MHA asks Punjab to act on BSF’s ‘bonded labour’ report

Farmers in state’s border villages also drug migrant labourers to make them work for long hours in fields, says the report
The BSF informed the ministry of home affairs that 58 such migrant labourers, who inadvertently entered the restricted areas near the India-Pakistan border in 2019 and 2020, were handed over to the Punjab Police.
The BSF informed the ministry of home affairs that 58 such migrant labourers, who inadvertently entered the restricted areas near the India-Pakistan border in 2019 and 2020, were handed over to the Punjab Police.
Published on Apr 03, 2021 01:33 AM IST
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ByAnil Sharma, Amritsar

The Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has written to the Punjab government seeking action over a report of the Border Security Force (BSF) claiming that migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were being used as bonded labourers by farmers in the state’s border villages.

In a letter to the Punjab chief secretary and the director general of police (DGP), the MHA cited the report that says these bonded labourers were drugged to make them work for long hours in the fields in Amritsar, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur and Fazilka districts.

The BSF had informed the MHA that 58 such migrant labourers, who inadvertently entered the restricted areas near the India-Pakistan border in 2019 and 2020, were handed over to the Punjab Police.

The letter reads, “It’s been informed that human trafficking syndicates hire such labourers from their native places on the promise of good salary. But after reaching Punjab, they are exploited, paid poorly and meted out inhuman treatment.”

A senior BSF official said eight more such cases were reported this year.

He added, “Most of these cases were reported in the Attari block of Amritsar district. Our personnel have been apprehending labourers from Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh while roaming near the international border. During interrogation, it emerged that they were being exploited by the farmers. Some of them were found to be intoxicated. Most of the apprehended migrants were mentally ill. They used to tell that they were not aware where they were living.”

These migrants were not being used for cross-border drug smuggling, he clarified.

On March 13, the Amritsar (rural) police rescued two bonded migrants working in an illicit liquor manufacturing unit that was busted at Kotli Sakka village of Ajnala sub-division.

Attari deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Gurpartap Singh Sahota said BSF hands them over a couple of such migrants every month.

Deputy inspector general (DIG Ferozepur range) Hardial Singh Mann said no such case was reported in Tarn Taran and Ferozepur districts.

“We are still looking into records to find any,” he added.

Jamhuri Kisan Sabha vice-president Rattan Singh Randhawa said, “The farmers don’t force migrants to work for them. There are hundreds of migrants in the border villages who have been working voluntarily for the farmers for food, shelter and clothes. Most of these migrants are from poor families.”

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Monday, January 24, 2022