Uprooted by dam, workers trapped in bonded labour on Indian plantations: Report
The study states that those in bondage are from the Malasar tribal community and most families lost their land, home and livelihoods during the construction of the dam and reservoir.
Some 200 people, who were forced to leave their homes by the construction of Aliyar Dam in 1960s, are still trapped in bonded labour in plantations. It was claimed in a report prepared by non-profit National Adivasi Solidarity Council, a network for indigenous peoples' welfare.
The report is based on a six-month study that was conducted by the research team. The research teams gained access to the farms on the pretext of conducting medical camps or in some instances saying they were lost and identified more than 50 families, including 73 children living in debt bondage with no access to schools.
Highlights of the study/report
• The Adivasi Solidarity Council has identified bondage in over 30 farms and plantations in a 15 km (9 miles) radius of the dam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
• The study states that those in bondage are from the Malasar tribal community and most families lost their land, home and livelihoods during the construction of the dam and reservoir.
• Krishnan Kandasamy of the council said that during the study, they found that most of the families were displaced during the construction of the Aliyar dam and reservoir between 1959 and 1969.
• They lost their homes and were never compensated and were practically driven into bondage.
• It says that the state has conveniently forgotten them.
• The study claims that at present, they, the displaced people, are not paid minimum wages and do not enjoy the basic rights such as the freedom of movement, the freedom of choice of employment and lack of right to education for their children.
• It says that most of the families had been trapped in bondage to pay off debts that have come down through generations.
Step taken by the Adivasi Solidarity Council: Kandasamy of the council in his letter to India's National Human Rights Commission on 29 May 2017 has asked that the Tamil Nadu government should be directed to rescue the workers and rehabilitate them. The letter was acknowledged by the commission.
The report also suggests that although India banned bonded labour in 1976; however, the practice is widely spread across the country. It says that they may be more than 1000 labourers still trapped in the coconut plantations, mango groves and other farms around the town of Pollachi in Tamil Nadu. Security guards on the plantations monitor the labourers and any attempts to escape or make complaints are dealt with brutally, the report said.
Besides, banned bonded labour remains widespread, as millions from the marginalised Dalit and tribal communities still work in fields, brick kilns, rice mills, brothels or as domestic workers to pay off debts.
Aliyar dam is a 6.48 km² reservoir located in Aliyar village near Pollachi town in Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu. The dam located in the foothills of Valparai, in the Anaimalai Hills of the Western Ghats was constructed during 1959-1969 across the Aliyar River, mainly for irrigation purposes. The project was commissioned in September 2002 to generate Hydro Electric Power.
The dam offers some ideal getaways including a park, garden, aquarium, play area and a mini Theme-Park maintained by Tamil Nadu Fisheries Corporation for visitors enjoyment.
About Malasar Community
Malasar is a designated Scheduled Tribe in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Malasar are one of the earliest known inhabitants of the Western Ghats, in Anaimalai Hills. Malasar is an unclassified Southern Dravidian language spoken by a Scheduled tribe of India.