The workers say they were forced to work 16-hour days and have not been paid since the start of their work in January.

26 Odisha migrant workers in Telangana appeal for help in video officials begin rescueImage For Representation/Creative Commons
news Migrant Rights Monday, February 24, 2020 - 17:01

About 26 migrant workers from Odisha, who were allegedly forced to work in Telangana, appealed to the state officials through a video shared on Whatsapp, to rescue them. According to the workers, they were made to work with no pay for two months and threatened with starvation by the brick kiln owner, who had hired them in Telangana’s Sircilla district.

The workers managed to release video footage explaining their plight via Whatsapp on Sunday, which came to the attention of Telangana Labour Department. As of Monday, officials had initiated their rescue from the brick kiln.

The migrant workers said they had been held captive at the brick kiln since January this year. The group, including women and children, were brought to Gambhiraopet village in Sircilla district on the promise of fair wages and good working conditions. However, much to their dismay, the group allegedly worked 16 to 18 hours a day and their weekly dues worth Rs 250 were denied if brick targets were not met. Their children were allegedly made to work and not sent to school, and the owner would threaten to starve them if targets were not met. The workers said they have not been paid their dues since the start of their work in January.

The workers managed to take a video of their grievances and sent out a call for rescue to activists, who then shared their plight over social media. TNM reached out to the Telangana Labour Department officials on Sunday, who said they have deputed a team to rescue the 26 workers and their families by Monday. The workers say they would prefer to return to their natives to find other work.

Gangadhar Eslavath, Joint Commissioner, Labour Department, told TNM that the rescue operations would require a team of officials from the police, Labour Department, Revenue Department and Women and Child Welfare Department.

Ramesh Babu, Deputy Labour Commissioner, Karimnagar, told TNM that the rescue operations began on Monday morning. "We alerted the district collector and all other departments involved. They will be rescued and shifted to a shelter home. We will then verify if it is a case of bonded labour. If confirmed, we will release immediate compensation of Rs 20,000 and help them get back to their native." If a case bonded labour is confirmed, the brick kiln owner will be arrested, the officer added.

If found guilty, the brick kiln owner could be charged under sections of the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1976, Child Labour Abolition Act, 1986 and Inter-state Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, and Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

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