Adivasis demand prosecution of illegal contractors forcing Adivasis into Bonded Labour

Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan demanded that the Madhya Pradesh govt act on the issues of bonded labour, sexual assault of women labour and prosecution of illegal contractors.

bonded labour
Adivasis rally in Madhya Pradesh against Bonded labour

On Thursday, 24th February, Adivasis of Barwani district in Madhya Pradesh, organized a massive rally and demonstration at the Block Office, Pati, demanding action against illegal contractors and factory owners who had forced over 250 Adivasis of the block into Bonded Labour.

Recently, due to the efforts of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, close to 300 workers have returned to their homes in Barwani after being forced into bonded labour for months in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Upon their return home, after being forced to work 15-16 hours a day for over 3 months without pay, the workers have filed complaints with the local administration and police demanding action against guilty contractors and sugar factory owners, and for the payment of their due wages.

bonded labour

Women Adivasi workers have also filed complaints against rape and sexual violence; however, no action has been taken on these complaints by Madhya Pradesh government. Enraged Adivasis have warned that further inaction by the state government will lead to a widespread movement by the Adivasis of the area until their demands are fulfilled.

Illegal, unlicensed contractors come to Adivasi villages, offering instant “advance” money to young Adivasi couples, a debt which, – the contractors promise – can not only be worked off within 3 months, but that the couple can take home a decent amount of money as their earning as well. Using these false promises, workers are then taken to work in Maharashtra and Karnataka by contractors who are employed by Sugar Mills of Karnataka and Maharashtra, where the workers are forced to work continuously, without any pay.

Belgavi: Sugarcane Harvesting and Bonded Labour

Protesting Adivasis shared how, Adivasis in Belagavi were illegally confined for 6 days by staff of Nirani Sugars factory and the contractor, for merely asking for their hisaab- valuation of work. Workers in Satara were beaten and threatened if they were found to be not working – even women recovering from childbirth were forced to work incessantly. Workers trapped in Pune, Kolhapur and Bagalkot had their phones snatched, along with the little cash that they had in their hands, in an effort to prevent them from leaving. Women, who are forced to work day and night for while looking after the families are subject to sexual violence – a 16 y/o reported being gang-raped multiple times by contractors while working, a complaint against which was only filed after the girl returned to Barwani.

According to the protestors, Adivasis farmers and labourers do not receive remunerative prices for their produce, leading to perpetual indebtedness in Adivasi households as cost of living continuously increases. Further, as education opportunities and job opportunities are being actively culled through privatization, leaving the younger generation of Adivasis no choice but to uproot themselves and migrate for work in desperation. This desperation has been leading them into the hands of contractors, factory owners who are exploiting Adivasi workers at a large scale.

Protesting Adivasis also questioned the Madhya Pradesh government –

“What Adivasis want from the government is opportunities for good, quality education and work – instead what we get is Bonded Labour and exploitation – is this ‘development’ for Adivasis?”

“The Chief Minister and Prime Minister celebrate Birsa Munda’s Jayanti and Tantiya Bhil’s Jayanti, but where is their concern for Adivasis now?”

Holding the government responsible for this widespread displacement of Adivasis, protestors said that, until Madhya Pradesh government and Barwani Administration do not initiate proceedings against guilty contractors and factory owners and do not ensure the registration of workers before they migrate, as they are required to do, such incidents of Adivasis being trafficked into bonded labour would continue unabated.

bonded labour

 

Adivasis demanded that the government ensure that every worker who is being taken for work by a contractor be duly registered and they be provided a passbook as per the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979. Protesting Adivasis also demanded that the administration establish a helpline number for other workers stuck in bondage. The protestors further warned the government, if their demands for payment of their wages and prosecution of contractors and factory owners were not acted upon within a week, it would lead to larger protests by Adivasis in the district.

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