CHENNAI, INDIA – Yesterday, IJM helped government officials in a rural district outside Chennai rescue four families from slavery in a rice mill. The families – including seven children – had been trapped there for as long as five years. The men and women were forced to do all of the tedious, backbreaking work of harvesting and processing rice by hand, without any machinery.
In many rural districts where IJM works, government officials are not always familiar with the laws against forced labor slavery, or they have not been trained on how to officially emancipate the forced laborers. In this case, however, IJM Chennai Director of Casework Alice Suganya noted that the government official leading the operation had "all the systems in place, including computerized forms." Alice added that it was encouraging to see how the government office had set up clear protocols, so that "even new officials will find it very easy to address bonded labor quickly and correctly."
On January 31, 2013, the ten adults received official release certificates, government documents that emancipate them from slavery. They also received their first installment of "rehabilitation funds," government support that will help them resettle and rebuild their lives in freedom. On the same day, a police complaint was filed against the rice mill owner – the first and critical step towards restraining the suspected slave owner.
IJM helped the families prepare to return home. Social workers will continue to follow up with them to make sure the children are quickly enrolled in school, and the adults have the resources and opportunities they need to provide for their families.