TAMIL NADU, INDIA – Trained government officials led a surprise inspection in Chennai city on July 19, 2023, which rescued 12 minor boys who were victims of human trafficking and child bonded labor. The victims had been forced to work at a jewelry factory on a narrow, congested street in Chennai.
Local authorities found the victims locked inside a small room working alongside adults. The boys had been forced to make jewelry using their bare hands for over 12 hours each day without any safety gear. Appalled, one of the officials who led the rescue expressed, "They are found inside a locked room in an inhuman condition. They cook, eat, bathe and sleep in the same place.”
The victims had been trafficked from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu, which is a distance of about 1609 km. They had been lured by the employer with advance payments ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 rupees ($121.48 - $188.22 US).
As the officials who led this rescue operation were trained by IJM, they consulted with IJM over the phone regarding post-rescue processes to ensure that the state’s Standard Operating Procedures were followed.
The government freed the 12 boys by issuing Release Certificates to cancel their debts and then relocated them to a safe government shelter home for short-term aftercare. (Note: The adults were not identified as victims of trafficking, so they were not removed from the work site.)
The owner of the jewelry facility absconded on the day of rescue, but the government has already filed a complaint against him for violating Indian laws related to human trafficking, child labor and bonded labor.
Currently, the officials are working on logistics to ensure the boys can return home safely. In the interim, the IJM team in West Bengal has alerted the local authorities about the case and is ready to support as needed.
This successful rescue is the outcome of the government’s decision to increase the effectiveness of the Vigilance Committee (a committee that monitors bonded labour) in Chennai by merging it with the expertise of the Child Labor Task Force. Comprising of government officials and NGO representatives, the two teams have regularly conducted monthly inspections at worksites across Chennai, leading to five successful bonded labour rescue operations this year.
Commending the work of the government, one of IJM’s staff members stated, “It is great to see that child labor is also seen through the lens of bonded labour. The Chennai district administration has taken a firm decision to make its Vigilance Committee (VC) vibrant and functional.” Read more about this rescue here: Times of India