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There has been a rising trend of tribal people from other states being brought into Tamil Nadu and forced to labour for long hours and low wages in work such as sugarcane harvesting. The Tamil Nadu government has been urged to act against bonded labour and provide proper facilities to the labourers who have been put up in areas having no basic amenities.
The need for labourers has risen as the sugarcane harvesting season has just begun in Tamil Nadu. Local workers are not available for low wages and even if some come forward, they will only work only for a fixed time.
To fulfil the need for labourers who can work long hours for low wages, people from the northern and central parts of India are brought into Tiruvannamalai through brokers. The employers are not under any obligation to provide them with accommodation or any basic amenities, including health facilities. The worst part is that no government agency bothers to take steps to protect the gullible migrant labourers.
In rural areas, the labourers are forced to stay in the sugarcane fields itself or in unsafe forest areas. Every day, they end up earning just Rs 360, that too only after working for as many as 12-14 hours.
The employers are not under any obligation to provide them with accommodation or any basic amenities, including health facilities. The worst part is that no government agency bothers to take steps to protect the gullible migrant labourers
Over the past few days, there has been an increase in the influx of non-native labourers into Tiruvannamalai district. Hundreds of families are engaged in cutting sugarcane, working at several places in clusters.
In Tiruvannamalai and Keezh Pennathur areas, many such families can be seen. They have been accommodated with children in the forest area, where they have no basic amenities. Their day begins at 7 am and ends at 7 pm. So, it’s a 12-hour work day for them, during which they cut the sugarcane crops in the field, stack them up, bind them together and then load them into trucks.
Adivasis of Mallewadi and Danda Parali areas of Maharashtra have been employed in the Keezh Pennathur area of Tamil Nadu.
One of the tribes from which people are employed during the sugarcane harvest time here is the Lambadi tribe, which is notified as a Scheduled Tribe in Maharashtra, but classified in the list of backward classes in Tamil Nadu.
Residents of Keezh Pennathur say men and women from other states are routinely brought there to work in the sugarcane fields. “They come as families. As they do not have basic facilities at their workplace, they answer nature’s calls in open spaces, causing a health hazard here,” they said. “The brokers who bring the employees do not take responsibility in this regard.”
In rural areas, the labourers are forced to stay in the sugarcane fields itself or in unsafe forest areas. Every day, they end up earning just Rs 360, that too only after working for as many as 12-14 hours
K Krishnan, convener, Adivasi Thozhamai Kazhagam, said no norms are followed by the brokers when they bring labourers from other states for such work. “The government does not provide basic amenities to the miserable workers, as the authorities themselves are not aware of the problem,” he said, adding, “The Governments of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra should work together to regulate the employment of tribal people in sugarcane harvesting.”
He said the brokers deceive the poor tribespeople about the work and employers end up exploiting them. “The governments concerned should intervene and find a solution to this issue.”
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