From time to time, poignant stories of Odisha’s migrant labourers are reported from different parts of the country as well as abroad.
In one such heart-wrenching turn of events, Kanhu Mallik, a resident from Sulekela village under Belapada block in Bolangri district breathed his last while waiting eagerly to see his daughter’s face.
To feed four empty stomachs, 35-year-old Kanhu along with his wife and two daughters had migrated to Sata Nagar area in Andhra Pradesh two months ago. Before leaving for Andhra Pradesh, Kanhu had taken an advance of Rs 80,000 from the brick kiln owner through labour contractor Samaru Nayak of Tentulikhunti under Turekela Police limits.
During their stay in Andhra, Kanhu fell ill. Far from showing any compassion, brick kiln owner Shankar Nayak and Samaru forced Kanhu to work.
Unable to bear the exploitation, Kanhu’s wife Haripriya Mallick decided to return to their village in Odisha. But she was not aware that her decision would put them out of the frying pan into the fire.
Labour contractor Samaru kept their 11-year-old daughter as a pawn against the money Kanhu had received from him. They thought they would sale their patch of land and release their daughter.
Upon reaching the village, they mortgaged their land which fetched them Rs 50,000, still Rs 30,000 short to meet Samaru’s demand. However, they sent the money to him online and pleaded with him to send back their daughter. But their pleadings fell on his deaf ear.
In the meantime, an ailing Kanhu breathed his last and his desire to see his daughter’s face one last time remained unfulfilled.
“We don’t have the required money to get our daughter released. We can’t see any way out,” said Haripriya while crying inconsolably.
Her other divyang daughter, Panchali Mallick said, “We told him to repay his money once we reach our village. But he kept my sister in his custody.”
After a report on the plight of Kanhu was telecast on OTV, the state Labour Department swung into action. With its intervention, the girl was rescued and she is on her way to her village via Visakhapatnam. The Odisha Labour and ESI department informed this in a social media post.
Meanwhile, Belapada Zilla Parishad member, Anima Das demanded Rs 4 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for the bereaved family.
“We demand the safe return of their daughter and Rs 4 lakh compensation from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for the bereaved family."