18 people freed from forced labour at kiln

The rescued included four children

18 people freed from forced labour at kiln

Eighteen people from Odisha’s Bolangir district, including four children aged below six years, were rescued from a brick factory at Aralasandra in Nelamangala taluk on Wednesday.

They were found to be working in conditions akin to bonded labour by a group of NGOs, who acted on a tip off by another worker, who managed to escape to Odisha and apprise the local chapter of the NGO Action Aid of their plight.

The NGOs – Action Aid, International Justice Mission (IJM), Sichrem, Association for Promotion of Social Action (APSA) and Child Rights Trust (CRT) – were accompanied by the Nelamangala police and tahsildar.

The workers were brought to Bangalore after recording their statements before the tahsildar, who later registered a complaint with the Nelamangala police. Owner of the factory Papanna and his son Vinod have not been found yet.

APSA coordinator Subramani said purchase of the labourers were facilitated by two middlemen, one in Nelamangala and another in Odisha.

“The owner had paid between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 per person. Part of this amount had gone to the labourers and the rest to the middlemen. The labourers were promised Rs 500 for every 1,000 bricks they made. But they were only paid Rs 300-400 every fortnight, even though they were making around 600-700 bricks a day,” he said.

The six families who registered their statements before tahsildar Anil Kumar, stated that were brought here over four months ago and ill-treated right from the beginning. Both men and women started work at 7 am.

While the day ended at 7 pm for the women, the men continued to toil till 8 pm. No medical facility was provided, even to the children, despite them being severely ill.

Besides, the labourers were allegedly beaten up and paid a paltry sum every fortnight for food. They lived on the factory premises and a security guard ensured that they never stepped out.

Another person who participated in the rescue operation said the factory was around 4 km from the main road, “too far for them to get away easily or to be spotted by anyone.” Most of the workers spoke only Oriya and Hindi in bits and pieces.

They could communicate through two people from Odisha working with Action Aid.
“They were in tears when they saw us. They packed their belongings in 15 minutes and left with us,” Subramani said. The workers will be sent back to Odisha, after a decision is taken on their rehabilitation.

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