IJM Chennai: Families Now Free from Forced Labor in "Deplorable" Rice Mill

Once confined to the abusive rice mill and made to share a single, closet-sized room, the forced laborers are now free.
Once confined to the abusive rice mill and made to share a single, closet-sized room, the forced laborers are now free.

CHENNAI, INDIA – This week, over two dozen children, women and men were released from slavery in a rice mill in rural India. After IJM documented evidence of forced labor in the abusive rice mill, government authorities responded by conducting the rescue operation.

IJM Chennai’s Director of Aftercare, Pranitha Timothy, added that the rice mill owner went to their village and offered them money and a better future. “That false promise lasted only a few days before the abuse began,” she said. And then, “they became hopeless.”

“The living conditions were deplorable,” said Timothy. All of the forced laborers had to live in a single room, 10 feet by 12 feet, about the size of a storage closet.

The forced laborers were not allowed to go back to their village, even for the death of a loved one. They were barred access to hospitals. Their pitiful wages would never allow them to repay the initial loan – a loan that had been offered simply as bait to trap them in forced labor.

Government authorities granted release certificates to fourteen individuals, officially emancipating them and cancelling the alleged debt owed the rice mill owner. A case will be filed against the owner who is suspected of operating his rice mill with forced labor.

Today, the families begin rebuilding lives in freedom. As they return to their village, IJM social workers will continue to support each family.  

Force Labor Slavery, Rescue, South Asia