Indian workers treated like slaves in US awarded $14m compensation
A New Orleans jury on Wednesday awarded $14 million in compensation to five Indian men who were brought to the US under false promises and made to work in inhuman conditions.india Updated: Feb 20, 2015 01:08 IST
A New Orleans jury on Wednesday awarded $14 million in compensation to five Indian men who were brought to the US under false promises and made to work in inhuman conditions.
Signal International, the US company that employed these men and others, will pay $12 million, and a local lawyer and their Indian recruiter will pay $915,000 each.
The five men are Jacob Joseph Kadakkarappally, Hemant Khuttan, Padaveettiyl, Sulekha and Palanyandi Thangamani, according to a non-profit that represented them.
There are lawsuits by 200 other Indians, all led by the same non-profit, Southern Poverty Law Center, which said together they comprise the largest human trafficking case in US history.
“The defendants exploited our clients, put their own profits over the lives of these honorable workers, and tried to deny them their day in court,” said lead attorney Alan Howard.
Signal said in a statement, “Signal strongly disagrees with rulings from the court in the case which impacted its ability to present defences and is disappointed with the verdict.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Signal employed around 500 Indians, recruited though the Indian agent, who was identified as Sachin Diwan by the law center. Each worker was paid between $10,000 and $20,000 for the job, which, they were falsely promised, would come with permanent residency, the much sought after Green Card.
They were to work at Signal’s shipyard in Mississippi. And which is where they saw their dreams of a job and future shatter all around them. The working and living conditions were inhuman. They lived in cramped isolated labour camps with round-the-clock guards — and they paid for $1,050 a month for this.
“That was the minute where all my expectations were shattered,” plaintiff Sony Sulekha testified, according to a statement from the law center. “The time that I went into the camp and I looked, I was shocked. Where all my expectations and my happiness all got destroyed, that was the minute that it happened.”
The suit was filed in 2008.