Monday, June 04, 2007

Ugly face of Human Trafficking

Ugly face of human trafficking comes to fore

By Manoj KarKendrapara: A Dalit youth from this coastal district of Orissa underwent a two-month-long nightmarish ordeal in Malaysia and escaped from the clutches of a well-knit human trafficking racket, bringing to the fore the plight of large number of unemployed local youths still stranded in that country in their quest for greener pastures.
Over two dozens of unemployed youths, mostly Dalits from Nahanga, Choti-Mangalpur, Charigaon, Kurutunga and Dhola villages under Kendrapara police station area, made their way to Malaysia courtesy job offers in the south east Asian country with attractive pay package by a Bhubaneswar-based placement agency.
The search for job has now proved abortive as the job seekers were taken for a ride. Even as two youths risking their lives made their safe return to their native village recently, fate of the rest of the group is still unknown in an inhospitable alien land.
Meanwhile, the shell-shocked poor parents have petitioned Orissa Chief Minister and sought the Malaysian embassy to intervene for the safe return of their wards.
"Some unemployed youths had headed for Malaysia earlier this year. The labour welfare wing of the local administration is inquiring to ascertain the exact number who migrated then. We have voiced our concern to the state government over the safety aspect of those still stranded in Malaysia. The human trafficking angle into the exodus is also being looked into," said Kendrapara District Collector Kashinath Sahu.
"It was God's desire that I have come back flesh and blood," quipped 28-year-old Manoj Mallick, a native of Nikirai hamlet.
We were lured away by the attractive pay package that the placement agency offered for the job in Kuala Lumpur's Omega wood industry. Being the fourth child of a poor dalit family, the offer was too tempting to decline, Mallick, a graduate from the local college, said.
"It was a voluntary decision to leave the country to provide economic support to poor parents. There was also little option left to earn a livelihood. But our venture has ended in trafficking. It is sheer good luck that I successfully fled from the tormentors to whom we were literally sold off human resources," Mallick, of dalit caste origin, narrated.
"As far as I know, five of our group are still languishing as illegal immigrants in Malaysia and are literally leading a caged life. They are Gayadhar Rout, Maheswar Rout (both brothers), Tara Charan Behera, Arikhit Sahoo and Ajay Kumar Swain."
"They have made phone calls to me as well as to their parents. Their voice is tinged in panic and fear and their plea is to bring them back from tyrannical employers.""Our nightmarish ordeal began right from 10 February, the very day we landed at Kuala Lumpur international airport."
"But the excitement over bright future in an alien land soon fizzled out. A man identifying as placement agent Razaq snatched away the passports and immigration visa and ordered us to board a jeep."
"It was a three-hour journey when we reached a hilly terrain with forest cover. We were given shelter under tin cover warehouse. There was human habitation in proximity. We were later terrified learning that it was a burial ground. Leaving us in the lurch, the agent turned up again after a week. We lived on charity of a Bangladeshi woman living about half-km from the place. The woman had married a local Malaysia man and offered us ration free.
"The agent later took us to the wood industry. We received the shock of our life after we were forced to do manual job like loading timber on the trucks. We were promised to do office work only.
"Left with little option, we toiled for eight to ten hours. There was little to eat and drink. We lived without food and water for most of the days. Accommodated in a makeshift shed in the heart of the jungle, we fought against animals, snakes and lizards. It was a terrible experience.
"It was March 12 midnight. Accompanied by Manguli Jena I fled from the labour camp. After nightlong trekking along the forest, we reached the mainland. Both of us boarded a Kuala Lumpur-bound bus. Our money was exhausted and we had nothing to eat.
"We were also running for cover as we were illegal immigrants. Our passport and visa was taken by the employer. A local Gurdwara gave us shelter for over a fortnight after coming to know of our plight. We helped the management in their daily work and they were gracious enough to feed us. Later we reached the India High Commissioner office as instructed by the Gurdwara management. A young lady officer took pity upon our plight and helped us a lot in arranging our return journey.



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