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South Asia

IJM and Indian Government Support Thousands during COVID Pandemic

DELHI, INDIA – This year IJM’s team in Delhi has been able to work closely with the Indian central government to support thousands of vulnerable families and former bonded labourers. This relationship has been years in the making and proved especially crucial during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Our work with the government’s Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) began in 2015, when they nominated IJM Delhi to pilot poverty-alleviation projects for families who had been rescued from bonded labor. In 2019, the partnership grew when MoRD connected IJM with various State Rural Livelihood Missions (SRLMs), which are government agencies that provide employment and aid programs for communities living in poverty.

In February 2020, staff from IJM Delhi visited the states of Kerala and Jharkhand to learn more about SRLM projects that relate to our work. These projects cover a wide range of protections – from preventing risky migration to combatting human trafficking to facilitating community-level rehabilitation for survivors.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swelled in March, we also learned about the significant support the SRLMs were able to provide to struggling communities. Their programs provided crucial healthcare and financial support to impoverished villages, and also assisted thousands of migrant labourers who were trying to return home in the pandemic.

This led IJM to forge an important new partnership with the state of Jharkhand, which has traditionally been a major “source state” for human trafficking. In April 2020, IJM signed a special 3-month Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help support trafficking victims and migrant laborers who had left Jharkhand and were stranded across the country.

In May and June alone, IJM and our casework partners were able to intervene in 538 cases of people from Jharkhand who had been trafficked or who were stuck in abusive work where they had migrated. Together we helped more than 9,000 people return to Jharkand safely or get the relief they needed during lockdown.

In total, IJM and our network of partners have provided relief to migrant laborers in 17 Indian states during the pandemic, and we continue to support the central and state governments as the virus continues. These close relationships are a breakthrough for IJM’s work and a great indicator of the credibility our staff and partners have built.

As we continue working with MoRD, IJM will help review new proposals for relief projects and anti-trafficking initiatives in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states. IJM Delhi will also continue working with officials in Jharkhand on long-term plans for improving trafficking prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and prosecution in the state.

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