In the wake of the brutal rape and murder of a migrant worker’s 5-year-old daughter, a plea has been moved before the Kerala High Court seeking a direction to the Government of Kerala for effective enforcement of labour laws and welfare measures. On July 28, 2023, the minor victim went missing. She was killed by strangulation and found dumped into a waste yard in the Aluva market area. The police arrested the accused, Ashfaq Alam, on the same day in a highly inebriated condition.
The writ petition has been moved before the high court seeking a direction to the Government of Kerala to ensure safe, hygienic and healthy working conditions for the migrant workers. The petitioner further seeks proper registration precedes their employment. The court’s Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice AJ Desai and Justice VG Arun, issued a notice to the government authorities and sought their response on August 2.
The petitioner approached the high court in view of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Government of Kerala’s repeated failures and its machinery in enforcing proper registration of migrant workers in the State as per the provisions of the Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, Rules and Orders. The petitioner further argues that the State Government must ensure safe, hygienic and healthy working conditions for the migrant workers.
The petitioner further submitted that the recent case, along with the chain of crimes taking place in the State for the past 10 years, indicated a need for proper regulation and registration of employment for migrant workers. The petitioner further averred that in most places the employers dump the migrant workers into small quarters with no facilities, and consequently, such workers could involve themselves in wrong and unlawful activities. To support his contentions, the petitioner submitted that the accused Asafaq Alam is also an unregistered migrant from Bihar.
“There is gross failure on the part of the State Government in ensuring proper registration of the migrant workers thereby enforcing healthy and hygienic living conditions to such employees through their employers. The inaction on the part of the State Government is highly arbitrary and unjust,” the plea states.
The petitioner informed the court that the minor victim’s family is residing in the same dwelling as the ‘predator’ and that it would not be practical for them to continue residing in the same place. The petitioner has sought for the minor victim’s family to be compensated and rehabilitated. The petitioner further contends that the Government of Kerala’s compensation for Rs 1 lakh is insufficient and inadequate to “tide over the trauma they suffered.”
The petitioner submits that despite the Social Welfare Department launching the Aswasanidhi scheme, which intends to give benefits to victims of serious crimes, in 2018, there is no provision to provide compensation to a minor girl’s family who had been brutally raped and murdered. The petitioner informed the court that the maximum compensation had been prescribed for victims of acid attacks for an amount of Rs 2 lakhs.
The petitioner further avers that the Victim Rehabilitation Scheme of 2021, discriminates against migrant workers as it limits the scheme’s benefits to local people. The petitioner informed the court that under the scheme the applicant must be a native of Kerala and must produce an income certificate from the Village Officer to be eligible. The petitioner has sought that the condition be quashed as it discriminates between local people and migrants.
“Apart from the responsibility to the family of the victim, the State owes a responsibility to the people of this State to control and regulate migrant population appropriately. It is highly necessary that the specific directions are issued to register migrant workers and to enforce labour laws compulsorily. The defaulters must be strictly penalized and their license to engage any worker need to be revoked to ensure strict compliance of law. The availability of data with respect to each migrant employee will make collection of antecedents, prevention, and detection of crime more effective for the law enforcement agencies. The availability of identity proof with employer and labour department will make migrant workers more responsible to the society,” the plea said.
“The accused in the gruesome rape and murder at Aluva was not a registered worker. There was no contractor/entity responsible for the worker as well. In many cases, the investigating agencies had to travel to the native places of migrant worker to nab the culprits since they tend to abscond immediately after the crime. In many cases, lack of details regarding the offenders makes the offences unsolvable,” the plea added.
Furthermore, the petitioner has sought for Rs 25 lakhs as financial assistance to the minor victim’s family. The petitioner has sought Rs 5 lakhs to be disbursed to the minor victim’s family as immediate assistance. The petitioner has further sought direction from the Government of Kerala to ensure proper police patrolling in and around migrant worker camps.
The petitioner has sought direction from the Government of Kerala to establish an institution that would provide proper training to the migrant workers, to abide by the state’s laws and to abstain from criminal activities. The petitioner further sought that an employment card is made compulsory for engaging such workers by contractors, establishments or individuals.
A couple from Bihar has been living in Kerala for the past 8 years. On July 28, their 5-year-old daughter went missing from the house. Later they found that Ashfaq Alam who stayed in the same building as the girl’s family near Garage Junction in Kochi has abducted her. While tracking the duo police nabbed Alam and the dead body of the minor girl stuffed in a sack.
“We have found a dead body at a stranded place in Aluva market. And we have matched the body to the missing child. An inquest has been finished. The child’s body was taken to Kalamassery medical college for post-mortem. Further investigations are underway,” said police.
In connection with the incident, Aslam was taken into custody on Friday evening by the police. The police said CCTV visuals show the suspect kidnapping the girl.
The daughter of a migrant couple from Bihar residing near Choornikara went missing on July 28 around 3.30 PM. She was a Class I student at Thayikkattukara upper primary school. Ernakulam Rural SP, Vivek Kumar, told the media, “An FIR was registered at 8 PM on Friday and within an hour, we found the accused. He was in an inebriated state and it was difficult to get details from him.”
Kumar said that after a whole night of interrogation, Alam confessed and accepted committing the crime. He also told them that, after abducting the minor he handed over the girl to Zakir. Later, police took him to the flyover where he handed over the minor to Zakir. Police also detained him but no exchange of money took place between them, to justify the trafficking angle, says a report.
He then said that locals informed seeing Alam with the minor girl near Aluva market and the police rushed to the spot. After searching the area with the locals, the police found the girl’s body. The accused abducted the child from near the railway gate at Thaikkattukara on July 28 afternoon. CCTV footage showed the suspect crossing the highway with the child and boarding a bus to Thrissur, said police.