Watch video: 24 Indian sailors trapped as slaves in Malaysia factory
Inspired by Lokesh Sapaliga's flight to freedom, another Indian has managed to escape the human trafficking mafia in Malayasia, but can’t return home, as an agent has taken away his passport
Inspired by Lokesh Sapaliga’s flight to freedom, another Indian has managed to get away from the clutches of the human trafficking mafia in Malaysia. But, he bears grim news there are two dozen Indian seamen trapped in a factory, who are being made to toil in inhuman conditions, without proper food or accommodation.
Punjab-based Narender Singh said he was kicked and abused when he fractured his hand
mid-day had reported how 27-year-old Lokesh Sapaliga had been packed off to a fibre processing plant in Sibu, Malaysia, by a Nallasopara based placement agency. After being subjected to torturous 18-hour workdays, eating rotten food and sleeping on mattresses infested with bed bugs, Sapaliga managed to bribe a few officials and establish contact with his relatives in India, who pressured the placement agency to bring him back.
mid-day’s report on Lokesh Sapaliga, who managed to escape and return to India
Sapaliga managed to flee from the factory in the dead of the night, collect his passport from the agents and fly back to India. Now, Punjab-based Narender Singh (22), about whom Sapaliga had spoken, has also managed a brave escape. He, however, is at a friend’s place in Malaysia and hasn’t been able to come back to India. Sapaliga had managed to capture Narender’s plight on his phone camera.
mid-day’s November 7 report on the Andheri man’s escape from Malaysia
How he got there
Like Sapaliga, Singh, too, was attracted to the ‘job’ by an advertisement promising a good salary for working aboard a ship in Malaysia as a seaman. He landed up in Mumbai in July and got himself accommodated in the seamen’s colony in Belapur.
He met the Mumbai-based agent Bhupender Singh, who runs Diksha Marine Services. It has offices in Haryana, Mumbai and many other places. “As soon as I came to Mumbai, he (Bhupender) started following me to
pay him so that I could be sent to Malaysia.
I got carried away by the offer. He told me that I would get R20,000 to R30,000 a month. I paid him Rs 1.50 lakh for his services,” Singh told mid-day from Malaysia. Singh added, “On reaching Kuala Lumpur in August, an Indian-origin agent, Prabhat, who is based in Malaysia, gave me temporary accommodation for ten to twelve days.
One day, he asked me to get into a vehicle that belonged to CM Fibre Processing Sdn Bhd.” An online check showed the unit is an oil palm factory based in Sibu, Sarawak, set up in 2007 to convert palm oil waste into raw fibre for export.
It is a subsidiary of the Sri Minyak Group Bhd, which was established in 1986, and has dealt with a major oil and gas company in Sarawak for over 26 years. On reaching the factory, Prabhat told Singh he would have to work there. That was the last time he saw Prabhat.
Beaten, bruised, broken
“They have guards who are built like bouncers. They beat us if we fail to report to work. I have been surviving on rotten and stale food for the last three months. They have thrashed me on several occasions.
The supervisors torture us labourers in the middle of the night. They walk into our rooms, ask us to wash utensils and clean our rooms just to harass us,” Singh recalled.
Workers were made to slog for 18 hours a day in unsafe conditions. One day, Singh had a terrible fall from the top of a furnace and fractured his hand. Instead of helping him, the guards kicked him saying he had purposely done so to play truant from work.
“I was injured in September, a month after joining the place. I was not given any medical aid,” he said. Moreover, the supervisors deducted a large chunk of his measly salary and paid him only 200 Malaysian ringgits (approximately Rs 3,600) for August. He was paid even lower 50 Malaysian ringgits (Rs 900) last month.
Sapaliga’s escape had given everybody hope. On Friday morning, Singh decided enough was enough. Like Sapaliga, he waited till everyone was asleep. It was raining cats and dogs, and the factory is in the middle of a jungle.
Against all odds, with a broken hand, Singh climbed a hill in pitch darkness and reached the other side. He managed to hail a bus and reached a friend’s place 500 kilometres away from the factory.
According to Singh, a native of Noor Purvedi village in Ropar, Punjab, more than 24 Indian workers are trapped as slaves in the factory. All of them were lured with the promise of a seaman’s job on a ship.
“The youths have come from Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh. Apart from Indians, there are several youngsters from Myanmar as well,” he stated.
“There is a constant influx of workers. Most of them are promised a job on a ship, but end up in the slavery racket,” he added. “I am happy to escape, but I have nowhere to go now.
My passport and visa are with the agent (Prabhat) and he is nowhere to be found. I have to go to the Indian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, but the only way I can go there is by flight,” he rued.
Singh says Bhupender is also ignoring his phone calls. He has learnt from other fellow workers that Prabhat has left for India. Once he is back, Singh hopes to collect his documents to return to India and get his hand which is still broken treated. Meanwhile, the police have not made any efforts to trace the agents.
Living in hell
A screen grab of a video, taken by Andheri resident Lokesh Sapaliga, of 22-year-old Narender Singh showing his broken hand. Like Sapaliga, Singh managed to escape from the factory, but without a passport or visa he cannot leave the country.
The other side
Despite repeated attempts and emails, Johnson Tiu, the managing director of CM Fibre Processing Sdn Bhd remained unavailable for comment. Calls to the Kurla-based Bhupender Singh, of Diksha Marine Services, got diverted and later disconnected.