Thanks to the quick work of local government officials and an IJM team, 18 children, women and men are now free from bonded labor slavery at an Indian brick kiln.
These families had spent as many as seven years in bondage, where even children as young as 5 were forced to work under the kiln owner’s control. They toiled seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, and endured constant verbal and physical abuse from the kiln owner.
Ankit,* a father of three who had been trapped in the kiln for seven years, remembers, “The kiln owner told me he would break my legs if I attempted to leave this place.”
He says the owner once allowed him to leave to attend his father’s funeral—but kept his children behind to ensure everyone would return. This was the environment of fear they endured for years.
As IJM and officials conducted the rescue yesterday, they learned that many of these families had been trafficked hundreds of miles to Bangalore from other states. As parents had followed the promise of a good job to sustain their families, they were instead brought to this brick kiln and forced to work in order to pay off an ever-increasing false debt.
“I wanted to send my daughter to school but I did not have any money,” says Sunil,* a 30-year-old father. “I brought my family to Bangalore thinking I can work and save some money to send her to school. But we ended up being trapped here.”
He recalls, “I told the owner that I need to go back to Odisha, but he never let me go for three years. Instead, my daughter who is only 7 is working here.”
Police arrested one supervisor of the brick kiln who had controlled these families with violence, and they are pursuing the owner who absconded.
All of the rescued slaves have received official release certificates—documents absolving their false debts and marking them as free—and will soon return to their home villages with the government’s help. From here, they will join IJM’s two-year aftercare rehabilitation program to learn life skills, find good jobs, and create sustainable futures for their families.
*Pseudonyms have been used for the protection of these survivors.