26 May 2023
KARNATAKA, INDIA — Late this May, trained local police officers arrested two repeat offenders who had previously been involved in trafficking and exploiting vulnerable workers multiple times. Authorities have linked these men to at least three previous cases, and this time, rescued 19 victims they were exploiting at a ginger farm.
After being in custody for 21 days, the court granted bail to the accused men with strict warnings to not intimidate or threaten the labourers in any way.
Determined to warn offenders that such crimes will not be tolerated, the Superintendent of Police remarked,
“The accused targeted gullible people. Many of the workers are from distant places with hardly any source of income. They were not allowed to use their phones. The accused had faced similar charges in the past. This is the fourth time they are accused of engaging workers without salaries. We will take strict measures to ensure they do not indulge in such activities in the future.”
IJM assisted the police in two out of the four times previously.
According to media reports, the labourers in this most recent case had been tricked into accepting this job offer at a railway station. Upon their arrival at the worksite, their phones were confiscated, eliminating all communication with the outside world. They were forced to live within a fenced shed. Even their journeys to the ginger fields were closely monitored, as one of the farm supervisors shuttled them back and forth to ensure they returned to their shed by 6:00pm. Their work was compensated with food and alcohol, but they were not paid any wages at all.
Several neighbours witnessed the victims’ desperate condition and informed the police, who acted swiftly and rescued them on 26 May. These police officers had been trained by IJM on bonded labour laws and procedures, and the IJM team was thrilled to see them execute the rescue without needing hands-on support.
Officials not only rescued the victims sensitively, but also filed initial police reports (covering India’s laws on human trafficking and bonded labour) and met the victims’ immediate rehabilitation needs. They immediately issued Release Certificates (a formal document that nullifies all false debts), created bank accounts, deposited immediate rehabilitation amount of 30,000 rupees ($565 AUD) to each victim and safely dropped them back to their respective homes.
Explaining the significance of this rescue, Sashmeeta Mulmi, IJM’s State Program Director in Karnataka said,
“IJM has engaged in a number of capacity-building initiatives over the past 10 years, and the numerous government-led rescues are evidence of the teams’ escalating efforts. Government officials acted swiftly in this situation to rescue, give Release Certificates, provide initial rehabilitation, as well as arrest and restrain the suspects in judicial custody. We hope that this case will serve as a model for all upcoming instances.”
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