52 bonded labourers rescued

There were 17 women among the bonded labourers rescued by the police.

There were 17 women among the bonded labourers rescued by the police.

As many as 52 people, including 17 women, who were forced to work in ginger fields as bonded labourers without pay for several months, were rescued by the Hassan police in a raid conducted at Savankanahalli in Hassan taluk on Sunday night. Munesh, their employer, and one of his assistants have been arrested by the police,

The workers, from different regions, including Andhra Pradesh, were put up in temporary sheds without basic facilities, such as restrooms. Some of them had been employed for over three years.

Narasimha, from Ranga Reddy district in A.P., said he had been working here for the last three years. “I have not been able to meet or speak to my wife and children all these years. I haven’t got even a rupee as salary,” he told The Hindu . They were provided rice and sambar three times a day and the employer’s helpers would escort them everywhere, even when they answering nature’s call.

Superintendent of Police A.N. Prakash Gowda, Dy.SP T.R. Puttaswamy Gowda and others visited the spot and interacted with the workers. “When I landed in the railway station at Arsikere, an autorickshaw driver approached me. He offered to get me a job of loading tomatoes into trucks for ₹500 a day. I agreed and followed him. He took me to Savankanahalli,” said Ganesh, from Tamil Nadu, residing in Bhadravati.

A majority of them went to work with the promise of a good pay. “Once we landed here, there was no way out,” said Manjamma from Holalakere in Chitradurga district. She said she was beaten up several times, and her husband was also assaulted when he came to her rescue. The police had carried out the raid after one of the workers managed to escape and informed the police about the plight of the labourers.

The police shifted the labourers to a government hostel near Dudda on Sunday night and later took their statements. Mr. Prakash Gowda, SP, said a complaint would be filed against the employer based on their statements.

Mr. Puttaswamy Gowda said there were multiple offences, including illegal detention, assault on women, forcing children to work, besides attracting sections under the Bonded Labour Abolition Act and SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “We will book the case accordingly. The Social Welfare Department will look after relief and rehabilitation of the workers,” he added.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2022 1:28:16 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/52-bonded-labourers-rescued-in-hassan-taluk/article25767037.ece