Practicing bonded labour is a crime under Indian laws. Yet, every now and then we hear of bonded labourers being rescued from garment factories, industrial units etc. where they are kept in deplorable conditions. Video Volunteers worked with the authorities to rescue ten bonded labourers from Maharashtra's Valsang in Solapur district.
During the lockdown, as many poor and daily wage workers lost their livelihood, they became relatively easy targets for contractors or middle-men who supply bonded labourers to other parts of India. 10 men from the marginalised Musahar community in Bhadohi's Chandrapur village were lured with a monthly payment of Rs. 10,000 to work in Maharashtra. They were sent to Valsang where they started working on a sugarcane farm. After working for a month, when the labourers asked for payment, their employer said that a payment of Rs. 6,00,000 was made to their contractor for their labour and they would not receive any further payment. When they protested, they were threatened with dire consequences and made to work from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the night.
Somehow, they contacted back home and narrated their ordeal. This is when Video Volunteers (VV) got involved and started the process of their rescue. "We engaged the community and went to the local police station. Initially, we were promised of action, but later the station in-charge declared that the missing men went away out of their own free will. The community faced abuses and were chased away," said Anil Kumar Saroj, our Community Correspondent from Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh. Anil, who has been working with the Musahar community for a long time, later approached the District Magistrate and also the Superintendent of Police hoping for some action. But nothing materialized.
On the other hand, Anshuman Singh, a mentor of VV’s Uttar Pradesh Community Correspondents was in touch with the bonded labourers and coordinated with the anti-trafficking cell of Maharashtra Police to rescue them. “We caught hold of one Malikarjun Vitthal Khedge from Karnataka who was the contractor and had supplied these labourers. We also made the farmer pay the labourers’ wages for the work they did. Every labourer received Rs. 2800,” said Atul Bhosle, the police inspector from Valsang who oversaw the whole operation.
Finally, the labourers boarded the train from Mumbai’s Bandra to Bhadohi and were reunited with their families.
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