BANGALORE, INDIA – Yesterday, 19 people were rescued from a brutal rock quarry. They had been trapped there for 13 years, confined to live and work in miserable conditions. The manual labor was intense and exhausting. They were not allowed to leave the quarry, and several women even had to give birth in dirty sheds in the quarry compound. They were slaves in every sense of the word.
The rock quarry is located in a rural area, in a district where IJM Bangalore has not worked much in the past. When IJM started documenting the conditions inside this particular rock quarry, it was clear that the men and women were enslaved. Their children had known no other life.
As IJM developed a case to bring to the local government official with jurisdiction in this area, conditions inside the quarry started to worsen. The laborers said the owner stopped giving them the pittance they usually received to buy the week's food. They were literally beginning to starve.
On June 6, IJM presented the desperate case and urged the government to take action immediately before the situation became dire. Although the official in charge had not worked on a case with IJM before, he quickly mobilized a rescue operation to determine whether or not the people were trapped in a system of forced labor slavery.
When the team of government officials and IJM staff arrived, it was clear that the reality inside the quarry was indeed getting worse. Some of the people were hard at work cracking boulders into smaller rocks. Others were bedridden, simply too weak and malnourished to stand.
One of IJM's aftercare managers, Venugopal, said the laborers seemed "very afraid" at first, unsure who to trust or how to process what was happening. But later, Venugopal said, "They told me, 'We are very much happy, sir, we couldn't survive in this place.'"
After a smooth enquiry process led by the government official, he issued ten release certificates. These legal documents emancipate them and declare the holder free from the owner's control. The certificate also entitles them to monetary compensation from the government.
The rescued slaves are now in Bangalore at a safe location, and all of them will receive medical exams and urgent care as needed. They families are from another state, about 9 hours away. They come from a background of extreme poverty and do not have houses – part of what made them so vulnerable to being trafficked in the first place. IJM Bangalore is working now to make sure there is a support network able to support them. Each family will also be assigned an Aftercare Manager who will provide counseling and practical help, like getting work and enrolling the children in school.