NEW YORK : US Hindu Group Accused Of “Exploiting Labourers Lured From India”: Report

NEW YORK : US Hindu Group Accused Of “Exploiting Labourers Lured From India”: Report

prominent Hindu organisation is facing new allegations in an updated lawsuit
that it lured labourers from India and forced hundreds of workers to work for
low wages at its temple sites across the United States.

In May
this year, a group of Indian workers had filed a lawsuit in US District Court
alleging violations of human trafficking and wage law against Bochasanwasi
Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), saying they were confined and
forced to work for about USD 1 on constructing the massive Swaminarayan temple
in New Jersey.

The New York
said in a report on Wednesday that in the lawsuit filed in New Jersey
federal court and amended last month, BAPS has been accused “of luring
labourers from India to work on temples near Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Los
Angeles, as well as in Robbinsville, New Jersey, paying them just USD 450 a

amended lawsuit expanded those claims to include temples around the country
where some of the men said they were also sent to work. Hundreds of workers
were potentially exploited, the lawsuit claimed,” the NYT report said.

report had in May said that the complaint had named six men who were among over
200 Indian nationals brought to the US starting from around 2018 on religious
visas ‘R-1 visas’. The men were made to work “gruelling hours under often
dangerous conditions on the New Jersey site”, the NYT report had said.

Civil Watch International (ICWI) had said in a statement in May to PTI that
starting in the early hours on May 11, an FBI-led raid rescued around 200
workers, “most of them Dalits, Bahujans, and Adivasis”, from the premises of
the Swaminarayan Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey, reportedly the largest
Hindu temple in the US.

amended complaint accused BAPS officials of “violating state labour laws and
the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, better known as RICO,
which was created to go after organised crime,” the report said.

complaint lists allegations including “forced labour, trafficking with respect
to forced labour, document servitude, conspiracy, and confiscation of
immigration documents with the intent to engage in fraud in foreign labour
contracting ”as well as failure to pay minimum wage.”

ICWI had
said the workers were being paid USD 1.2 per hour, well below the current US
federal minimum wage of USD 7.25 per hour, and below even the minimum wage
going as far back as 1963.

report had said the workers “lived in trailers hidden from view and had
been promised jobs helping to build the temple” in Robbinsville with
“standard work hours and ample time off.”

the workers did manual labour on the site, “working nearly 13 hours a day
lifting large stones, operating cranes and other heavy machinery, building
roads and storm sewers, digging ditches and shovelling snow, all for the
equivalent of about USD 450 per month. They were paid USD 50 in cash, with the
rest deposited in accounts in India.”

officials have denied any wrongdoing.

In May,
Lenin Joshi, a spokesman for BAPS, also disputed the accusations, saying the
workers did complicated work connecting stones that had been hand-carved in
India, the report had said.

 “They have to be fit together
like a jigsaw puzzle. In that process, we need specialised artisans. We are
naturally shaken by this turn of events and are sure that once the full facts
come out, we will be able to provide answers and show that these accusations
and allegations are without merit,” Joshi had said in the report.

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