RAIPUR: Cases of people migrating to other states to work as bonded labour and further getting exploited is common in Chhattisgarh. Four women and one minor hailing from Pamgarh in Janjgir-Champa district were gang-raped at Shahabad in Uttar Pradesh on January 20.
The survivors had gone to work at a brick-kiln to UP in Rampur district by a local contractor with their families.
Talking to TOI, Aarif Sheikh, superintendent of police Janjgir-Champa said: “The incident on January 20 when nearly 10-12 goons barged into the survivors’ huts after midnight and locking the men in one room, gang-raped the four women and a girl of 16-year-old taking chances.
The women said that the goons were carrying guns and knives and threatened them not to resist. They had also beaten the women and thrashed their men.”
SP said that the survivors then travelled back to Chhattisgarh and reported the matter to police. After medical examination, a zero FIR was lodged by the district police as the incident took place in other state.
“A team of five police personnel including women officers would be sent to UP for further investigation and case would be registered with UP police on basis of survivors’ version,” Sheikh said.
The contractor Rajkumar Kemath was on the run after the matter reported to police.
“It is part of Chhattisgarh’s culture that people in large migrate to other states to work mainly at brick-kilns in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Nearly 95 per cent of the more than 60 per cent migrated population works at brick-kilns and get paid few ‘paise’ on the basis of per brick made. During the months of February to August, half of the villages get isolated due to migration,” a local activist told TOI.
Rishikant of national NGO Shakti Vahini in New Delhi stressed that it’s the job of police to first check if it was a case of bonded labour and if norms of bonded labour system (abolition) Act were violated.
“If the survivors were not being paid the minimum wages set by state government under specified hours, the case gets even stronger with violation along with gang rape.”
BBC Media Action has been working since a year in Chhattisgarh’s four districts including Mahasamund, Sarguja, Durg and Korba to prevent and create awareness about bonded labour. “People who migrate to other states need to know that they shouldn’t go too far to work as schemes like MNREGA and many others are available at their own places. Secondly, if at all they move, they should inform to the Panchayat so that in case of such kind of untoward incident administration could take proper action.” Adrian Shepherd, project assistant, BBC Media Action programme said.