Hindu priest forced to 'work as a slave' by temple owners wins 2.3m dlrs

Posted By: Anita Nair
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London, Dec 18 (ANI): A Hindu priest feels vindicated after he won 2.3 million dollars as compensation for being forced to work as a slave for seven years by temple owners in New York.

Devendra Shukla, 34, had worked for Sat Prakash Sharma and his wife Geeta, who ran the Corono ashram in Corona, Queens, and he was forced to do their bidding for a pittance after they confiscated his passport.

The court was told Shukla worked 18-hour days, including heavy labour on a construction site, for which he received a paltry 50 dollars a week.

And over the seven years he stayed with the Sharmas, he received a miserly 21,000 dollars and was unable to go home even once to see his family.

When he finally snapped, Shukla sued the Sharmas and was overwhelmed when a jury sided with him and awarded the huge sum in compensation.

"I have received justice. I am hopeful that I will see my wife and children soon - it's almost 10 years that I have not seen my wife and children in India," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying ecstatically.

Shukla had moved to New York from his remote Indian village in the impoverished Uttar Pradesh region in the hope of providing for his family, who remained back home.

He ended up working for Sharma, who was president of temple in Queens, and his wife, who sat on the board, after they promised to pay him 500 dollars per week, including bed and board.

Instead he had to sleep in a windowless room or a "cell", and was made to work from 5am to 11pm on a string of jobs for which he was not qualified.

The Sharmas have a separate construction business and they made the priest muck in as a loader, painter, electrician and pipe cutter.

Following an eight-day hearing, a jury at Brooklyn's federal court found the couple were civilly liable for forced labour, involuntary servitude and trafficking violations.

"From the temple of slavery, to the temple of justice," Shukla's lawyer Sanjay Chaubey added. (ANI)

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