Sambalpur: The hands that used to feed their family is no more and they now literally depend on others to get fed. The hands of two migrant bonded labourers were chopped off in the Kalahandi district just because they refused to work. The labourers, Dialu Nial is just 19 years and Nilambar Majhi is 35 years old.
On 15 October a labour contractor Parame and five of his associates after keeping Dialu and Nilambar captive for a week in a house, took them to a nearby jungle in Kalahnadi district and chopped off their right hands one by one. They had taken Rs 14,000 each from the contractor but and refused to go to work in a brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh.
“They asked us whether you want your one hand or one leg to be chopped off. We pleaded that we are willing to work for them for ten years to repay the loan. But they didn’t listen and first chopped Nilambar’s hand in front of me and then mine,” Dialu said.
While in train to Andhra Pradesh dispute aroused between the contractor and the labourers over the distribution of the paid money and 10 of them got off from the train. Dialu and Nilambar were left back in the train and were taken captive by the labour contractor. The contractor made phone call to Nilambar’s family and demanded Rs two lakh for their release and threatened to kill them if they failed to give the amount. The family pleaded them to release them and told him that they are too poor to pay the amount.
“I said we are too poor to return you the money immediately. But when they forced me to opt between a hand and a leg, I said to spare my leg and chop my hand instead. After chopping our hands they put our blood ‘ ticka’ on their forehead and returned to their van to drink more alcohol and we escaped and walked a long distance to finally admit ourselves in Kalahandi district hospital,” Nilambar said.
The next day the family lodged a complaint before the local police station, SP, Collector and the district labour officer with a written statement having the mobile numbers of the labour contractor. Two days later their hands were chopped off.
“We had given the numbers of the contractor from which he was making threat calls. But the police did not take our complaint seriously. Had they acted in time, my son could have been saved,” lamented Nilambar’s father Madhava Majhi.
“The contractor told me over phone that the local police would not help me because they are known to him and my husband would bear the consequences for us going to the police,” Manjula Majhi, Nilambar’s wife said.
However, the district police refuted the allegations and said they had only one day in between to investigate the complaint before the accused chopped their hands.
“There is no lacuna on our part. We arrested all the culprits including the main culprit on the same night,” Kalahandi SP Sarthak Sarangi said.
One day after the incident the Kalahandi police arrested all the six accused involved in the incident and the Odisha government announced a compensation of Rs four lakh each to the victims.
According to a research report there are more than 11 million bonded labourers in India and Odisha is one of the worst affected states. Unfortunately, despite several laws and welfare schemes these poor labourers continue to suffer and are often subjected to such inhuman torture.