ABOUT 50 poor labourers belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category from Tamil Nadu were allegedly lured into the forests in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh in the last week of November by red sandalwood smugglers. Subsequently, they were captured, illegally detained and tortured by the district Forest Department officials, resulting in the death of two labourers, a 64-page fact-finding report released by Tamil Nadu-based human rights organisation, People’s Watch, has alleged, on Monday.
According to the report, the district Forest Department officials captured and took custody of a van at midnight on November 25 in Kadapa district carrying about fifty labourers. As one of the forest officials drove the van, the labourers from Tamil Nadu jumped in order to escape and suffered injuries with two of them dying, as a result.
Findings of the report
The findings of the report disclose that these labourers, belonging to a Scheduled Tribe, in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, travelled to Andhra Pradesh for wage work on November 21. They were first assembled in the outskirts of Hosur, where they were loaded into a small lorry by their handlers. They were essentially trapped in a cramped space, with no light, ventilation, food, water, sitting space or bathroom breaks, crammed like livestock, as the lorry drove on for seven-eight hours overnight, without any stoppage.
They reached their destination – a dense forest in Andhra Pradesh – during the early morning of November 22, when they were provided breakfast and asked to cut trees. For the next three days, the labourers were put to work in inhumane conditions, being made to cut trees and walk without food or proper sleep, the report alleges.