An FIR (195/18) has been registered at the Harohalli Police Station under section 370 of the IPC (Trafficking of Persons), sections 16, 17, 18 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and sections of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016. The police are on the lookout for the owner.
Six of the nine children, ranging from 4 to 17 years worked from 10 am to 6pm everyday taking care of 20 goats and 15 cows, grazing, feeding and milking them. The husband and wife worked from 4:00 am till 7:00 pm daily taking care of the agriculture work on the farm, growing tomatoes and bananas.
According to the statements by the couple, the last two children aged 10 months and two years were born on the farm and delivered by the husband as they were not permitted to go to the hospital. The children have had no access to any medical facilities. They have never received any vaccinations, not even the basic vaccination for polio. None of the children have received any education at all.
In four years the family was never allowed to go outside the farm together or visit their home village. Only the husband, aged around 40, was allowed to go to shops near the farm to buy provisions for the family. “Several times I told the owner I want to leave and put my children in school but he abused us and said it’s not needed. He used to always abuse us using vulgar words saying we are not working well even though we worked from 4:00 am till 7:00 pm on all seven days. When my wife’s brother passed away, we asked permission to go back to our village for the funeral but he did not allow us. He said let the dying die why should you go? In the last four years we have never gone back to our village as a family,” he says.
Last year his mother passed away in his home village but the owner refused to let him go immediately. After repeated requests the owner only let him go but did not give him any bus fare. He had to finally walk to his village and by the time he managed to reach his mother, she was already buried.
The family was exploited and worked all seven days a week. When they were first brought to the farm four years ago by a person known to the owner, they were promised Rs. 65,000 a year as advance. However, this was a false promise and when they first arrived the owner gave them only Rs 20,000 as an advance and thereafter no advance was given in the following years.
After the initial advance, the whole family only received Rs 1,000 – Rs 2,000 a month for their sustenance. The entire family of 11 had to manage all their daily expenses including food with this meagre wage. The prescribed minimum wage for an agricultural estate worker in Karnataka begins at Rs. 304 per person per day. However, these labourers were paid way below this wage.
The District Administration is conducting further enquires with the survivors and will be issuing them release certificates before their repatriation to Tamil Nadu. The Administration is also coordinating with the collector’s office in Tamil Nadu to receive the survivors upon their arrival and for further rehabilitation.
Trafficking labourers, giving an advance and exploiting them are serious crimes with a minimum sentence of 14 years if children are involved and a maximum sentence of up to life in prison under IPC 370 (Trafficking of Persons).