Bhubaneswar, Jan 6: In a swift action, the Odisha police successfully rescued 28 laborers, including six children, from a brick kiln, within the state borders.
The rescue operation was initiated by the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) after a distressing plea from the family of one of the laborers who was severely injured after being physically assaulted by the owner of the brick kiln in the Ganjam district where he was working.
The laborers -all of them hailing from villages in Sanabeda and Patnagarh of Balangir district were lured by a local middleman to work at a brick kiln located at Bhanjanagar in Ganjam last November.They were promised fair wages and good facilities, said sources.
The laborers were promised payment based on the number of bricks produced, with an initial advance ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 per family. However, once at the kiln, the owner refused to keep record of the work and paid them as per his will. Soon, they found themselves trapped in a cycle of deceit and exploitation.Whenever the labourers demanded their rightful wages, they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse by the owner, sources added.
Living conditions were deplorable, devoid of basic facilities, and the laborers were coerced to work long hours till almost midnight. The children were forced into flipping bricks, while the adults faced relentless pressure to work without any breaks. They were forbidden from leaving the premises, even for urgent needs and were under constant surveillance by guards hired by the owner.
Verbal abuse and threats became commonplace, instilling fear among the already vulnerable laborers.The situation escalated to a point where during a violent altercation with the abusive owner, one of the labourer -Binod was left with a broken hand.
Binod reached out to his family for help, prompting his father to seek assistance from a local social worker. The case was brought to the attention of the SLSA in Cuttack, which immediately directed the police to take action.
The local police swiftly responded by filing an FIR under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and executing a successful rescue operation. The owner and his son were taken into custody. All 28 laborers, including the children, were freed from the kiln and returned to their respective villages.
"It is deeply troubling to witness the exploitation of laborers within our state's borders. These laborers seek opportunities within Odisha, hoping for safety and security, yet find themselves trapped in a cycle of abuse. When employers perceive them as subservient, they wield their power with impunity, free from fear of consequences. It's important for authorities to act with sensitivity and implement immediate measures to shield these vulnerable workers," urged Johnson Nag, a social activist.