What's new

Workers lured from India to Hindu temple in New Jersey, paid $1.20 per hour for years: Lawsuit

d00od00o

FULL MEMBER
Oct 17, 2018
1,389
0
1,331
Country
United States
Location
United States
Workers lured from India to Hindu temple in New Jersey, paid $1.20 per hour for years: Lawsuit
ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. -- FBI agents were at a large Hindu temple in New Jersey on Tuesday as a new lawsuit claimed it was built by workers from marginalized communities in India who were lured to the U.S. and forced to work long hours for just a few dollars per day.

The lawsuit accuses the leaders of the Hindu organization known as Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, or BAPS, of human trafficking and wage law violations.

An FBI spokesperson confirmed that agents were at the temple on "court-authorized law enforcement activity," but wouldn't elaborate. One of the attorneys who filed the suit said some workers had been removed from the site Tuesday.

The lawsuit says more than 200 workers - many or all of whom don't speak English - were coerced into signing employment agreements in India. They traveled to New Jersey under R-1 visas, which are meant for "those who minister, or work in religious vocations or occupations," according to the lawsuit.



When they arrived, the lawsuit says, their passports were taken away and they were forced to work at the temple from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with few days off, for about $450 per month a rate that the suit said came out to around $1.20 per hour. Of that, the workers allegedly only received $50 in cash per month, with the rest deposited into their accounts in India.

According to the lawsuit, the exploited workers were Dalits - members of the lowest step of South Asia's caste hierarchy.

An attorney representing several of the workers, Daniel Werner, called it "shocking that this happens in our backyard."

"It is even more disturbing that it has gone on for years in New Jersey behind the temple's walls," Werner, of Decatur, Georgia, said Tuesday outside the gates of the complex. He said some workers were on the site for a year, two years or even longer, and were not allowed to leave unless accompanied by somebody from BAPS.

BAPS CEO Kanu Patel, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, told The New York Times, "I respectfully disagree with the wage claim."




A spokesperson for the organization, Matthew Frankel, told The Associated Press that BAPS was first made aware of the accusations early Tuesday morning.

"We are taking them very seriously and thoroughly reviewing the issues raised," he said.

The ornate temple, known as a mandir, is made of Italian and Indian marble, and sits on 162 acres (65 hectares) in Robbinsville, outside Trenton.

The lawsuit said workers lived in a fenced-in compound where their movements were monitored by cameras and guards. They were told that if they left, police would arrest them because they didn't have their passports, the suit said.

The lawsuit names Patel and several individuals described as having supervised the workers. It seeks unpaid wages and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

D.B. Sagar, president of the Washington-based International Commission for Dalit Rights, told The Associated Press that Dalits are an easy target for exploitation because they're the poorest people in India.

"They need something to survive, to protect their family," Sagar - a Dalit himself - said, adding that if the allegations in the lawsuit are true, they amount to "modern-day slavery."

BAPS is a global sect of Hinduism founded in the early 20th century and aims to "preserve Indian culture and the Hindu ideals of faith, unity, and selfless service," according to its website. The organization says it has built more than 1,100 mandirs - often large complexes that essentially function as community centers.

BAPS is known for community service and philanthropy, taking an active role in the diaspora's initiative to help India amid the current COVID-19 surge. But it also is linked to contentious issues in India, publicly supporting and funding the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, built on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu nationalists.

India's right-wing prime minister, Narendra Modi, has close ties to the organization and one of its transformative leaders, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who died in 2016.

The ongoing construction on the mandir in Robbinsville began in 2010, and the site has caught the attention of state and federal authorities in recent years.

Last month, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued a stop-work order against a Newark-based construction company whose projects included the BAPS temple in Robbinsville.

An investigation found the company, Cunha Construction, was paying workers in cash off the books and didn't have workers' compensation insurance, according to a release. A phone listed for the company rang unanswered Tuesday. It's not named in the lawsuit.

In 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated after a Pennsylvania teenager was killed in a fall while volunteering at the site.

According to the website for the Robbinsville mandir, its construction "is the epitome of volunteerism."

"Volunteers of all ages have devoted their time and resources from the beginning: assisting in the construction work, cleaning up around the site, preparing food for all the artisans on a daily basis and helping with other tasks," the website says. "A total of 4.7 million man hours were required by craftsman and volunteers to complete the Mandir."

___

Associated Press writer Mike Catalini contributed to this report.
Report a correction or typo
 

VkdIndian

FULL MEMBER
Jan 6, 2021
790
-6
611
Country
India
Location
India
Is gulli a criteria to stoop low?

I came across this thread created by you and your comment in poor taste.

As of now as I can make out you create multiple threads with something negative about India and then post nasty comments.

Most of them in poor taste. As the one above about Indians not needing oxygen.
 

d00od00o

FULL MEMBER
Oct 17, 2018
1,389
0
1,331
Country
United States
Location
United States
Is gulli a criteria to stoop low?

I came across this thread created by you and your comment in poor taste.

As of now as I can make out you create multiple threads with something negative about India and then post nasty comments.

Most of them in poor taste. As the one above about Indians not needing oxygen.
What do you know about poor taste? Tell that to Modi. I'm just the messenger.
 

VkdIndian

FULL MEMBER
Jan 6, 2021
790
-6
611
Country
India
Location
India
What do you know about poor taste? Tell that to Modi. I'm just the messenger.
Are you a person who finds only those messages that are negative about India?

You are not a messenger. You are a troll who creates threads with sole purpose of denigrating a country.
When confronted you start chanting Modi. Don’t be so obsessed with him. Too much obsession can be bad for mental health.
 

d00od00o

FULL MEMBER
Oct 17, 2018
1,389
0
1,331
Country
United States
Location
United States
Are you a person who finds only those messages that are negative about India?

You are not a messenger. You are a troll who creates threads with sole purpose of denigrating a country.
When confronted you start chanting Modi. Don’t be so obsessed with him. Too much obsession can be bad for mental health.
You're just mad that I post truthful articles on India. You should be more focused on how to improve the situation there. Then again, I shouldn't expect any better from an Indian, who is usually more concerned with image and narratives than facts and truth. Modi is a great example of that.
 

VkdIndian

FULL MEMBER
Jan 6, 2021
790
-6
611
Country
India
Location
India
You're just mad that I post truthful articles on India. You should be more focused on how to improve the situation there.
I am not mad. A little concerned at a guy who has created multiple threads within a span of few minutes on India.
Anyone with basic intellect would know what you are trying to do.

As I advised earlier don’t be obsessed with Modi.

I shouldn't expect any better from an Indian, who is usually more concerned with image and narratives than facts and truth.
What makes you come to this conclusion that I am trying to build an image here?
I fact it is more applicable to you. You have created multiple threads against India. As I see your concern is not misery of some people but portraying a country in bad light.

As I see that you have US flags. Any reason of being so cut up with Indians?
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Total: 1, Members: 0, Guests: 1)


Top Bottom