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The Gruesome Incident Of Cutting Off Of Right Hands Of Two Bonded Labourers In Odisha

By Kiran Kamal Prasad

06 January, 2014

On 15 December 2013, right hands of two bonded labourers, Dialu Nial (30), an SC, and Nilambar Dhangda Majhi (28), an ST, were chopped off by a labour contractor and his accomplishes in Odisha. The two labourers who belong to Kalahandi district of Odisha, are now struggling for life at the Burla Medical College and Hospital at Sambalpur.

Dialu Nial, the migrant labourer - whose hands were chopped by a labour contractor - lying on his bed in Bhawanipatna district headquarters hospital.

Nilambar Dhangda Majhi, the migrant labourer - whose hands were chopped by a labour contractor - lying on his bed in Bhawanipatna district headquarters hospital.


Facts in Detail of the Incident

Nilambar is the second son of Madhab Dhangda Majhi and Nila Dhangda Majhi of Nuaguda village in Jaipatna block. There are two other sons and all of them are married. A 2 acre piece of land is the only property the family holds jointly. Nilambar has got a house under IAY. Nilambar has two sons. The elder one is reading in class 4 in the local school. The younger one is in class one, who accompainied Nilamber and his wife to the work place. The elder one was left behind in the village near the old parents.

Dialu Nial of Pipalguda village the other victim of hand chopping is the third son of Taru Nial and Akhuram Nial. Two of the elder sons have already got married and are living separately. Dialu and the younger one Bablu regularly migrate to help the family. They are landless. The main occupation of the family is rope making. They purchase empty cement bags and make rope from the thread of the bags.

Except Dialu, all other 11 labourers, among them five women, belong to Nuaguda village under Utchla gram panchayat of Jaipatna block in Kalahandi district . They were paid an advance of Rs.1.2 lakhs in total by Bimal Rout and Parshu Nayak, two labour contractors, locally known as sardars, from Sinapali area of Nuapada district. They brought these labourers from their villages in the beginning of December 2013 and left them near another contractor named Parabeswar Dundi of the village Kotamal under Khariar P.S. of Nuapada district. The labourers were detained there for about a week and then taken to Raipur in neighbouring Chhatisgarh via via Khariar in a bus.

When they got in to a train in Raipur Railway station they were told that, they were going to Hyderabad. Bimal, Parshu and Parabeswar were with them in the train. At Raipur they were handed over to another agent Parme Rout and asked to go to Hyderabad. Wh en the labourers realised that they were going to Hyderabad, all of them got off the train at Gondia and Nagpur. Nilambar and Dialu were caught by Parabeswar at Raipur on December 9 and taken to Kotamal. They were detained for about a week for demanding repayment of the entire loan. They were kept confined in a village and subsequently taken to Belpada jungle in Sindhekela area of Balangir district about 420 kms from Bhubaneshwar . The money given as advance to the labourers had already been spent by them and it was not at all possible for them to arrange 1.2 lakhs demanded by the contractor. Nilambar Dhagda Majhi's father, Madhab Dhangda Majhi said that he was informed of his son's captivity by the labourers who had managed to escape and he lodged a complaint with the local police on December 13.  

On Sunday evening (15 th ), they decided to bring the two labourers back to Kalahandi, where they were going to recover the advance amount from all labourers. “If you are not going to work for us, you will not be able to work for anybody,” middleman and his henchmen reprotedly told them, after consuming liquor. The accused then chopped off the right hands of the two labourers and dumped them on the road. “We were in excruciating pain and bleeding profusely. We tried to reach the nearest village. Some people spotted us and helped us board a bus to Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters of Kalahandi, about 500 km from Bhubaneswar.  

Demands on Bonded Labour by JEEVIKA in the light of cutting off of right hands of two bonded labourers in Odisha on 15 December 2013

The gruesome violence on two bonded labourers in Odisha by chopping their right hands brings into foucs the very violent nature of the system of bonded labour even in Karnataka. Violence is not a stray incident restricted to Odisha. Karnataka also has witnessed similar atrocities now and then. The most glaring and widely acknowedged incident in Karnataka was the the chaining of five bonded labourers for three and a half years in Hangarahally village of Srirangapatna taluk in Mandya dsitrict which came to light in 2000 . In 1993, in Anekal taluk, two fingers of a boy of 12 years old were cut off by a landlord for failing to work fast enough due to a cut he had sustained on one hand while working in a vineyard. In 1994 another bonded labour boy of 18 years was liquidated in Anekal taluk by poisoning for falling in love with the daughter of the landlord. In 2003 another bonded labour boy in HD Kote taluk was beaten heavily leading to his death for having insisted to go home for a feast. In another instance in 1999 in Chikballapur taluk another teenager's fingers were thrust with needles under the nails wrongly suspecting he had stolen some gold from the house of the landlord. Similar incidents of severe beatings, abusive scoldings, confinement in rooms and chaining have been reported in the news papers now and then. In some sense these cases of extreme violence are rather rare compared to the vast number of bonded labourers still to be found all over the state. The very insititution of bonded labour is frought with violence and cruelty. It is the fear instilled on bonded labourers that keeps the bonded labourers subservient and make them meekly agree to dehumanising conditions of bondage and not revolt against the system.

We can legitimately surmise that there are nearly five lakh bonded labourers in agriculture and other unorgansied sectors of work in the state . A recent study publiched in October 2013 by an International Organisiation, Walk Free, has revealed that India accounts for nearly half, around 150 lakh, of the persons in modern salvery in the world. Hence the share of that in Karnataka could be even more than five lakhs. In recent years, a large of number of domestic labour and also migrant labour especially from Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is likely to work in bondage conditions.

I. Appropriate and speedy action against the culprits and on behalf of the two victims of bonded labour:

1. The Odisha Government must ensure that the criminals are brought to book swiftly and tried under sections 308 and 326 of the IPC . The accused must also be charged under relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act and the Inter-State Migrant Workmen's Act 1979.

2. The trial should be entrusted to a fast track court and a special public prosecutor with knowledge and commitment to fight bonded labour issues should be appointed by the Chief Minister of Odisha.

3. The Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Nagraj of the National Law school in Odisha should be pursuaded to constitute a team of faculty and students to monitor the case on a day to day basis and render all assistance required to ensure that exemplary punishment is meeted out to the thugs.

4. The police must print posters and display at the point of origin in the villages and at the places of work of brick kiln workers  to say the criminals are arrested and blacklisted and that any threats of similar nature at any work place should be initimated to the police at a help number notified by the police .

5. T he two labourers must be rehabilitated as per the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act and all social welfare measures as per the Unorganised Worker Social Security Act, 2008.

6. One member each from the families of the two labourers must be provided with employment .

II. Speedy Action on Bonded Labourers throughout the country:

1. The Central Minsitry for Labour and Employment must take full responsibility for the continuing existence of bonded labour throughout the country and direct every State and Union Territory Government to implement the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the Inter-state Migrant Workmen's Act 1979 and the Supreme Court Judgment dated October 15, 2012 in WP (Civil) No. 3922 of 1985.

2. The Central Ministry for Labour and Employment must adopt, approve and notify at the earliest the Rules drafted by social action groups from different parts of the country under CEBoLI (Coalition for Eradicating Bonded Labour in India) in the place of current Rules under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.

3. The Central Minsitry for Labour and Employment must direct every State and Union Territory Government to involve social action groups and trade unions to ensure fair, participatory and transparent labour recruitment processes which should be legally binding on the recruiters and recruitment processes should be institutionalized; and to ensure decent conditions of work in every unorganised sector of work .

III. Speedy and strong actions on Bonded Labour in Karnataka

The Karnataka Government at the state level has taken some important steps unheard of in the rest of the country . To name some of them: 1. It has drawn up and approved an Action Plan on Bonded Labour in 2007 and got them printed and widely circulated. 2. It has appointed in 2011 an exclusive state level nodal officer, but of the rank of Deputy director, to handle bonded labor issues. 3. It has ordered a resurvey of bonded labour in all the 30 districts in May 2012. 4. It has conducted at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 state level sensitisation programmes on bonded labour to the key district level officers and members of the distirct and sub divisional Vigilance Committees.

Yet justice to bonded labourers meted out at the field level in districts is very meagre compared to the great leaps taken at the state level. Except in Chikballapur, Tumkur and Mysore districts, almost no bonded labourer is identified, released and rehabilitated for a long period now. Jeevika itslef has identified during the last two years nearly 8,000 bonded labourers in 28 districts in the state and made them file applications for their release and rehabilitation to the District and Sub Divisional Magistrates.

In view of all this, we want to put forward certian demands before the state Government:

1. The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Ministry, which has the mandate to monitor the implementation of the Bonded Labour Act, must constantly direct the District Magistrates, the Sub Divisional Magistrates and the Chief Executive Officers of Zill Panchayats to strictly implement the Act, the Karnataka Action Plan on Bonded Labour, the October 15, 2012 Judgement of the Supreme Court on Bonded Labour and all the directives of the Central and State Governments.

2. The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Ministry must ensure that all the district and sub divisional administrations properly carry out the resurvey on bonded labourer initiated in 2012 and see that it is completed in another two months.

3. Other appropriate Departments like Social Welfare, Labour and Revenue should properly implement the SC & ST POA Act, the Inter State Migrant Workmen's Act and Minimum Wages Act . .

Kiran Kamal Prasad links bonded labour intimately with caste system in India and considers eradication of bonded labour as an essential requirement for the emancipation of dalits and moolnivasis. With a concern to spread the involvement at the state level, started JEEVIKA – Bonded Labour Liberation Front in Karnataka in 1993.



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