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South Asia

Interstate Operation Frees 42 from Violent Abuse at a Sugarcane Farm

MAHARASHTRA, INDIA – In one of our network’s first rescue operations of the year, IJM’s partner organisation Jan Sahas coordinated with police in two Indian states to free 42 people from violent bonded labour at a sugarcane factory.

These labourers come from several of India’s tribal communities. These communities tend to face a lot of discrimination, and there are specific laws in India to protect them from abuse.

In this case, a trafficker had approached these families in their home state of Madhya Pradesh and promised them good wages and a place to live if they agreed to work at the sugarcane farm 1127 kilometres away, in Maharashtra state.

They travelled to the farm in December 2019, but almost immediately realised they had been tricked. They were forced to undergo long hours of work cutting and loading the heavy sugarcane stalks. Many experienced violent physical abuse and harassment. The farm owner never allowed them to leave the facility—saying he had paid the trafficker almost A$30,000 for them. Some of the labourers tried to run away, but they were quickly caught and brought back.

Luckily, the trapped labourers were able to get word to their family back home, who told Jan Sahas staff about the violence at the farm. The Jan Sahas team then filed a formal complaint with police, which initiated an interstate rescue operation.

Local authorities in Maharahstra entered the farm and brought 42 labourers to safety on January 11, then helped the rescued labourers return to their homes in Madhya Pradesh.

Jan Sahas staff are continuing to follow up on the case to ensure charges are brought against the slave holders and traffickers who abused these families, and to ensure the survivors get ongoing government protection and support.

About IJM’s Partnership Model
IJM has collaborated with local authorities to rescue and restore slaves in India since 2001. In 2012, we launched a new project in Delhi to partner with like-minded organisations across the country, share expertise, replicate success in addressing bonded labour and in building government capacity, and build them up to work with public justice institutions. Our trained partner Jan Sahas has been defending and empowering oppressed communities in central India since 2000.

*Header image depicts a sugarcane field with survivors from a different Jan Sahas case.

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