Kolkata: A hotel management graduate from Bengal is among 100 educated Indians being forced to work as slaves in a palm oil plantation in Penang, Malaysia, since October last year, says the CID.
It’s been three months since Indian authorities learnt about their plight but red tape has delayed rescue efforts. Indian investigators say the lives of these men may be at risk.
At least five of the victims are from Bengal, allegedly lured by a fake placement company in Serampore, Hooghly, says the CID. It got on the case after Khorshed Alam Laskar, who is from Dhapdhapi, a rural area in South 24-Parganas, managed to get an SOS across to his family.
“The plantation owners keep us locked in a barracks-type shed. We are forced to slave for 15-16 hours on just one meal a day,” Laskar told his relatives in the last week of October when he got his hands on a cell phone.
Laskar was supposed to join the hotel industry in Malaysia.
The CID arrested two alleged top operatives of the human trafficking racket but the government did little to get the trapped Indians freed. There has been no contact with Laskar after that.
Laskar was in a group of eight Indians, who left Chennai for Malaysia in September last year. He had got in touch with a placement agent, Simon, after seeing an advertisement published in several newspapers in April 2010. Laskar was promised a lucrative job in Malaysia and paid Simon 1 lakh, say CID sources. In Kuala Lumpur, they were received by Lim and taken to an office in the fringes of the city where Lim and his men snatched their passports.
CID managed to contact Laskar, after his family went to them for help, and got some vital clues. “We got a fix on Simon and another Indian agent of the racket and their counterparts in Malaysia. A company named Oi-then-li operates agents like Lim and Muzaffar, who work for the racket. The duo has direct contacts with the owners of several factories and plantations and supplies them bonded laborers,” said a CID investigator.
CID officers laid a trap for Simon, with a detective posing as a client, and arrested him near Jadavpur University in Kolkata in November. His aide Shankar Bose was nabbed in Barasat.
According to a CID officer, the placement agent, who went by the name Simon, is actually Ashok Sen, a native of Nadia’s Kalyani, who is accused in several cases of cheating. He worked out of Meera Road in Mumbai for some time before floating a company TEKNIK N SKILL’ at Serampore, through which he lured job aspirants.
“During interrogation, Sen has admitted to being part of a huge racket active all over India and several South Asian countries. He has personally trafficked more than 25 youngsters. Very few of them have returned,” the officer said. “Trying to flee from these plantations and factories can get them killed.”
Earlier, 24 Indians who were rescued from such workshops in Penang described how horrific their life was. “We were beaten up like slaves. One of us who tried to resist was beaten to death. No law enforcement agency can enter those areas,” they told police.
The CID has informed the ministry of external affairs about Laskar and the other trapped Indians. “We have given them details of the agents in Malaysia and the location where they are confined. The MEA informed the Indian mission in Malaysia but nothing has happened yet,” said the CID investigator.