DRAFTED BY: Ashly Bloxon
INDIA.— More than 500 bonded laborers, including women and children, were rescued from a private brick kiln by government officials in India. Most of the laborers were poor migrant workers who had been brought in from another state.
The laborers were forced to work day after day in a tiny brick kiln in a small province of Southern India. During their confinement the laborers were subject to beatings by rod and belt as well as many other forms of abuse, the laborers explained that people rarely attempted to escape.
“We worked all the time. We would only stop to eat,” says 20-year-old Dambru Jani, who was rescued in the raid. “If we tried to rest, they’d abuse us and force us to work again.”
Saju Mathew, the national director for the International Justice Mission (the human rights group that assisted the government with the raid) explained that even though India banned bonded labor in 1976, the practice of paying back a loan or advance with work is still quite prevalent.
Government officials claim the hardest part is identifying bonded labor which often looks like a regular business.”The key thing you look for is, are they free?” says Mathew. “What you realize in bonded labor is that the owner decides when they eat, when they sleep, whether they are free to leave or not. All the terms of their life are now dictated by the owner.”
Government official S. Kandaswamy, who was involved in the raid of the facility, explained, “More than 14 hours a day they are working… sometimes, they are being beaten, and some harassment was noted by the laborers. No medical facilities. … Bonded labor is against humanity, so it has to be curbed.”
Upon release, the laborers were transported to a local school where they were immediately given food, medical treatment and counseling.
The laborers were issued a certificate of freedom and given 1, 000 rupees each, approximately $25, the first installment of rehabilitation funds the government will provide. The government also provided special trains as a means for each individual to go home.
The owner of the brick kiln was captured, held and released, the authorities have yet to press charges.