BANGALORE, INDIA – This week, IJM Bangalore helped government officials to rescue families forced to work as slaves in an abusive brick kiln.
A brick-maker named Maruti* heard about a group that had helped people like him find freedom from slavery. He eventually tracked down the phone number of an IJM staff member and made a secret call for help.
The laborers told IJM that they were forced to wake up as early as 2AM to start working. They molded bricks from clay and baked them under the hot sun. They did not stop until nightfall.
Each laborer was responsible for producing a certain number of bricks each day – even if they were sick. Maruti remembered several occasions when the owner beat his friends who failed to meet their quota because were too sick to work. Afraid that his slaves would run away from the abusive brick kiln, the owner forced them to leave one family member in the kiln at all times as insurance.
Children worked alongside the weary adults. One 8-year-old boy was allowed to go to school one day a week – forced to work in the brick kiln every other day. The owner gave the laborers just a few rupees, hardly enough for the food they needed to eat to keep working, and far below India's daily minimum wage.
IJM presented the evidence of forced labor slavery to the local government official, and he led the operation this week. At first the families were frightened by the unfamiliar crowd of government officials entering the brick kiln. But soon they were eager to leave, jumping at the chance to escape the grueling kiln. IJM accompanied them back to the government office, where they answered questions about the exploitation and abuse they had endured.
Seven adults and two children, including the 8-year-old boy, received release certificates, officially declaring them free and entitling them to government monetary compensation reserved for forced labor slaves.
IJM staff traveled with the families back to their home villages and will participate in a two-year aftercare program. After a very long day, the children, women and men fell asleep in their own homes. Tomorrow would be a new day.
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.