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‘Migrant labourers being drugged and forced to work longer as bonded labourers, used for cross-border drug smuggling’, MHA writes to Punjab govt

The case came to the fore after BSF's report to MHA informed about 58 such labourers rescued from border areas of Punjab

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written a letter to the Punjab Government raising concerns on how migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are being forced to work as bonded labourers in border villages of the state. The letter said that the Border Security Force deployed in the state border areas has informed the ministry that 58 Indian nationals who were apprehended were administered drugs and forced to work as bonded labourers in the state of Punjab.

“Border Security Force has informed the ministry that they had apprehended 58 Indian nationals from the border areas of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozpur and Abohar Punjab in the years 2019 and 2020”, MHA said in the letter, furthering: It’s been informed that human trafficking syndicates hire such labourers from their native places on the promise of a good salary. But after reaching Punjab, they are exploited, paid poorly and meted out inhuman treatment.”

Since it involves human trafficking, bonded labour and human rights, the MHA has urged the Punjab government to urgently address the serious issue.

The matter came to the fore after the Border Security Force (BSF) rescued a few of them. During the interrogation of these rescued labourers, it emerged that most of them were “either mentally challenged or in feeble state of mind” and had been working as bonded labourers with farmers in border villages of Punjab.

Following this, Arun Sobti, Deputy Secretary (PR and ATC), MHA, wrote a confidential letter to the Punjab Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police on March 17, raising concerns about the same.

Speaking about the incident, a senior BSF official said that eight more such cases were reported this year.

He added, “Most of these cases were reported in the Attari block of Amritsar district. Our personnel have been apprehending labourers from Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh while roaming near the international border. During interrogation, it emerged that they were being exploited by the farmers. Some of them were found to be intoxicated. Most of the apprehended migrants were mentally ill. They used to tell that they were not aware where they were living.”

These migrants were not being used for cross-border drug smuggling, he clarified.

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