Award-winning archer left in the lurch

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A national award-winning archer has been stuck in the city for five months without money, food or a roof over his head.

Twenty-year-old Arjun Mandal from Jharkhand, who won the National Award for Archery in the under-13 category, came to Bangalore to work and earn to buy the necessary equipment for practice. However, his dream turned sour even after slogging it out as a labourer, as his employer has left him in the lurch without paying him his due.

He is one among six labourers who worked under a sub-contractor who refused to pay them. Adding to their woes, the police, who they approached for help, have asked them to return after the general elections. Sans options or money, the group is living on the Banaswadi railway platform, fervently awaiting the end of the elections.

Hailing from Seraikalla town in Jharkhand, Arjun comes from a poor family and has four siblings. In high school he participated in a national-level archery competition in 2008 and won the gold medal. “He wanted to practise further, but due to his poor financial condition, he could not realise his dreams,” said Arjun’s brother-in-law Tapan Kumar Mandal, who is also among the six labourers. “We came here and started working as fabricators with Raghupathy who has taken the sub-contract to renovate railway stations across the city,” Tapan said.

“I was keen on buying archery equipment, worth Rs. 35,000 and came to Bangalore to work and make some money. We were working since December 18 as fabricators at various railway platforms, but the contractor cheated us,” Arjun told The Hindu.

“We were promised Rs. 400 a day and three meals. Initially everything was alright and Raghupathy used to give us money for our daily expenses, but later he stopped giving us money. We are struck here with neither money nor enough to eat or a place to stay in. We do no not even have the money to buy tickets to return home,” he said.

The victims approached the Byappanahalli police to file a complaint last Friday, but the police turned them down saying they did not understand Hindi.

The labourers were told to get a complaint written either in English or Kannada, according to Tapan.

They managed to get the complaint written in English and went to the police, but after reading the complaint, the police asked them to go to Frazer Town, citing that it was not under their jurisdiction, he said. When the group went to Frazer Town station, the police, after taking up the complaint, asked them to return after the elections. “We understand the police’s problem, but no one knows what we are going through. We have families waiting for us to send money, which we have not done for the last six months,” another labourer from the group said.

Another victim added, “as there is no work, we are not even getting food. Some of us are lucky enough to fetch a daily wage job, and we support each other. Although we are managing somehow, we are crossing our fingers to get back our money so that we can go home.”

When contacted, a Frazer Town police officer said he was not aware of the complaint.

However, he promised that he would look into the complaint after the elections and take necessary action.

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