IJM Bangalore: Families Trafficked Across State Borders Rescued from Slavery

An IJM Bangalore lawyer leads the families out of the brick factory where they had been enslaved.
An IJM Bangalore lawyer leads the families out of the brick factory where they had been enslaved.

BANGALORE, INDIA – Nearly 40 people from one of India's poorest states were rescued this week from a brick factory just outside Bangalore. They said a man had come to their village and offered them jobs and the money to pay for their travel across state borders. When the families arrived at the brick factory, they quickly realized they had been tricked. They were trapped at the factory as forced labor slaves.

Twenty-Hour Days, No Escape

The slaves worked up to 20 hours a day and had cracked and swollen hands from the exhausting manual labor. Children as young as 8 were forced to work, molding clay into neat bricks. The men, women and children were under constant watch. When the families went to market to buy rice, they were herded as a group and never allowed to go on their own. The only moment of privacy came when they would cross the street to a small clearing behind a patch of bushes to use the bathroom.

At night they slept in makeshift sheds built from stacks of bricks and covered with a thin sheet of corrugated metal. The shelters were so small an adult could not even stand upright.

IJM Bangalore social worker Neenu Thomas was stunned by the awful conditions inside the brick factory: "Their hands were bad and it seemed like an allergic reaction to the clay. They never got medical treatment for it and when they asked the owners, they were refused."

Swift Rescue

On Monday, February 10, IJM presented evidence that of slave labor in this brick factory to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit. The unit is a division of state-level police, and this was only the third time IJM has worked with them on a forced labor slavery case.

When the rescue team arrived at the brick factory, the anti-trafficking police conducted brief interviews on site. It was clear that these workers were being held as forced labor slaves. They were being paid just over a quarter a day, a pittance compared to the wages promised and well below India's minimum wage. Moreover, they explained how they were restricted from ever leaving the factory and were completely controlled by the owner.

IJM staff helped the families collect their meager belongings and accompanied them to a local police station. The officials asked detailed questions, and eventually determined 27 individuals should be granted release certificates. These legal documents emancipate them and entitle them to government compensation. Eleven children who had been living with their parents at the factory are also now free.

The anti-trafficking police arrested the owner, who remains in custody as anti-slavery charges are being formed. One of IJM Bangalore's lawyers providing guidance throughout the operation said she was struck by the collaboration between the anti-trafficking police and district officials who worked efficiently together.

Forced Labor Slavery, Rescue, South Asia