New probe finds bonded laborers being given drugs by Punjab farms to extract long working hours
A new twist that can give a new direction to a months-long face-off between Centre and farmer unions over agriculture laws has emerged after a prove by BSF. Divulging the details in a letter to the Punjab government, the Centre has asked it to take action over probe findings that entail state farms are administering drugs to migrant bonded laborers from UP and Bihar in order to extract extended working hours.
In the letter sent to Punjab Chief Secretary and DGP dated March 17, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said during the period of 2019-20, 58 migrant laborers were detained by the BSF in Punjab’s border districts that had been drugged by the farm owners.
The letter has brought in sharp reactions from the farm union leaders. Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda and member of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said that the move was a desperate attempt by the Centre to “malign the image of farmers”. Police officials from the state said that details in the letter are “far-fetched”.
Letter by Centre states, “During the course of questioning, it emerged that most of them were either mentally challenged or were in a feeble state of mind and have been working as bonded labourers with farmers in border villages of Punjab. The persons apprehended belong to poor family background and hail from remote areas of…Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.”
The apprehended labors by BSF were from districts of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozepur and Abohar that are along the Punjab borders.
The letter added raising concerns of human trafficking and human rights, “…human trafficking syndicates hire such labourers from their native place to work in Punjab on the promise of good salary, but after reaching Punjab, they are exploited, paid poorly and meted out inhuman treatment. For making them work for long hours in fields, these labourers are often given drugs, which adversely affect their physical and mental condition. BSF has been handing over the rescued persons to State Police for further necessary action.”
Jagmohan Singh has appealed to MHA to withdraw the letter. He said, “We have an integral bond with our labourers. They want to create differences between us and our Hindu migrant workers of UP and Bihar who come every year to work across the state. We will meet the DCs of the border districts of Punjab and convey our anger over this letter. We will produce migrant workers working in the fields of these districts as proof.”