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Saswat Singhdeo

Berhampur: With the hope of pulling their family out of poverty, they leave their homeland in search of livelihood; but end up becoming victims of harassment and torture. Such is the fate of migrant labourers of Odisha particularly from Ganjam.

About one and a half years back, Jay Dalei of Kaithada village of Ganjam, had gone to Dubai to earn money so that he could repay loan of Rs 7 lakh that he had borrowed for his sister's marriage. But things didn't turn out well as on August 16 the news of his death shattered his family members.

“His death has left a void which nobody can fill. We have no idea how we will survive now,” said Jay’s father.

Similarly, Basant Sadhav's family in Pathara village under Khalikote block are facing hardship after his death in Abu Dhabi where he had gone in search of work. His body was brought back to the village on August 12. Being the sole bread earner of the family, his untimely death has made things extremely difficult for family members.

“Including my in-laws, 5 persons in our family were dependent on him. After his death, I am unable to think about our future as I don’t know what to do next,” said Basant’s wife.

Another migrant labourer Santosh Behera from Parinuagaon village, who had gone to Dubai 10 months back and later fell sick, is now stranded as his employer is allegedly demanding Rs 1 lakh for his release.

“He is in a very difficult position. After going there, he fell sick and now his employer is asking for huge amount of money to release him,” said Golak Pradhan, a relative of Santosh.

In last two years, bodies of 18 migrant labourers have returned to Odisha. From January 2018 to March 2019, while 72 labourers were rescued from foreign countries, 62 were from Ganjam.

Amidst allegations of middlemen sending migrant labourers to foreign countries by charging lakhs of rupees, district labour officer has said that awareness is being created among people.

“Before leaving we are asking details of the country they are going to and the contractor they will be working under. All panchayat executive officers have been directed to follow the same instructions. We will take more measures," said Shivanarayan Sahoo, the district labour officer of Ganjam.

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