Dalit Indian workers in the US forced to build temple for wages as low as $1/ hour

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In a shocking incident, a class lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey, against Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, a Hindu sect, also known as BAPS, for wage law violations and human trafficking.

Agent from federal agencies — the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor raided the temple site located in Robbinsville, New Jersey on Tuesday before filing the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit filed by the workers, BAPS has lured them into taking up construction jobs in the US for handsome salaries. However, after they landed, their passports were confiscated and they were forced to cut ties from the outsiders. The workers were threatened with pay cuts and to have them sent back to India if they communicated with the outsiders. 

The lawsuit also mentioned that there were more than 200 workers on the site, most of whom could not speak or understand English. The majority of these workers are Dalits, the lowest considered caste in the Indian caste system.

New Jersey’s minimum wage is $12 USD an hour (approximately 880 rupees); however, the workers were being paid roughly around $1.20 USD an hour (approximately 88 rupees). As per the suit, their wages would be rounded up to $450 USD per month (approximately 33,000 rupees), out of which the workers have only been receiving $50 USD (approximately 3,660 rupees) for their personal expenses and the rest would be deposited into their accounts here in India. 

These workers were made to operate heavy machinery, cranes, storm sewers, shovel snow, and dig ditches.

As reported by The New York Times, BAPS has close ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India and has built several temples around the world. It has possibly exploited hundreds of men in the temple construction project. 

It has also reported that BAPS has promised to donate an equivalent of about $290,000 USD (approximately 2,12,78,851.50 rupees) towards the building of the temple in Ayodhya, where Babri Masjid stood for ages and has been demolished.