BANGALORE, INDIA – This week, a family of six was set free from slavery in an Indian brick kiln. Over the last couple of weeks, several of the siblings had escaped, making the brick kiln all the more dangerous for those who were left behind.
Tricked Once, Trapped For Good
On February 11 2013, IJM Bangalore got a desperate call for help. The caller was a young man named Prasham.* Prasham had escaped from a brick kiln where he and his siblings had been held captive for about six months.
Prasham relayed a terrible story. The three brothers and their sister were lured into the brick kiln with a hefty advance – a large amount of money that was more than their family had ever dreamed of. The siblings agreed to repay it through their work, but when they arrived they quickly realized they had been tricked. They were paid pennies for their work – about $5 a week. They were trapped.
The labor intensive process of baking clay bricks under the hot sun was back-breaking. Prasham told of a time when his sister was sick, and yet the owner forced her to keep working. He said one of the owner's men, a watchman, beat his sister, and threatened Prasham when he tried to stand up for her.
Prasham said that the brick kiln owner let the brothers and sister take a short leave in January, to go home for an important Indian holiday. When the siblings didn't return to the kiln, the owner traveled to their village to track them down. Prasham and his sister successfully hid themselves, but his little brothers, 9 and 13, were taken by the owner.
The two young boys were locked up in a small shed every night, let out only to work. They were forced to work even if they were sick, and if they spoke of illness they were kicked. But somehow, the boys managed to escape.
Two Brothers Escape, Another Held Hostage
At the end of February, IJM learned that situation in the brick kiln had worsened. The brick kiln owner allegedly went to a nearby brick kiln and kidnapped Prasham's older brother. The brash owner locked them up and threatened to keep them hostage until Prasham and his brothers returned. Prasham said that the owner and his managers called him, telling him that they would "break my brother's hands and legs if we don't return back to the brick kiln."
IJM moved quickly and took the case to the government official who has the authority and responsibility to root out forced labor slavery in his district. Within two days, on February 26, 2013, IJM staff and government officials were en route to the brick kiln.
The brick kiln owner at first denied that he was harboring Prasham's older brother. But when the government official leading the operation demanded that the owner produce the young man at once, the owner changed his story. The owner said the young man was on his way back to the brick kiln. But the IJM and government rescue team found the young man on the road, being led away from the kiln.
Freedom At Last
The government official heard the stories from all of the brothers and sister, including the older brother who had been locked up for two days. The official determined that all six deserved release certificates, legal documents that declare them free and entitle them to certain government benefits.
A police report was also filed, to ensure the siblings remain safe while evidence is collected to build a case against the brick kiln owner.
An IJM social worker escorted the family back to their village, in the neighboring state, and they will now join IJM's aftercare program. IJM will follow up to make sure they remain safe and are able to restart their lives in freedom by getting back to school or finding good jobs.
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.