Millions of people are enslaved in India today—but, more and more, we are seeing compassionate leaders across the country rising up to combat slavery head-on.
The fight grew stronger this week in southern India, through two rescue operations led by NGO and government partners trained by IJM. Their proactive and professional response to the crime gives us great hope that we can soon end slavery in India for good.
“We have been intentional about investing our resources into raising leaders who can lead rescue operations,” says Merlin Freeda, IJM’s director in Chennai. “This creates a ripple effect in different districts of the state. It is encouraging to note that the people we have trained are now taking up the fight and amplifying our efforts.”
Local NGO Rescues Two Little Boys
On April 17, an IJM-trained NGO called ChildLine rallied local authorities to rescue two young boys who were being exploited at a goat farm.
ChildLine raised the case less than a month after a training from IJM on human trafficking and modern-day slavery. This case was one of several rescues they’ve conducted in the area—an amazing demonstration of their eagerness to protect the poor in this community.
These rescued brothers—ages 5 and 7—had been sold to the goat farm by their father for only 10,000 rupees (about $150) after their mother passed away. For the next three months, the boys were forced to take care of a herd of goats in rough conditions and with only poor-quality rice to eat. They were even made to sleep in the field with the animals.
Today the boys are in safe custody and receiving medical care, while their father and the farm owner are under police investigation. Local officials will find a safe aftercare placement for the children and help them join a local school as well.
Proactive Government Sweep Frees 21
Just a few days later, on April 24, an IJM-trained Vigilance Committee led a first-of-its-kind sweep of four local businesses to see if bonded labor slavery was happening in his area.
Vigilance Committees (VCs) are a network of local government leaders, business owners, NGO staff and community members who are trained to respond to cases of slavery or trafficking in their district. This was the first known VC-led operation in Tamil Nadu state.
Once the team discovered evidence of bonded labor at one of the four brick kilns, they immediately sprang into action to rescue 12 children and nine adults trapped there. Law enforcement officers brought the families to safety, recorded their official statements, and got them warm meals as they began to heal.
Nine adults and one 14-year-old boy were given release certificates, which prove they were bonded laborers and that they no longer owe anything to the kiln owner.
From here, IJM and our partners will help the rescued families return home safely and resettle in freedom. Local police will continue to investigate the slave owner who trapped them at the brick kiln.
Part of a Bigger Picture
These two successful rescue operations are the fruit of IJM’s comprehensive anti-slavery program in India, whereby we’re working with governments, NGOs and other partners to help the justice system better protect the poor.
With nearly 20 years of experience on the front lines, our teams are able to provide insightful and expert trainings on identifying and responding to bonded labor, as well as equipping partners to support survivors long-term.
Training partners across the country will enable us to make maximum impact and rescue thousands from bonded labor slavery every year—so one day we can say this devastating crime is truly a thing of the past.
*Children’s faces have been obscured to protect their identities.