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Community collaboration brings freedom to bonded labourers

Freedom rings in the New Year for five individuals released from bondage in the month of December. In two separate cases, the District Administration and local police in Villupuram and Ramanathapuram districts collaborated with NGOs to rescue bonded labour victims. These NGOs had been trained on bonded labour system by IJM.

After receiving a complaint petition from NGO SURP (Social Upliftment of Rural People), the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) of Kallakurichi exhibited proactivity and immediately formed a team with the District Administration officials and local police to perform an investigation. The RDO released a family of four from three years of bondage in an agricultural unit. He further informed the Villupuram Collector of the matter, who instructed officials to arrest the offenders. Three men were arrested and an FIR was filed under relevant sections of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.

A year of abuse and torture came to an end for one labourer in a sheep grazing unit with the help of local police supported by IJM’s NGO partner ChildLine. After escaping the facility on 20th November 2016, the owner followed the victim to his home. Beaten and threatened by the owner, the victim was told that if he did not return to the work site, his two children would be abducted and forced to work. Owing to the increased awareness programmes in the communities, the onlookers acted immediately. They protected the children from being captured and forced the owner to return without the family. One of the two children recalled ChildLine’s contact number shared at an awareness programme in school and informed them about the situation. The NGO filed a complaint with the local police station and a petition to the local Sub Collector requesting a Release Certificate to free the victim and his family from bondage.

According to Clement David from IJM, the NGOs in each of these cases were trained by IJM. “A highlight in each of these cases, is NGOs owning the issue and working with government bodies to bring freedom to victims of bonded labour through rescue and rehabilitation”, says Clement.

In 2016, 19 cases initiated by IJM’s trained NGO partners resulted in the rescue of 73 victims of bonded labour in Tamil Nadu. The commitment demonstrated by the community and the government in bringing freedom to those trapped in bondage, is spelling hope to hundreds of bonded labourers today.