J A L A N D H A R    E D I T I O N

Jharkhand couple rescued
Was allegedly employed without pay for five years
Aparna Banerji
Tribune News Service

Bonded labourers Shankar and his wife Sonia with their daughter Priya in Jalandhar after being ‘freed’ by the Pendu Mazdoor Union
Bonded labourers Shankar and his wife Sonia with their daughter Priya in Jalandhar after being ‘freed’ by the Pendu Mazdoor Union. Photo: Sarabjit Singh

Jalandhar, April 27
A scheduled tribe couple from Jharkhand, allegedly employed without pay, at the farm of a Hoshiarpur resident, were rescued by a team of the Hoshiarpur district administration and Jalandhar-based Pendu Mazdoor Union here today.

Working at the farm of one Subedar (retired) Ujagar Singh, at Nangal Chaura village, the couple had allegedly been working at the farm for the past five years without any pay.

Talking to The Tribune, the couple Shankar Munda and Sahni Munda said they had come from their village at Kunti district in Jharkhand to Punjab for a job and were employed by Ujagar Singh in April 2007.


“We started after receiving an advance payment of Rs 3,000. But soon we realised that we were not being paid anything by our employers. Though, we were treated well. For the most part of the first three years, we were also employed at different places in the farm.”

“While my wife was working at the home of our employer, washing utensils, clothes and wiping floors; I was employed as a farm labourer, taking care of the crops and taking care of the farm cattle,” Shankar said.

“We were also made to sleep at different places in the night and were not allowed to work together,” he added.

“I told my employer many times that I wanted to go home. I told him that I wanted to visit my relatives at home but he did not let me go home. He never granted me any leave,” Shankar said.

Shankar added that while the other farm labourers from the village were paid Rs 3,000 for working from 8 am to 5 pm, they (the victim couple) were made to work from 4 am in the morning to 8 pm in the evening without payment.”Their daughter was also born at Ujagar Singh’s home in 2009.

Shankar said, “I am happy finally to leave Punjab. I will go to Jharkhand now. I have been waiting to meet my parents for years.”

On a complaint of the Pendu Mazdoor Union to the Hoshiarpur DC, a district administration team was sent to look into the matter.

Garhshankar tehsildar, Bhupinder Singh, headed the team.

Kashmir Singh Ghugshore, an activist of the Pendu Mazdoor Union, said, “The employer Ujagar Singh admitted that except meagre sum of Rs 500 from time to time, the employer had not been paying them. He compensated them with Rs 35,000 for their services of five years. He also said he had been feeding them well and had provided for their needs. Though the tehsildar did not initiate any action against the employer for not paying them a regular salary for the past some years. It was a blatant case of forced labour. But was treated like one of wilful employment.”

“The paid amount of Rs 35,000, was fixed by the employer as per salary of Rs 700 and Rs 800, payable, respectively, for man and wife (for their services rendered in all these years), increased by Rs 100 every year for their stay. He hence admitted that he had not paid them at all this time,” Ghugshore added.

Tehsildar Bhupinder Singh, when contacted, said, “It was not a case of forced labour because the couple were very happy there. Their daughter cried because she did not want to leave the house. They were adequately compensated for their services too.”

When asked why were the couple leaving for Jharkhand rather than carrying on with the job if they were happy here, Bhupinder Singh said, “Because they want to meet their parents.”



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