32 J'khand migrant workers, 5 children rescued from Kerala at CM Hemant Soren's intervention

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Ranchi, Jul 15 (PTI) Thirty two migrant workers and their five children hailing from Santhal Parganas region of Jharkhand were rescued from Kerala where they were forced to work in a tea garden in adverse conditions, a state government official said on Thursday.

These distressed workers were brought to Dhanbad by train this morning and from there ferried to Dumka by a special bus arranged by the state government.

The incident comes close on the heels of the Jharkhand government last month rescuing 33 tribal migrant workers and their nine children who were forced to live like bonded labourers in a brick kiln in Uttar Pradesh.

This month alone the Jharkhand government rescued a total of 47 children from Delhi who had been trafficked.

'Thirty two workers and their five children hailing from Santhal Parangana region were rescued from Kerala at the intervention of Chief Minister Hemant Soren,' a state government spokesperson said.

On CM's intervention, a joint initiative by the Labor Department's State Migrant Control Room and a social organisation PHIA Foundation helped rescue 32 workers from Jharkhand and their five children from Kerala.

They reached the Dhanbad railway station this morning, safe and sound and are being taken back to Dumka through a special bus, where after a COVID-19 test, they would be taken back to their respective hometowns, the official said.

Anita Marandi, a resident of the Dumka district in Jharkhand thanked CM Soren for listening to her plea when she and other migrant workers found themselves in a problematic situation in Kerala.

Their Aadhar cards were seized and they were even tortured, the official said, adding on being freed Anita has expressed her gratitude and happiness and decided against going to other states for work.

Like Anita, 32 other migrants and their five children, hailing from Dumka are also happy.

'The freed workers had gone to Kerala from Dumka in June, 2021. On reaching Kerala, they were sent to work in a tea garden in Idukki (New Woodlands) of Kerala. The workers were kept in a small room.

'The original Aadhar cards of these workers were seized and Rs 1,000 in the name of their travel expenditure was also reclaimed from them. The workers were promised jobs in the cardamom plantations of Kerala, but they were forced to work in the tea garden,' the official said.

The workers were promised a daily wage of Rs 400 per person but due to the difficult geographical location, the workers were not ready to work there and were forced into it, a statement from the state government said.

'While working, they were shifted to the Peermed Bethel Plantation, Idukki on behalf of the company. The workers were told that if they want to go back, they can take their Aadhar card after paying an amount of Rs 2,20,000 to cover travel expenses.

'Apart from this, the bus driver there also demanded Rs 6,000 per person as fare,' as per the statement.

It said on learning about the matter thropugh social media, the chief minister and Minister Champai Soren ordered the state migrant control room to rescue stranded workers on which a rescue mission was launched by the labour department and the PHIA foundation.

The team put together by the state to address this issue was extremely proactive, the statement said adding, food was arranged for them immediately after their place of residence was discovered.

The Dumka Deputy Commissioner appointed an officer at the district level after talking to the Collector at Idukki.

Dumka district administration and the state migrant control room constituted a team in Kerala, officials from CMID Ernakulam, Rural Development Department and officials of India Care were also roped in.

'The team worked in coordination with the Jharkhand state migration control room. Finally, on Thursday all the stranded workers were brought back to Jharkhand by train.

'Aadhar Card and other necessary documents of the workers which were seized by the contractor have been recovered with support from the local police,' the statement said.

It added that the investigation revealed that the contractor, from Jharkhand, duped these workers and further action will be taken against the identified offenders.

The Jharkhand government earlier this month said that action by it helped migrant workers get payment of dues of about Rs 38 lakh from their contractors or factory owners at a time when the labourers were facing hardships.

As many as eight lakh calls had been received by the state authorities from such workers who were in distress during the pandemic and the state government also ensured the return of 1,176 migrant workers from abroad. PTI NAM SNS SNS

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