More than 200 Indian nationals working in a Malaysian factory have alleged that they were being abused by their employment agent and are desperate to return home after three of their colleagues were brutally beaten up.
The 264 Indian workers, employed at a factory in Senai in Johor state, claimed their agent started abusing them when they arrived in Malaysia two years ago.
The workers claimed that three of their colleagues were abducted and beaten up for putting up a notice stating that workers no longer wanted 2.50 (25 rupees), the cost of hostel canteen food, to be deducted from their daily wages.
The Indian workers, part of the 1,500-strong foreign workforce at the plastic-moulding factory, staged a picket to demand the release of the three, local media reports said.
The trio, with bruises all over their bodies, has since returned to the hostel, the report said.
One of the workers, Thangaraju, 39, said he could have ended up dead if not for the strike staged by his co-workers.
Thangaraju claimed that he and the other two workers were beaten for hours and the men tried to force him to drink detergent when he asked for water, the report said.
He said the beatings started two months after they arrived at the hostel in November 2005.
"We found worms in the rice served at the canteen. When we complained, 20 of my colleagues were abducted and given a severe beating. Only 10 returned and to date, we don't know what happened to the rest."
Another worker identified as Vadivelu said the workers decided to quit and return home on the advice of their parents.
A factory official said the management wanted to send the injured trio to the clinic but were stopped by their colleagues.
"There is a small group of workers instigating the others. They are forcing the workers to strike and this has disrupted operations."
The official said the factory took over the management of the hostel three days ago after the workers decided they did not want to deal with their agent any more.