Two women rescued from human traffickers in Jharkhand

The organization has demanded an investigation into human trafficking networks and sustainable employment options for migrating women

Two women rescued from human traffickers in Jharkhand

Last week, an incident in Bangalore exposed the underbelly of human trafficking and bonded labour and rape in the country.

A story by The Hindu on May 26 reported the plight of two women from Jharkhand who worked at Bharat Chemical Products, Kumbalagodu. During the lockdown, the two women along with their children, were trying to get home had gone to the Kumbalagodu police station to secure a train ticket. There they met Nicolas Murmu, a migrant labourer who was a native of Jharkhand  too. When the three got talking and the women expressed their plight to Murmu. He told The Hindu, “They told me they had escaped from a factory where they were held captive and harassed. They were now living in a building under construction. They had been given shelter by a contractor. However, he was not treating them well.”

The victims recounted that were taken from Dumka district in Jharkhand to Delhi by a man named Dhamaru where he handed them over to unknown people who brought them to Bengaluru in October 2019 to work at the factory. The women had escaped from the factory in March where they were held captive. One of the victims who managed to escape from the factory in January was located by the supervisor Sanjeev and forced to return and was then beaten and locked up in the room. She said that at the behest of the supervisor, she was raped twice in two days by two men, Sanjay and Kiran, who used to work in the factory.

The victims also told Murmu that they were paid only Rs. 200 per week against the promised Rs. 9,000 per month, were made to work for 15 hours every day, had to sleep with other workers in a cramped room, were confined to the factory and not allowed to purchase basic essentials like soap and oil.

They managed to flee in March and survived by begging and scrounging for food. During that time, they met a man called Asgar Ali who promised them food and took them to an under construction building. However, once there, he misbehaved with one of the women and made sexual advances against her.

Hearing their ordeal, Murmu contacted friends for help and in turn reached activists from Karnataka Janashakti and the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) who rescued the women and children. 

Statement by SWAN

Explaining the series of swift action taken in the matter, SWAN issued a statement saying, “Two FIRs have been filed against the perpetrators of rape and sexual violence and the two women with their children are now safe in a shelter provided by an NGO. A complaint against the factory owner has been registered while the main contractor, Sanjeev, is yet to be nabbed. We welcome the promptness with which the Karnataka administration and Jharkhand Police have responded. The concerned police acted with urgency, The Social Welfare Department issued a compensation cheque to the rape survivor quickly. The Revenue department has issued compensation under the Bonded Labour Act with urgency and the Rural Development department has also extended support.”

However, the organization added that the process to register police complaints still remains complicated due to the legally mandated district Local Complaints Committees (LCC) being almost non-existent.

SWAN also stated that the current lockdown only exposed the frailties and the lives of unorganized workers who have met with death, hunger, dehydration and police brutality. The incident regarding the two women, SWAN said, showed a “lack of enforcement by the government mandating private companies to maintain clear and transparent records of workers in their firm opens more avenues for multiple forms of exploitation. This, in turn, implies that private companies are unaccountable and workers are unable to avail of various benefits under these laws that they are entitled to”.

It pointed out to the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act where only 3 crore workers could garner a registration while the actual number stood at 10 crore. This was because of the hardships workers faced in accessing their entitlements through the welfare boards. It also highlighted that women workers were had more so been pushed to the brink of anxiety due to the lack of shelters and toilets, apart from fending to survive in the absence of basic facilities like drinking water.

The organization said that the “saga of the two Santhali women underscored the need to strictly enforce various progressive labour laws — in letter and spirit — such as the Payment of Wages Act (1936), the Minimum Wages Act (1948), The Factories Act (1948), Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976), Interstate Migrant Worker Act (1979), , Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013,BOCW Act (1996), Street Vendors Act (2014) among others.”

In light of the incident, SWAN stated that the need for a comprehensive evaluation and implementation of social measures made by the erstwhile National Commission for the Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) was critical. It also said that India being a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966, should ensure social protection which the Indian Labour Organization (ILO) defines as “a set of public measures that society provides for its members to protect them against economic and social distress caused by the absence or a substantial reduction of income from work as a result of various contingencies (sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age or death of the breadwinner), the provision of healthcare and the provision of benefits for families with children.”

Asserting that the current crisis that was faced by the unorganized workforce and women in particular strongly demanded the need to re-imagine strong security measures and strict accountability and regulatory norms for private enterprises, SWAN put for the demand for minimal non-negotiable principles to be followed.


  1. There has to be a comprehensive investigation of human trafficking networks that is the source of exploitation and subversion of constitutional rights. The government must put in place safe, sustainable employment options for women to prevent such distress migration. Strengthening NREGA is critical to this.  
  2. The government must ensure that they maintain a detailed record of all the migrant workers, proactively register them in welfare boards and ensure adequate social security is extended to them. 
  3. The government must monitor and have strict regulatory oversight of private companies.
  4. Form statutory action groups to focus on women migrant workers and ensure that basic universal social protection measures such as safety, security, nutrition, education, health are proactively provided. Special provision must be made for historically marginalised communities such as Adivasis and Dalits. 
  5. Have a single-window grievance redressal system where women can register and seek redressal from multiple government departments in the event of any form of exploitation. Such a system should have minimal documentation pre-conditions. Officials in such places must be sensitised to handle such cases with compassion and care. 

The government must ensure that legal help is provided for free and must bear all the logistics cost on behalf of those in need.

That there have been increased Instances of rape, domestic violence and marital rape against women during the lockdown has been widely reported by the media. From March 23 to April 18, a total of 587 complaints were of offences against women had been registered, reported the NCW.


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