Proactive government officials, police and IJM staff rescued 11 laborers from an urban shoe factory last Wednesday, including three teenage boys and many others who had been trafficked from northern India.
The workers told authorities they had followed the traffickers under the promise of a well-paying job, but instead were heavily controlled and forced to work in harsh conditions.
The men toiled from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week, making women’s high heels. They worked with scalding-hot machinery and breathed harsh chemicals all day. They ate and slept in the same room where they worked. Some had been enslaved this way for up to four years.
One young man later explained, “In four years, I was never allowed to visit my home in Bihar, although I requested it many times. I thought of running away, but others who had run away were brought back and beaten with iron rods, tortured with long needles and locked in a room for several days.”
IJM Bangalore discovered the shocking abuse in the factory and alerted local officials. Together, they coordinated the rescue operation that brought these young men to safety and gathered evidence to arrest their abusers. One supervisor is currently in custody, and police are searching for the other alleged traffickers.
After the rescue, government officials granted each of the rescued laborers Release Certificates, which break the false debts and other claims the traffickers used to enslave these men. They also ensured each worker had food and medical care, then arranged for them to travel home to Bihar by train. IJM staff accompanied the men to ensure they returned safely.
The three teenage boys rescued during the operation are under protection with the Child Welfare Committee, who will determine when it is safe for them to go home.