintendent of Police Asra Garg formed three special teams to rescue bonded labourers from these States and were brought to Madurai on Sunday. Fifteen among the 42 labourers were children and fell under the age of 18, burn scars from hot oil could be found among almost all the youths who were rescued. Eleven persons, both brokers and owners of the snack units were also arrested.

Most of them were psychologically affected and need rehabilitation, they were reluctant to speak or react, some of them after great hesitation slowly opened up and said that, in cramped small rooms the boys worked for at least 18 to 20 hours a day with little food and rest.

One of the victims said that the food served there was loathsome and it was a very frightening experience, the rooms were very hot, frying ‘murukku' in hot pan for long hours caused burns and any slackness at work resulted in harsh beating. Hot water would be poured on them, if they slept longer than the stipulated duration.

The issue came to light when Jothimuthu (22) of Vaazhaithoppu escaped from the confines of the unit in Mool in Chandrapur District, Maharashtra where he worked for a decade after he was kidnapped by Theivam of Usilampatti.

After his father gave a complaint at Chekkanoorani Police Station special teams were formed to rescue them.

The rescued persons were from various parts of the State and two persons among were actually from Karnataka and Kerala and they were employed in snack making units in Gadchiroli District, Maharashtra, Kalahandi and Sundarpada districts in Odisha and Agra in Uttar Pradesh.

Most of the children employed in these units are drawn from the lower rungs of the society as they are more vulnerable and many among the rescued were Dalits, said B. Bala Naga Devi, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Madurai Range).

Easy targets

Poor families have become easy targets for brokers who lure them with promises of money for the parents and good food for the children at the units. In this case 26 of them were kidnapped and others went with the consent of their parents, said Asra Garg.

A strong network of brokers from various places in and around Madurai, Palani, Dindigul used to operate from bus stands and railway stations. Runaway children and school dropouts become easy targets.

Among the rescued there were persons who had worked as bonded labourers for almost 20 years, and a few have never seen the outside world for more than five years as they were locked inside the units.

All the owners, Balusamy, Subbiah, Malaisamy, Palani and Chella Veerammal who were arrested, hailed from Usilampatti.

In a report dated March, 5, 2012 The Hindu had reported about this phenomenon of bonded labour and the dynamics of it where it was found that most of them owners were from Usilampatti. Brokers, Gopal (Kumili), Jayaraman (Usilampatti), Seetharaman (Madurai), Syed Mohammed (Palani), Balasubramanian (alias) Raja of Vadipatti ( Dindigul) and Jayaraman of Sellur ( Madurai).

Medical counselling

The DIG of Police and SP said medical counselling would be given to the rescued victims as most of them have undergone severe mental trauma. This is the second time police have rescued bonded labourers within a gap of two months.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:48:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/scarred-and-scared-bonded-labourers-rescued-from-3-states/article3223615.ece

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