Modern Slavery in Italian Rural Areas: Sikh Community at Risk

Seven days a week, the weather-beaten Indian laborers work hard in the rural area in the province of Latina (near Rome, IT). In order to keep up the inhumane work-rhythm imposed by the “owners” and to not feel the pain, they need to take many times performance-enhancing drugs and pain killers.
A form of doping lived with shame and practiced in secret, because it goes against their religion and culture and it is condemned by their community. To denounce the conditions of the Sikh community of the Pontine Marshes is a non-profit organization “Inmigrazione.”
Photo credits: Indiani-web
Photo credits: Indiani-web
“We are being exploited and we can not tell the owner to stop – says a laborer – because he sends us away. Then some Indians are forced to pay for a little substance to not feel pain in their arms, legs and back. The owner tells us to continue to work tirelessly, but after 14 hours of work in the fields, how is it possible to work again and again? “. A silent army of men is bent on the fields to work every day, without breaks.

Some Sikh laborers are forced to trim their beard – a religious symbol of great importance – because it annoys the owner, who sometimes even makes them walk with a certain distance from him. The stories of the Sikhs are creepy. If they miss one or two days of work due to illness, they risk to lose the whole month’s salary and also risk to be dismissed. Sometimes it also happens they are robbed by locals who wait for them on the roadside.
“The owner uses us too and how can we move forward?”, said a laborer. “Here we are alone, without money, with a owner who always says that we have to go to work, even on Sundays, and so fatigue, loneliness, especially because we do not speak the Italian language well. It is easy to take this kind of drug. That is not the “real drugs” as the ones Italians usually take. It is a small substance that acts as pain killer. It is a strong substance, but it helps us to work well. We spend money in this way because it’s the only way to not feel fatigue and remoteness from India and our family.” The one of Latina is the second largest Sikh community in Italy in size and importance.
The area of  Pontine Marshes (Lazio, IT) seems to be often dominated by the lucrative business of eco-mafia, favored by intimidation to institutions, employers, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, and which is consolidated with old methods and modern slavery. It’s been said that these drugs were,and would be, sold by some Indians, many of whom recently arrested in different operations by the police. But the stories that the NGO ‘InMigration’ has collected shows that the ‘traffic’ is firmly in the hands of Italians with links probably also with other countries.
For some laborers taking drugs is a necessity for survival,but this practice is likely to leave deep scars, a shame that threatens to isolate those who fall into a kind of addiction. The use of doping by some laborers risks, in fact, to alter their habits and the dynamics of a fair and cohesive community. Being excluded from the community means being alone for many Sikhs at the mercy of brutal exploitation and a hard life without dignity.
Changing the living conditions of the Sicks laborers in the Pontine area is a must for the non-profit organization, which acts on several fronts: contrast illegality and exploitation in the workplace, employ community services for social inclusion, include competitive agriculture that is based on the products’ quality together with the respect of human rights, fight against eco-mafias and various food frauds.
The following video is for Italian-speakers only and it reflects what it has been explained in the article above. The speaker is the representative of the Sikh community in Latina.


Erika Sciarra


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