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Madhya Pradesh Adivasis protest bonded labour, regret govt inaction on complaints

By Our Representative 

A Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS)-sponsored Adivasi rally, held at the Block Office, Pati, Barwani district, Madhya Pradesh, has demanded action against illegal contractors and factory owners who it said had forced over 250 Adivasis into bondage recently. The rally was held following JADS ensuring release many of them.
The workers have returned to their homes in Barwani from Karnataka and Maharashtra, where they were kept in bondage and forced to work 15-16 hours a day for over three months without pay, JADS said in a statment following the rally. The workers filed complaints with the local administration and police demanding action against the guilty contractors and sugar factory owners, and for the payment of their due wages. Women Adivasi workers filed separate complaints against rape and sexual violence.
However, JADS regretted, no action has been taken on these complaints by the Madhya Pradesh government.
JADS said, illegal, unlicensed contractors come to Adivasi villages, offering instant “advance” money to young Adivasi couples, a debt which – the contractors promise – cannot only be worked off within three months, but that the couple can take home a decent amount of money as their earning as well.
"Using these false promises, workers are taken to work in Maharashtra and Karnataka by contractors who are employed by sugar mills of Karnataka and Maharashtra, where they are forced to work continuously, without any pay", JADS said in the statement.
A protesting Adivasi said, in Belagavi they were illegally confined for six days by the staff of Nirani Sugars factory and the contractor for merely asking for their hisaab -- valuation of work. Added another, workers in Satara were beaten and threatened if they were found to be not working – even women recovering from childbirth were forced to work incessantly.
Workers trapped in Pune, Kolhapur and Bagalkot said, their phones were snatched, along with the little cash that they had in their hands, in an effort to prevent them from leaving. Women, who are forced to work day and night for while looking after the families were subject to sexual violence. A 16-year-old reported being gang-raped multiple times. A complaint against was filed after the girl returned to Barwani.
Protestors said, Adivasi farmers and labourers do not receive remunerative prices for their produce, leading to perpetual indebtedness in Adivasi households as cost of living continuously increases. Further, education opportunities and job opportunities are being actively culled through privatization, leaving the younger generation of Adivasis no choice but to uproot themselves and migrate for work in desperation.
This desperation has been leading them into the hands of contractors, factory owners who are exploiting Adivasi workers at a large scale, they said, wondering why the Madhya Pradesh government is refusing to give opportunities for good, quality education and work, so that Adivasis are not trapped into bondage. 
They asked: Is this development for Adivasis? The Chief Minister and the Prime Minister celebrate Birsa Munda’s and Tantiya Bhil’s Jayanti, but where is their concern for Adivasis?
Adivasi rally demanded that the government ensure that every worker who is being taken for work by a contractor be duly registered and provided a passbook as per the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, and the administration establish a helpline number for other workers stuck in bondage.
They warned, if their demands for payment of their wages due for the work they did and prosecution of contractors and factory owners were not met within a week, it would lead to larger protests.

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