Tamil Nadu Rescued Bonded Labourers Hide in Fear of Ex-Employer
Twenty bonded labourers from the Irular tribal community rescued by the Chengalpattu district administration, in Tamil Nadu, on May 28 continue to live in fear of their former employer.
A wood trader, Padur Balu, had employed 10 Irular women and 10 Irular men hailing from various districts. He gave an advance of Rs 15,000 per family and accommodated them in a forest godown in Thaiyur Balammal Nagar, in Thiruporur Block of Chengalpattu District.
The labourers cut wood from 6 am to 6 pm and were paid only Rs 100 daily wages without proper food and drinking water.
The issue came to light after Meena (name changed), a relative of one of the workers, was allegedly raped by Balu and complained to the commissioner. Subsequently, the labourers were rescued and given certificates of recovery.
CHARGES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
Following Meena, three other women, including a minor, filed complaints of sexual assault with the police. Balu allegedly raped the women by denigrating their community and threatening them with withholding wages if they complained.
Balu and his men have threatened the women and their families to withdraw the cases. The rescued workers are hiding in different places.
Meanwhile, Balu’s men kidnapped the woman who complained on June 3, raped her, beat her severely and threatened to kill her if she didn’t withdraw it.
The woman, whose one hand was fractured during the assault, lodged a complaint under The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, at the Kelambakkam Police Station on June 6.
When the police did not investigate the complaints, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front and People’s Watch filed a complaint with the Tamil Nadu director general of police in Chennai on June 23.
“Steps should be taken to arrest the accused immediately, protection should be provided to the victims, a high-level investigation committee should be set up and investigations should be conducted at once,” AIDWA’s state president S Valentina told Newsclick.
“The complainants are in our safety. Two of them even attended CPI(M)’s Rights for Women conference and shared their traumatic experiences on June 26. DMK MP Kanimozhi was present at the event and assured that action will be taken,” she added.
The organisations have also urged the state government to conduct a thorough study into the use of the downtrodden and tribal people as bonded labourers in Chengalpattu district and across Tamil Nadu. They insisted that steps should be taken to eradicate bonded labour.
AIDWA called for a protest in Chengalpattu on Tuesday demanding immediate action on the complaints.
The Irula tribal community, hailing mainly from the five northern districts of Tamil Nadu, are traditionally snake catchers and also work as agriculture labourers.
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