In a shocking case of human rights violation, at least 21 Odia workers from Kendrapara district have been allegedly held captive and tortured by their employer in a plywood factory in Gabon, a country along the Atlantic coast of Central Africa.
The workers have sent videos to their families and the media, appealing for help and rescue from their ordeal.
How did they end up in Gabon?
The workers said that they were lured by a middleman named Prakash Patra, who promised them jobs in a plywood factory in Gabon with a monthly salary of Rs 30,000. They left India in February 2023 and reached Gabon via Dubai.
However, they soon realized that they had been cheated by the middleman and the employer, who did not pay them the promised salary and also confiscated their passports. They were forced to work for long hours without proper food, water, and medical facilities.
They were also beaten up and threatened by the employer and his associates if they raised any complaints or tried to escape.
Demands and appeals
The workers have demanded that the employer should return their passports and pay them their dues. They have also appealed to the Indian government, the Odisha government, and the human rights organizations to intervene and rescue them from their plight.
They said that they were living in fear and misery and wanted to return to their homeland as soon as possible. They also urged the media to highlight their case and create public awareness about their situation.
Responses from the authorities
The Odisha government has taken cognizance of the matter and has contacted the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to take necessary steps to ensure the safety and repatriation of the workers.
The MEA has said that it is in touch with the Indian Embassy in Gabon and the local authorities to verify the facts and resolve the issue.
The Embassy has also contacted the employer and asked him to release the workers and pay them their dues. The Embassy has assured that it will provide all possible assistance to the workers and facilitate their return to India.