Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Dalit family saved from bondage

Faridkot

Life for 33-year-old Dalit Atma Singh, a resident of Hassan Bhatti village became hell when he took an advance of Rs 17,000 from a landlord of this district. In return he agreed to work for him as farm assistant.

Today, Atma Singh, along with his wife and four minor children, are living at a transit rehabilitation centre at Phillaur set up by Volunteers for Social Justice after escaping tyranny of the landlord with the help of the Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan.

Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, told TNS the National Human Rights Commission had asked the district administration to hold a inquiry into this case. The statement of Sukhmander Kaur, wife of Atma Singh, had been recorded in the connection by the Magistrate.

Ms Prabhjot Kaur, programme officer, Volunteers for Social Justice, talking to TNS here today, alleged while Atma Singh was repeatedly beaten up by his landlord, his family members were denied food. The organisation had to approach the District Magistrate and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for securing the release of five members of Atma Singh’s family from bondage.

She said Atma Singh took an advance of Rs 17,000 from the landlord when he joined his services in March 2002. The landlord started charging 5 per cent interest on the amount advanced. Atma Singh was made to pay Rs 100 as penalty for any day when he failed to come to work. The penalty sum was added to the bondage debt amount. When Atma Singh suffered injuries after falling from a scooter and expressed his inability to do work, he was beaten up severely by the landlord, which forced him to flee.

She said the organisation moved a complaint with the NHRC and approached the Deputy Commissioner. The family members of Atma Singh, his wife Sukhmander Kaur (30) and four children, Mandeep Kaur (9), Gulwinder Singh (7), Parveen Kaur (5) years and Nirbhai Singh (2), were released from bondage yesterday.

She alleged that no action had been taken against the landlord so far by the authorities concerned.

Mr Prasad, denying the allegations pointed out that all family members of Atma Singh were released on August 5 in his presence. The landlord did not confine them in illegal custody and they were not maltreated. Mr Kamaljit Kaur, the landlord’s wife, contacted, said money was not given to Atma Singh on interest. He was given Rs 17,000 as advance and the same was demanded back when he refused to do work.

Source: The Tribune, August 14, 2002

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