Bonded labour for 20 years over ₹15k debt
When Mohan Singh Rana borrowed ₹15,000 from a farmer in Uttar Pradesh, 20 years ago, little did he realise that the amount would make a bonded labourer for the rest of his life.
Rana, 45, who belongs to Uttarakhand’s Tharu tribe was released on Thursday, along with his family, by the officials of the labour enforcement department, following Rana’s complaint against the farmer Hardev Singh, a native of Purnapur village in UP.
“All these years, I and my family worked at the farmhouse but were treated like bonded labours,” said Rana with tears rolling down his cheeks. The situation that led to his plight occurred 20 years ago after he borrowed ₹15,000 from Hardev Singh, while working for him, and failed to repay the loan amount.
According to Rana, he was 18 and married when he left his village Nadanna, Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand in search of work and started working in the farmland of Hardev Singh, around 13 km from his native village. “I never thought the amount I borrowed will make me a bonded labourer,” said Rana.
“Even my children couldn’t go to school because of the farmer and were forced to work as domestic help since childhood,” claimed Rana. He alleged that his daughters Aarti, 17, Neha, 15, and son, Shakti, 13, were forced to drop out of school after class 2 , 3, and 7 respectively, after the farmer stopped them from going to school.
Rana alleged that the farmer instead of paying full wages for their labour, would dole out small amounts of cash and grains as compensation. He also added that the farmer would threaten them when asked for full wages. ”As time passed, the interest on the amount I borrowed from the farmer began to escalate, making it increasingly difficult to repay, binding him and his family, even more to the farmer.
Finally, on July 16, Rana mustered the courage and wrote a letter narrating his plight to the district magistrate and labour enforcement department of Udham Singh Nagar.
“Pichhle mahine badi himmat kar sarkar ko shikayat bheji thi ( by gathering courage I sent a complaint to the government, last month),” said Rana. Following his complaint, the government raided the farm house and released him and his family.
When contacted by HT, Hardev Singh refused to comment on the issue and switched off his mobile phone.
According to RC Rathore, an official of the labour enforcement department at Khatima Udham Singh Nagar, Rana’s complaint was forwarded to the deputy labour commissioner’s office in Rudrapur, following which action was taken and Rana’s family released from the farm house. Rana and his family have since been relocated to his brother Jogendra’s place at Banbasa in Uttarakhand.
Ironically, the new found freedom for Rana and his family, haven’t lessened his anxieties. “It is true that we are free, finally, but me and my family don’t have a job now,” said Rana.
Attempts by HT to get in touch with labour enforcement officer AK Purohit proved futile.