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Hindu Sect Allegedly Using Forced Labour in Temples All Over the US

The lawsuit accuses the BAPS of paying little money to workers while forcing them to work in dangerous conditions.

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A Hindu sect, known as the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), that runs a temple in New Jersey has been sued for forcing hundreds of low-caste people to forcefully work at worship sites across the US in dangerous working conditions for hardly any money, the New York Times reported.

A lawsuit was also filed against the BAPS earlier this year in May accusing it of recruiting Indian labourers, that too doing so intentionally based on their marginalised caste (most beings Dalit or Adivasis), to work in temples near cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston for only $450 a month.

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Initially, the lawsuit was concerned only with the New Jersey temple, arguing that the men were brought into the US with false promises and then made to work seven days a week for $1.20 an hour.

The federal minimum wage in the US is $7.25 an hour, six times more than what the workers were being paid.

But now, it includes temples all over the US, covering a scheme in which hundreds of workers have been subjected to exploitation.

The lawsuit also makes some serious allegations, such as:

  • The workers weren't allowed to leave the temples where they worked and the living quarters in which they resided.

  • They had their passports taken away from them.

  • They were not allowed to talk to anyone who visited the temple.

  • They were also threatened with punishment if they revealed their working conditions to anyone.

“It’s important that all workers who saw their labour and civil rights violated at BAPS temples across the US have the opportunity to seek justice,” said Daniel Werner, one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit.

(With inputs from the New York Times)

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