Panaji: By a quirky
turn of fortune, the same wave of panic which gripped the people
of the northeast living in cities like Bangalore and Pune
following the Assam riots turned out to be godsend for 16 Assamese
and Naga labourers who were illegally trafficked to work in Goa's
controversial mining sector.
The North East Association of Goa (NEAG), which was cobbled
together by northeastern migrants working here in the aftermath of
the Assam riots, has managed to track down, with the help of the
police and social activists, 16 people working in pathetic
conditions in forested mining areas.
"It was shocking to the see the condition they were in. We managed
to rescue 14 men from Nagaland and two from Assam. They had been
brought to Goa promising them jobs as security guards by a
trafficker from Dimapur. But when they landed here, they were
whisked away to work in mines," NEAG president Wungchipem Pheirim
Pheirim, who works as a manager in a hospitality outfit in
Candolim, 20 km from here, had co-ordinated the rescue mission
with the help of New Delhi-based rights lawyer, Nandita Haksar.
"There could be more of such cases, I do not know. But seeing them
live like that was sad. There were narrow benches or the floor to
sleep in tents. They were given only half an hour's break between
the hard laborious work," Pheirim said, adding that while they
were promised a salary of Rs.6,000 to Rs.8,000, they were paid
barely half of that.
"Some of them had already escaped and had sought refuge in a
hospital where they had admitted themselves because their health
had deteriorated," he said.
Explaining how the NEAG managed to track down the trapped
labourers, Pheirim said a complaint from Kohima and, which first
alerted the association about the trafficked workers to Goa's
mines, which is a multi-million dollar industry that extracts over
50 million tonnes of iron ore annually.
"We got a complaint from one Lamumerem Jamir who told us that his
brother had landed in Goa and was a victim of trafficking,"
After rescuing the labourers, the NEAG arranged for tickets for
most of them so that they could go back to their homes.
Pheirim has had several meetings with leading Muslim groups in Goa
in order to maintain harmony, even as rumours and mysterious text
messages fuelled an exodus of northeastern residents from across
India earlier this month.
The NEAG expects the Goa government to provide late night
transport facilities across the state which could help the
northeastern working community in Goa, several of whom work the
graveyard shifts in the booming hospitality as well as the casino
"We would request the government to provide us transport after the
night shift as we work in hotels, restaurants, casinos, beauty
parlours and showrooms. In almost all our jobs we are required to
stay till late night and have to often walk back to our homes.
This is the time we feel vulnerable," Pheirim added.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at email@example.com)