Five bonded labor survivors from two southern Indian states, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, got the prestigious opportunity to meet the President of India Droupadi Murmu at her official residence on June 12, 2023.
President Murmu hosted a first-of-its-kind get-together with people belonging to tribal communities that are classified under Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)* across India. As she also hails from a tribal community, she is passionate about empowering the downtrodden and marginalized in India.
The goal of the event was to interact with the community members and provide insight into various special government welfare programs that will enable tribal community members to access basic needs such as education, safe loans, and livelihood opportunities. These measures help fight poverty and gain stability, reducing the risk of being trafficked and exploited.
Bonded labor survivors Pachaiyammal, Muniappan, and Durai from Tamil Nadu and Ankamma and Naganna from Telangana were among the nearly 1,350 guests from 75 PVTGs who attended this historic event. IJM and our partners had worked with government stakeholders to recommend these outstanding survivor leaders to attend this prestigious meeting.
President Murmu recognizes tribal communities and meets IJM recommended survivor leaders
Addressing the gathering, the President acknowledged that each attendee represented their respective community and encouraged them to share their learnings about the government’s welfare programs with them. She emphasized the significance of education and highlighted special provisions in residential schools and scholarship programs.
Ankamma, who was rescued from a fishing facility in 2016, was inspired by the President’s speech. She expressed, “When I met the President, I realized that anyone with education and perseverance can achieve such a position. I am determined to ensure that my children receive an education and become successful individuals who contribute to society. I am excited to help my community access these welfare programs for individual and community upliftment.”
The President honored representatives from each community with a ceremonial gift and a photo opportunity on stage. Survivors Pachaiyammal and Ankamma were thrilled to represent their communities from Tamil Nadu and Telangana respectively.
Pachaiyammal who was rescued from a rock quarry in 2012, was ecstatic to experience this golden opportunity. She exclaimed, “I will cherish this moment forever! I realized the importance of the event only when a military person we encountered on the train explained to us how rare it is to be able to meet the President of the country, to get to stand close and take pictures with her.”
For Ankamma, Pachaiyammal and all those who hail from tribal communities, this is no small feat. From their small hamlets in remote places to visiting the President in the country’s capital is a moment of absolute joy and pride. Ankamma affirms, “It was an eye-opening experience to witness the world beyond my village and community, to meet the first citizen of India and to connect with and learn from other tribal communities across the country.”