PRASHANT ACHARYA, EOI, Siliguri, 18 Apr 2016: Nine male workers of the closed Panighatta tea estate have been rescued from Dahisar Garib Nawaz Estate of Navi Mumbai where they were allegedly working as bonded labourers.
Taking advantage of the garden’s closure, pimps and local agents had lured the workers with promises of well-paying jobs in ships and monthly salaries at Rs 15,000 each including free food and accommodation.
The credit for rescuing the hapless individuals goes to Rangu Souriya of Siliguri-based NGO Kanchenjunga Uddhar Kendra (KUK) along with Mumbai-based advocate Sharad Kundlik Rahut. Their support and prompt action helped to bring back the nine workers to their home.
Rangu said that on March 1, the nine men were taken to Mumbai after being assured of lucrative jobs in ships. But once in Mumbai, they were forced to work in a godown in a remote village located some 3km from Panvel.
The victims told Rangu that they were asked to load sacks of food grains weighing 50kg and more onto trucks at a meager wage of Rs2 per sack. They were also not allowed to step outside and contact anyone.
Rangu further said that after working in that godown for more than a month, the workers were not paid their dues and they were charged for their food costs instead. Three of them managed to flee and contact their families.
The workers’ families then sought Rangu’s support and she contacted Rahut, her lawyer friend, who managed to get the mobile phone number of the godown owner, Rakesh Rana. When Rahut threatened him of dragging him to court for forcibly and unlawfully keeping the nine men, Rana released them immediately and also paid them.
Thanking her lawyer friend for his help, Rangu said, “The workers were compelled to try their luck elsewhere as the garden has remained from October 10 of last year.”