A case has been registered against NCP MLA Sunil Bhusara’s close aide Ramdas Ambu Korde for enslaving a tribal man for a mere Rs 500. Kalu Pawar, a tribal from Mokhada in Palghar district, fed up with harassment, died by hanging himself in the month of July.
Pawar in November last year had borrowed Rs 500 from Korde to buy a kafan (cloth used to wrap a dead body) for the last rites of his 13-year-old son Dattu. Pawar’s son, a class eight student was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a nearby village after he went missing around Diwali.
To repay this loan, Korde had been making Pawar work in his field for months. Pawar’s wife Savitra in her complaint revealed that Korde had been harassing her husband since the time he took the loan. Pawar was made to work in Korde’s field and take the cattle for grazing.
“After conducting Dattu’s last rites, my husband started working in Korde’s field, but no daily wages were fixed. He (Korde) would give my husband only one bhakhri in the morning and a meal at night. Whenever my husband would ask for wages, Korde would threaten him with harm,” Savitra informed further.
Pawar worked on and off at the field but was regular in the month of June and July this year. However, he could not report for work on July 10 and 11 as he fell sick. Reportedly, when Pawar went to the field on July 12, Korde humiliated him and even thrashed him. Unable to bear the humiliation and pressure, Pawar killed himself the next day.
The day Pawar hanged himself, his wife had gone to work in Bhiwandi while his daughters, Dhanashree, 16, and Durga, 12, had gone to their maternal uncle’s home.
Pawar’s body was hanging for almost 12 hours before he was buried. Surprisingly, Korde on hearing of Pawar’s death had visited his village but did not bother to inform the police.
Social activist fights for Pawar
Social activist Vivek Pandit, who has been fighting for the welfare of tribals in the state took cognizance of Pawar’s unfortunate demise. Taking up his case, Pandit forced the police to exhume Pawar’s body on August 04 to send it to J J Hospital in Mumbai for autopsy.
Pandit has levelled several allegations against Korde. “He (Korde) is also a tribal from Mahadev Koli Samaj but has been exploiting others in the area,” Pandit said about the accused who is a sub-contractor and owns a sprawling bungalow in the village.
Reports suggest that Pandit tirelessly spent a full month trying to get the accused booked.
MLA tries to shield Korde
Pandit, who is also the chairman of a panel appointed by the state government to check the status of tribal schemes, in an interview to Mid-day revealed, “Korde is the right-hand man of MLA Bhusara who had been mounting pressure on the police to not take action against his man.”
“Bhusara also called me to dissuade me from following the issue to get the FIR registered. Finally, after a month-long follow-up, the accused has been booked, but no arrest has been made yet,” he added.
On the other hand, MLA Bhusara has denied all allegations. “The FIR against Korde is fake. If such FIRs are registered, then a time will come when no tribal will be called to work in the field,” he claimed.
Refuting accusations of pressuring the police to withdraw the case, Bhusara said, “I instead told police to thoroughly conduct an investigation before taking any action against Korde.”
Speaking on the matter, Mokhada police station in-charge Satish Gavai said, “We have registered an FIR under Section 374 (unlawful compulsory labour) of IPC and Sections 17 and 18 of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act against the accused Korde.”
However, no arrest in the case has been made as yet.