Since October 2017, Phoolchand Banjare, a daily wage labourer of Chakarbedha village in Bilaspur district, Chhattisgarh, is pleading with the government officials to rescue his family, who have been struck in Nepal.
Speaking to Newsclick, Phoolchand said that his son, daughter-in-law and their four children were taken as bonded labourers from their village for brick kiln work in Jammu and Kashmir. For six months, the family and 40 others worked in that state. When the workers started to demand their salaries, according to Phoolchand, the "Seth" or the owner of the brick kiln said that they would not get any money. The workers wanted to go back to their homes in Chhattisgarh but the owner instead bundled them and sent them off to Nepal. Without any money and support, the bonded labourers are hoping that the government would do something in this regard.
Earlier, a writ petition was filed in the High Court of Chhattisgarh by a relative of one of the workers. He pleaded the court to rescue the workers that have been stranded in Nepal. The petitioner brought to the notice of High Court how the workers, who were working in a brick kiln in Gujarat, were taken to Jammu and Kashmir by one of the respondents, who is a bricks manufacturer. It was stated that the workers were made to work but not paid any money.
One day the petitioner's brother-in-law called him stating that they were in the “clutches of Rahis as bonded labourers” and were not paid any wages for months. They were just paid enough to purchase food items. Once the petitioner came to know about the condition of his relative and other workers, he immediately brought it to the notice of the Labour Commissioner in Chattisgarh. But the owners in Jammu and Kashmir got to know that of the complaint and hurriedly sent off the workers to Nepal.
It is further mentioned in the prayer to the court that when the petitioner approached the Labour Commissioner in Bilaspur, the officer apparently stated, “the government is not in a position to help” as the bonded labourers are in Nepal and advised him to take the help of an NGO in Varanasi.
The High Court in its final order on February 13 hoped that the Ministry of External Affairs would give the necessary attention to rescue the bonded labourers confined in Nepal.
It has been more than 24 days since the court order but Phoolchand Banjare is clueless about what the government is doing in this regard.