On November 24, 2021, IJM’s casework partner Jai Bhim Vikas Shikshan Sansthan (JBVSS) helped authorities rescue 19 people from bonded labor at an abusive brick kiln, in a tricky interstate case.
IJM and our partners have not done many cases in this particular western state in India, but the JBVSS team received an urgent tip about two families facing increasing violence there and knew they needed to act fast.
These two families—including 11 children—had been lured from an impoverished community in Uttar Pradesh. They were trafficked to the western state under the promise of good work and fair salaries, but instead were forced to work in appalling conditions under a powerful business owner. He flaunted his political connections and had no fear of being held accountable for his abuses.
For the last three months, the laborers were forced to mold and fire thousands of heavy clay bricks under the constant watch of the owner’s men. Over time, the violence against them escalated: Women faced constant sexual harassment, and the men were beaten if they tried to stand up to the supervisors.
After hearing about the abuse through a helpline referral, the JBVSS team tried to find local NGOs near the brick kiln who could intervene. When that failed, the intrepid team traveled across state lines themselves to bring the case to local authorities for action.
On November 24, JBVSS joined officials from the Labor Department and police on a rescue operation at the kiln. They worked late into the evening to interview the laborers and confirm the truth about the abuse, and then brought the two families to safety. Officials also made the owner pay back-wages to the families, helping to compensate them for work they were forced to do.
After the operation, JBVSS staff helped the survivors return to their home village, where they will be supported to overcome trauma and rebuild their security. The team will also work with district officials in the western state to hold the kiln owner accountable and ensure all local officials are educated and equipped to respond to future bonded labor cases.