Migrant labourers targeted in Kodagu

Migrant labourers in Kodagu, who have emerged as the mainstay of the workforce in coffee plantations across the district, have become the target of ire of a section of locals, with the Kodagu Growers’ Federation alleging that two or three instances of assault against them have taken place in the past few days.

The recent arrest of two workers from West Bengal in connection with the rape and murder of a pre-university student in a coffee estate in Kodagu has given an excuse to the locals, who have been facing the heat of unemployment, to train their guns on migrant workers, who are mostly from the Northeast.

Sundar Raj, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Madikeri, said demonstrations were held by local organisations taking up the cause of the rape and murder victim in Siddapura, but no case of assault against migrant workers was reported so far. The demonstrators have demanded that the workers be sent back to their native places.

However, the Kodagu Growers’ Federation and the Kodagu Planters’ Federation have alleged that two or three instances of assault on migrant labourers from Assam have taken place in south Kodagu even though formal police complaints have not been lodged.

The Kodagu Loaders’ Association president Bharat, who also heads the Gram Panchayat Workers’ Association of Kodagu, traced the origin of the discontent among locals to estate owners preference for migrant labourers after tribals, who had for ages worked as bonded labourers, began demanding fair wages.

Plantation owners are employing migrant labourers for their own convenience, but local workers, contractors and transporters have come together to exploit the rape case to their advantage, Mr. Bharat said. He added that certain forces were also trying to give a communal twist to the issue by targeting minority community workers from Assam.

The targeting of migrant labourers by locals comes in the backdrop of an exercise taken up by the police to collect details of all migrant labourers employed by estate owners. The police exercise, which began after a worker from Assam murdered his wife, had been intensified after the rape and murder case.

“The migrant workers have pressed the panic button in the wake of the assaults by locals and are planning to return to their native places,” said Vishwanth, spokesperson, Karnataka Growers’ Federation.

The Kodagu growers’ and planters’ federations have condemned the rape and murder while demanding punishment of the culprits. They have also come down on locals for targeting the entire migrant workforce using the crime as an excuse.

A representative of the growers’ federation said they preferred migrant labourers as they were willing to work till late in the day and put in overtime for incentives. But local labourers, who are even ferried from nearby places such as Periyapatna and parts of Hassan and Mysuru, leave estates early.

“Though they start by 10 a.m., they pack up around 3.30 or 4 p.m. saying they have a long journey home, leaving the work incomplete.”

Misuse of rape victim’s identityThe identity of the PU student who was raped and killed in a coffee estate in Siddapura police limits earlier this month has been misused by various organisations in Kodagu.

Madikeri Deputy Superintendent of Police Sundar Raj said a section of local workers have formed a struggle committee in the name of the victim. Various organisations are liberally using her name in press statements, which then appear in the local media.

Disclosing the name of a rape victim, even after her death, is barred under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 11:01:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/migrant-labourers-targeted-in-kodagu/article26369238.ece

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