94 'bonded labourers' rescued from Gujarat

94 'bonded labourers' rescued from Gujarat

Acting on a tip-off, Ahmedabad city police Sunday rescued 94 “bonded” labourers — 12 of them children — from a farmhouse in Dehgam. Most of the rescued labourers are from the northeastern states of Assam, Nagaland and some from West Bengal.

Police have rounded up three persons, including the kingpin, who were allegedly bringing people from the three states to Gujarat, promising them jobs and then forcing them into bonded labour. Police authorities said that further investigations are on and the three will be put under arrest soon.

The three accused in the case have been identified as Mukesh Bharvad, a resident of Naroda area in Ahmedabad, Sinoyhil Puti from Assam and Hotanbi Christian from Nagaland. The three have been booked for unlawful compulsory labour and allied charges under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act.

The operation was carried out by officials of Nikol police station acting on a tip-off that Bharvad, who is a labour contractor by occupation, had forcefully employed some child labourers from outside Gujarat. Following the tip-off, police caught Bharvad and interrogated him. From information gained from Bharvad, police rescued 94 labourers from a farmhouse on SP Ring Road near Dehgam. Police said the workers informed police that they were being put to work forcefully at various factories at GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) in Kathwada without any salary or leave.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone V) Akshayraj Makwana said that the discovery of bonded child labourers from northeastern states in Gujarat was very surprising for police also as they had never come across such a thing till now. He added that most of the rescued labourers are from Assam and Nagaland, and some of them from West Bengal. Makwana said some of the rescued labourers told police that they were working in poor conditions for the past three years.

“We have rounded up the three accused. And their interrogation is on. Very soon they will be put under arrest,” Makwana added. “We are also involving other departments of the state government in the investigation of the case, namely Labour & Employment, Women & Child Development and GIDC.”

Police say Bharvad is the alleged kingpin of the racket, while Sinoyhil Puti and Hotanbi Christian are believed to be his accomplices.

DCP Makwana said that from the primary interrogation, the police have ascertained that Bharvad’s wife is from Nagaland, and that he was running a firm there to purportedly provide employment in Gujarat to people from that state. Bharvad used to sign three-month contracts with the people there to get them to work in Gujarat. However, subsequently, they were allegedly being kept as bonded labourers.