Bhubaneswar: A couple from Odisha’s Kalahandi district who had migrated to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh to work in a brick kiln near Hyderabad was forced to cremate their only son in the city on Monday after the employer denied them permission to go home.
Bunga Baria who had received an advance amount of Rs 60,000 from the owner of the kiln, pleaded the government to help him return to his village at least to complete the customary rituals.
In October last year, 35-year-old Baria and his wife hailing from a village under Narla block in Kalahandi received the advance amount of Rs 60,000 from the owner to work in a brick kiln in Telangana to clear their previous debts. Later, the duo accompanied by their two daughters and son- Naresh set off to a place near Hyderabad to make bricks till they cleared the loan amount. The owner assured to pay them at the end of each week, and the deal seemed fine.
However, on their arrival to the brick kiln, Baria found the scene quite in contrast from what they had been promised. “We found a number of makeshift tents and a shop to collect essentials. There was so much dust everywhere and it felt as if the lungs were chocking. There were many others like us working all day and some even worked past midnight. We resigned to our fate and decided to work hard so that we clear the dues quickly and head back home,” said an emotional Baria as he narrated his ordeal.
As the couple got busy with brick laying, six-year-old Naresh began developing health issues.
“He would cough and have congestion and we thought it was because of the bricks and the dust. We wanted to move out but we had no choice until we had paid off the loan,” Baria said.
Despite several requests the owner and his men would not allow Baria to take his son to the hospital. Subsequently, the child’s chest started developing a blue tinge and over a period of time changed to black colour. After a lot of persuasion, one of the owner’s man took our son to some medical shop and bought medicines,” Baria recalled.
The boys condition only worsened and he breathed his last inside the brick kiln on Sunday evening. Despite repeated pleadings, owners of the brick kiln did not allow them to go home with the body. “We don’t know where they took us but we cremated out son there. It is such a misfortune that we are not being able to do the required rituals on the death of our son only because we are poor,” sobbed Baria.
At least 30 more people from Odisha’s Balangir and Kalahandi district are trapped here, informed Lalit, another labourer over mobile phone requesting help from the state labour department. The workers alleged that they were being ill treated, kept hungry and thrashed if they protested.
It may be noted that, close to five cases of bonded labour and human trafficking cases have been reported in the state during the past two months.
“While the number of debt bondage cases case in the state is on the rise, unfortunately, Odisha has no proper data to measure the scale of migration particularly on bonded labour,”said Neenu Thomas, Director of the International Justice Mission- an organization working for rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labour and trafficking victims.
Earlier in January, the Odisha Crime Branch had organized a state-level seminar on human trafficking where the panelists pressed on the need for proper investigation of cases, stringent laws, exemplary action, rehabilitation of the rescued children and proper research.
Speaking during the event DGP Rajendra Prasad Sharma had said, “The incidents of human trafficking is high in certain areas of Odisha. More sensitisation among all stakeholders including the police is required.