22 June 2022
BANGALORE, INDIA – Members of an anti-trafficking coalition in Karnataka state immediately took action upon hearing about the violent abuse at a local brick kiln.
Together with police and government officials, they helped rescue two families who had been trafficked across the country and forced to work in violent conditions for two years. Today, those families are resettling safely at home. A survivor shared with relief:
“I am able to just freely breathe, now that we are out of that jail.”
Terrifying Violence at a Brick Kiln
This case began when a desperate father escaped the brick kiln where he, his mother, wife and three children were held for the last two years.
In early 2020, his family and another were lured to a brick kiln with a payment advance of 30,000 rupees (about $500 AUD) each and the promise of fair wages in southern India. Once they arrived, however, the women were barred from leaving the kiln and the men were closely watched.
Every day, these families were forced to labour for meagre wages and under frequent verbal and physical abuse. They had barely enough for food and had no access to protection or medical care in spite of the dangerous work at the kiln.
The families tried to escape to a neighbouring state in early 2022 but were caught by the kiln owner. He dragged them back and beat them violently.
The owner also started to claim false interest and increased their debt from 30,000 to 127,000 rupees (about $2000 AUD). The families started to feel hopeless.
Mobilising an Urgent Rescue Operation
Foreseeing no other options, one of the men risked escape again and sought help from community members. They connected him with the Mukti Alliance, a network of over 60 organisations and concerned citizens working to end trafficking in the state of Karnataka.
Armed with his powerful statement, Mukti Alliance members appealed to senior leaders at the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR), which is the state’s authority on bonded labour issues.
On 22 June, government officials assembled a team and travelled to the kiln to investigate the claims. They were shocked by the family’s living conditions and reports of violence. The kiln owner was taken into police custody and ten victims were brought to safety that day. The police also filed their official report within two hours – an incredible sign of progress on the issue – and included potential charges for bonded labour and human trafficking.
Returning Home at Last
The two families (five adults and five children) were brought to safety at a government office, where they received medical care and Release Certificates to prove their freedom. They also received compensation from the government within six days – another indicator of the government’s proactiveness in addressing the issue of bonded labour.
Mukti Alliance members advocated for the government to escort these families back to their hometowns so that they can be introduced to the local authorities for their ongoing protection.
IJM will continue to support the families through our two-year rehabilitative aftercare program. With help from trained social workers, these families can recover from trauma, find dignified work, learn new skills, and build a safer future for their children.
About the Mukti Alliance
The Mukti Alliance was formally inaugurated by the Karnataka State Government in March 2019 as a coalition of like-minded organisations focused on sharing knowledge and advocating together to end human trafficking and bonded labour. The alliance includes over 60 representatives from civil society organisations, NGOs, human rights defenders, lawyers, and private citizens standing up for justice. IJM was involved in the early inception of the Alliance, but today this network operates largely independently as a sustainable advocate for change.
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