INDIA – On February 28, IJM assisted the local government in a surprise operation at two farms suspected of holding an elderly man and several boys in forced labor. The boys had been purchased, in effect, by the owners of the farm, who advanced cash to their parents. Illegal by Indian law, advances like those offered to the boys’ families are often used to compel labor for years as the lender swells the owed sum through massively inflated interest charges and other spurious fees. These debts can eventually pass down through families, enslaving multiple generations on the basis of a small, decades-old advance.
As a result of the operation, an elderly man and 10 boys, five of whom were minors under the age of 14, were rescued from the farms.
The boys freed in this operation saw none of the financial benefit of their labor. Instead, they were forced to live and work on the farms, and their movement outside of the farms was severely limited. Housing was inadequate, with many of the victims forced to sleep outside. The owners of the farms paid no wages to the boys, only paltry food provisions and occasional pocket change. They were unable to attend school and instead spent their days engaged in hard agricultural labor. As a result of the operation, the elderly man and 10 boys, five of whom were minors under the age of 14, were rescued from the farms.
Two days later, based on the evidence provided by IJM and the corroborating testimony of the victims, the local government provided each of the victims with an official Release Certificate declaring their freedom. These Release Certificates are vital for victims of forced labor, as they entitle their bearers to financial compensation from the government that enables minors to transition to educational opportunities and adults to transition to stable jobs.
With IJM’s assistance, the local government officials also enrolled the five minor children under the age of 14 in school. IJM continues to work with the local government to ensure comprehensive and meaningful rehabilitation for each of the released victims. On March 3, IJM’s advocate presented a criminal complaint to the local police, resulting in the police registering a formal criminal complaint in the Court against the owners of the farms for illegal enforcement of a forced labor system. IJM will continue to pursue perpetrator accountability in this case.