25 bonded labourers from Sahira Adivasi community of Madhya Pradhesh rescued from Rajasthan
25 people from eight families were rescued on Saturday night after the National Campaign Committee For Eradication Of Bonded Labour (NCCEBL) -- a wing of the HRLN’s Delhi unit -- along with the Baran administration, raided a farm house and agricultural fields in Badipur village. These fields were owned by persons named Vijendar Singh, Gurucharan Singh and Bantia. After rescue, the police recorded the workers’ statements and provided them given temporary shelter in the Kishanganj sub-tehsil on Saturday night. 18 of them were issued release certificates by the SDM, Kishanganj, on Sunday and left for their homes in Madhya Pradesh. They reached MP today morning and will meet the district magistrate in Guna later in the day. Nirmal Gorana, NCCEBL convener said that the workers were all from the Sahira Adivasi community of Guna district in Madhya Pradhesh. He explained that these workers had been trapped in a cruelly exploitative system by landowners who gave them a small ‘advance’ amount to lure them into taking up these jobs. The landowners also loaned money to the workers for treatment of their illnesses and marriages, and had been making the workers slog for more than 15 daily for seven years as ‘repayment’ of these loans. The labourers were only given some wheat to keep them alive for the bonded work. The landowners also employed minors. One boy, Ghansu (name changed), aged 16, told the vigilance committee that one of the owners, Vijender Singh, had forced him to work in the agricultural field for five years. He said, “Singh trafficked me from Paronda village, Guna, Madhya Pradesh and brought me to Badipura by giving me Rs 5,000 when I was 10-years-old. For the past five years, I have been working every day to repay this loan but it has still not been repaid. I am 16 now, but I have still not been paid a single penny, neither was I allowed to go home. I want to be freed.” Another labourer named Rajkumari, wife of Raghuvir, told that the landowners had forced her entire family to work for more than 17 hours daily for the past two years, but – again – their loan had apparently still not been repaid. “I have two children. My elder son, who is 13, works in the field and with cattle. Vijender Singh forces my 10-year-old daughter to do household chores. We are not paid anything for our work,” Rajkumari said. Banwari, another labourer has a similar story; he and his family were ‘owned’ by another landowner, Bantia. Labourers also alleged receiving death threats from their ‘owners’. Ajay, a 24-year-old labourer said that a landowner, Gurucharan, had brought him and his wife to Rajasthan after loaning them Rs 15,000 for medical treatment and assuring him of more work. However, once in Rajasthan, Ajay and his wife were threatened and forced to work without pay. They survived on a 20-kilogram monthly handout of wheat. HRLN advocate Anupradha Singh said that the case falls under Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, Juvenile Justice Act and section 370 of the IPC. Action would be taken against the owners under all these laws, she said. The vigilance committee responsible for the rescue consisted of the SDM-Kishanganj, Nayab Tehsildar(sub-Tehsil, Kishanganj), labour inspector, HRLN advocate Anupradha Singh and Nirmal Gorana, NCCEBL convener. It should be noted that HRLN has filed complaints on over 400 bonded labour cases in Guna district, but the administration has remained apathetic. While the Rajasthan government has proactively worked to return these modern day slaves to MP, when the MP government itself has not worked to eradicate slavery among its own people.