No ‘bonded labour’, Punjab cops refute BSF claim

Investigation being conducted to ascertain the BSF claim, says SPS Parmar, IG (Border Range), Amritsar

No ‘bonded labour’, Punjab cops refute BSF claim

A BSF official, pleading anonymity, claimed it was a known fact that labourers from UP, Bihar, MP and Jharkhand, mostly in the age group of 30-50, were allured with handsome packages and perks.

GS Paul & Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service
Amritsar/Gurdaspur, April 3

The term “bonded labour” was never mentioned in any of the cases lodged with the police on those apprehended by the BSF at the International Border, say the Punjab Police. SPS Parmar, IG (Border Range), Amritsar, says an investigation is being conducted to ascertain the BSF claim, cited by the MHA in its letter to Punjab, on having apprehended and handed over to the Punjab cops 58 Indian nationals from the border areas of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozepur and Abohar during 2019-20.

Gurpartap Sahota, Attari DSP, said: “We are scrutinising the cases of those handed over to us by the BSF in the past two years.” A BSF official, pleading anonymity, claimed it was a known fact that labourers from UP, Bihar, MP and Jharkhand, mostly in the age group of 30-50, were allured with handsome packages and perks. “In some cases, they end up being exploited and hooked on drugs,” he said.

Backing his claim, Amarjit Shastri, a trade unionist, asserted that providing drugs to the labour was a common practice in rural Punjab. But Rattan Singh Randhawa, vice-president, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, called the MHA report a “complete lie,” arguing that farmers who offered “langar” amid humanitarian crisis could never indulge in such practices. “Also, agriculture being more technical these days, a person with a low IQ would be unfit for the job,” he argued.

Senior police officers of Punjab’s three border police districts — Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Batala — strongly refuted the BSF claim. Pathankot SSP Gulneet Singh Khurana emphasised: “No such activity is taking place in the border villages of Pathankot.”

Ramesh Rana, senior vice-president of the Punjab unit of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), said: “In 2019, we received information that a landlord had paid Rs 25,000 as advance to a farmhand in Pahra village of Gurdaspur, who died days later. The landlord then asked the son of the deceased to complete the task for which his father was hired. We sent a team to the village and rescued the youth. After that, we did not receive a single case of bonded labour.”

Batala SSP Rachhpal Singh said about a decade ago, brick-kilns indulged in the illegal practice. “However, we cannot recall a single instance of a migrant having been forced to work in a factory or fields.”

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