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Six Birhor men from a village in Jharkhand state willingly followed a middleman to a supposed work assignment on the other side of India, in Gujarat state, and they haven’t returned.

The middleman promised they would have jobs in a brick kiln in Gujarat, that they would make good money, and that they would return in a month. The mother of three of the men has raised an alarm since six months have elapsed. Their village, Chotki Sidharwara, is in the Gomia Block of the Bokaro District in the state. “They might have been trapped,” claimed the woman. “I do not know whether they are dead or alive.” District officials have launched an inquiry.

Reporting on the story, the Times of India last week noted that while the Birhor used to subsist on agriculture and forest products, they are no longer able to do so. They have to search for alternative wage labor opportunities. Traveling with middlemen to other states to find work in farms and industries is not uncommon, according to the paper.