“You go everywhere and rescue people,” he said, “why can’t you send these boys home?”
His instincts were right, and Raja quickly reported the potential slavery case to a child labour helpline and his IJM colleagues.
On 21 June, the team joined government officials to investigate the facility—a place where thousands of Chennai families get their drinking water—and what they found was shocking.
Five teen boys and one young man had been trafficked to the facility from northern India. They had to use chemicals to make water drinkable and then bottled it for sale. Due to high demand, they were being forced to work nearly 24 hours a day in appalling conditions, leaving them wounded, exhausted and terrified. Some had been enslaved for five years.
Local officials documented the evidence of brutality at the water treatment centre, then helped the boys move quickly to a safe location. The boys could barely stay awake to share their testimonies, and they soon fell deep asleep after getting warm meals and a place to rest.
Police have filed charges against the facility owner and his accomplices, and they are working on arresting these suspects in the coming weeks. Officials also shut down the water treatment facilities and locked their doors.
The rescue operation tied in with a fresh commitment from the Tamil Nadu state government to protect children after World Day Against Child Labour, which took place on 12 June.
Once the operation was completed, authorities brought the boys to a short-term aftercare shelter to rest and heal. Next, IJM will help the boys return to their homes in northern India and will provide long-term rehabilitative care.
International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.Find out more
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