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Opium numbs the pain for Indian pickers exploited on Italian farms
by Umberto Bacchi
Thomson Reuters Foundation Translate This Article
19 July 2017
On 19 July 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation reported:
For almost three years, Amandeep started most of his working days eating opium and ended them smoking heroin. In between he picked watermelons for up to 13 hours a day in what activists say are exploitative conditions faced by thousands of Indian labourers in Italy's Pontine Marshes, just south of Rome. About 30,000 Indians, mainly Sikhs from Punjab state, live in the Pontine Marshes, a region that Italy's fascist regime drained for agriculture in the 1930s. Most work as labourers and over the last decade many have been forced to work for virtually nothing to pay off debts to agents who promised good jobs and organised travel from India. This is known as debt bondage -- the most prevalent form of modern-day slavery worldwide according to the United Nations. As many as 46 million people are estimated to be enslaved globally ... A growing number of these labourers [Indian workers] are taking drugs to cope with long hours, poor conditions and very low pay, according to interviews with workers, doctors, police, and rights groups. . . . At least one worker told a mobile health clinic that he wanted to quit but found it difficult as poppy use was 'strongly encouraged' on his farm.
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