India police extra vigilant after workers' hands chopped off

India police extra vigilant after workers' hands chopped off

NEW DELHI - Indian police have arrested eight people after the hands of two labourers were chopped off in a dispute over money, an officer said Monday, with the victims in serious condition in hospital.

Two labourers were admitted to a hospital in remote and impoverished Kalahandi district of Orissa state last week after they were discovered bleeding with their hands chopped off, the officer said.

Police arrested and charged eight people over the gruesome incident allegedly carried out as punishment after the labourers fled with an advance on their wages, superintendent Sarthak Sarangi from Kalahandi district said.

"We have solved the case by identifying and arresting five contractors and three middlemen. We are now keeping a vigil (for other cases)," Sarangi told AFP.

The eight have been charged with a range of offences including attempted murder, extortion and confinement he said.

The pair were among 12 labourers who fled with their advance after initially agreeing to travel with the contractors to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state to work at a brick kiln, only to learn they were being taken to Chhattisgarh state, police have said.

The two labourers, who were each given Rs 12,000 (US$193) in wages, were tracked down and attacked, while most of the rest of the group that fled were still in hiding, Sarangi said.

"There is still apprehension and only two of the 10 who escaped the contractors before the attack have come back (to their villages)," he said.

The pair who lost their hands were still in a serious condition and will remain in hospital for another week, a senior investigating officer in the case told AFP.

Thousands of men, women and sometimes children from poor and underdeveloped areas of India flock to neighbouring states and urban areas to work in industries such as brick kilns, construction and farming. Many end up in the homes of middle-class families as servants.

Activists say exploitation of migrant labourers is common, including low wages and poor conditions, although torture of this kind is extreme.

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