An expansive search has led to the safe rescue of Vignesh,* a 10-year-old boy who has spent the last two years enslaved at a goat farm.
Vignesh comes from a very poor family in southern India. His mother died when he was young, and his father was struggling to care for their five children. He made the difficult choice of sending Vignesh to work at the goat farm in exchange for an advance payment of 40,000 rupees (about $530).
Work at the farm was far more than any child could handle. Every day, Vignesh had to take 100 goats to graze across the open plains—sometimes walking up to 10 kilometers a day. He was alone most of the time and never went to school. He only had weak rice gruel to eat, and at night he slept in the fields with the goats.
Fortunately, Vignesh’s plight was discovered by IJM’s casework partner SHED India, who we have funded and trained over the last several years. They brought the case to local authorities and, on August 12, canvassed a 5-kilometer stretch of grassland searching for the little boy.
Vignesh was brought safely to a government office for rest, a warm meal, and a Release Certificate which marks him as free.
Mr. Pathimaraj, the Director of SHED India who was at the operation, shares, “I am overjoyed that little Vignesh can now look to a hopeful future. There was excellent convergence between different government departments to save one little soul.”
Local officials have also expressed public thanks for the swift collaboration. In a press conference after the rescue, they praised SHED India for taking action. This is a great sign of increasing government-NGO collaboration, which has been difficult at times in the past.
Going forward, Vignesh will be supported by the Child Welfare Committee for short-term care and protection. Authorities will work with SHED India on a plan to assess where it will be safest for Vignesh to live and heal long-term.