Last week, IJM staff supported local authorities and partners in a rescue operation to free 24 people from forced labor slavery at a brick kiln, including 11 children.
It marked the first joint operation between IJM and our new partner organization, Jai Bhim Vikas Shikshan Sansthan, and our first rescue in Rajasthan—India’s largest state.
Ending years of violent abuse
Jai Bhim approached IJM with the case earlier this year after discovering four families living in fear at a local brick kiln, after years of verbal abuse and violent threats.
The kiln owner had forced these children, women and men to live in shabby mud-walled houses with poor sanitation, and he forbade the children from going to school. Each week, he gave the families just a small amount of money to buy meager food supplies in a nearby market—barely enough for them to survive.
Today, they are free of his ongoing abuse and the years of forced labor.
On the day of rescue, local officials and IJM staff provided the families with a warm meal as they gave their statements and received official release certificates to mark their freedom. Over the next few weeks, authorities will continue to investigate this kiln owner and work with Jai Bhim staff in local courts to hold him accountable for his alleged crimes.
Officials brought the families safely back to their home village and will help them access ration cards, rehabilitation funds and other government benefits arranged for rescued slaves. Jai Bhim will provide them ongoing aftercare as they adjust to life outside the kiln.
The rescue operation received coverage in local television and newspapers, and the Chief Minister of the state reportedly congratulated officials who helped free these families and called for strict action against the kiln owners. It was a thrilling start to a deeper partnership beginning between Rajasthan’s anti-trafficking authorities, IJM and our local partners.
Ajoy Varghese, IJM’s director in Delhi, says, “This rescue—led by the government and supported by Anti-Human Trafficking Unit officials—is a classic example of how a functioning public justice system makes all the difference in ending everyday violence against the poor.”
Partnering to protect the poor
This operation was just one of many IJM has conducted with partner organizations over the last few years. Our team in Delhi team collaborates with NGO partners across India to share knowledge and replicate successes in combating slavery and trafficking alongside local law enforcement.
Experts estimate there may be as many as 12 million people held in slavery in India—forced to work in brick kilns, rock quarries, rice mills, textile factories and other industries. (Siddharth Kara)
Our partner Jai Bhim has been working to empower the poor in Rajasthan since 1993, with experience combating forced labor slavery in mining communities across the state. IJM began partnering with Jai Bhim in 2015 to work with the public justice system to rescue and restore children, women and men trafficked for forced labor slavery.
“The dedication, experience and passion Jai Bhim has brought to this partnership has been commendable” says Anu George, IJM’s director of national interventions.
“This rescue operation and its success has been largely due to the persistent and consistent efforts of the teams in both organizations, who would not give up until the laborers identified in this brick kiln were rescued and brought to safety. We are proud to learn, grow and work with an organization like Jai Bhim.”