“Wherever you go, I’ll come there and bring you back.”
This was the haunting threat a wealthy chicken farmer used for years against six impoverished families working for him as bonded labor slaves.
Today, his control over them has ended thanks to local law enforcement and IJM staff. The six families—11 adults and 11 children—are free from bondage and no longer need to be afraid of the owner’s threats.
Their plight had begun four years ago, when this powerful local business owner approached them to work on his farm. He gave them an advance of 500 rupees (about $7)—even though the families said they didn’t want a loan—but then used this debt to manipulate and control them.
From there, the families were forced to work on the man’s large chicken farm and the nearby fields. Hard work was not the problem—it was the appalling conditions and slave owner’s threats that left them desperate for release when the rescue team arrived on July 13, 2018.
Local officials were particularly moved when they saw the conditions of the families’ small, makeshift houses. They were filled with hundreds of houseflies, accompanied by a strong stench that filled the air. The walls were flimsy and left space for insects and rain to enter.
One man said he was beaten by the owner for trying to use a tarp to fortify his house from the elements.
Mothers at the farm could not watch their children, so they made crude swings out of old clothes to hold their babies as they worked. One young woman, about 18 years old, was seven months pregnant but had not been allowed to see a doctor for a checkup.
In reality, the chickens they tended got more medication than the families working there.
Today, however, everything has changed. Police filed charges against the farm owner. The rescued families have returned to their home village and will begin recovering with the help of IJM social workers.
Government officials also equipped them with release certificates—which break their false debts to the owner—as well as new clothes and other tools to re-start life in freedom and exist without fear.