Police identified the accused as agents from an organized trafficking racket that preyed on unemployed men. These offenders had lured the 11 men with false promises of good wages and sold them for a meagre 3000-5000 rupees ($36.60-$48.81 USD). The traffickers then forced them into a car and transported them to two well-digging sites, with six labourers in one location and five in another.
A tragic routine awaited the labourers at these worksites. Each morning at 7am, the labourers were lowered into the well and forced to dig for the next 12 hours, without a break, surviving on only one meagre meal. At the end of the day, the men's feet were bound with iron chains and they were locked in a room to prevent them from escaping.
An official who led this case stated, “The contractors did not pay a single rupee to the labourers and harassed them mentally. After making a labourer work under such conditions for four to five months, he would be released. The labourer would then run away without asking for the money to escape the torture. The labourers had been pressurized to eat medicine to sedate them for a number of hours.”
One of the victims had taken an advance to conduct his daughter’s wedding, but he himself was unable to attend it as he was chained. He described, “I was locked in a room with legs tied with an iron chain. I did not get any money since the well-digging work started two months ago.”
Local authorities rescued the men in an operation on June 20, 2023, and have given them Release Certificates to break their false bonds to the traffickers. These certificates will help them access rehabilitation support and government benefits going forward.
As soon as IJM heard that the police rescued the 11 labourers, we reached out to the Superintendent of Police to offer our assistance with post-rescue processes. IJM’s team in Maharashtra guided the police on bonded labour laws and provisions to be added to the complaint. The team has also requested the police department to help survivors recover their unpaid wages. IJM will be providing ongoing rehabilitation and legal support.