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South Asia

State Agency Triggers Three Rescues in One Month

July 2022

Chennai, India – The fate of families in bonded labour used to rest solely with the decisions of their local government. But today, victims waiting for relief can also rely on powerful state-level agencies working to protect all citizens of Tamil Nadu and ensure local officials fully protect those in need.

This has been the case with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which is responsible for protecting citizens’ human rights, ensuring government officials perform their duties, and mediating legal cases that pertain to human rights violations.

The SHRC was prompted to action after the tragic death of a two-year-old boy on 7 May. He was killed by a live wire at a brick kiln.

News of the boy’s tragic death reached READ, an IJM partner working in the area, who also confirmed that the boy’s family and eight other people at the kiln were being forced to work in dangerous bonded labour conditions. However, when READ brought the case to local officials, they were met with a lack of political will.

Read staff helped the two-year-old’s father file a petition to the SRHC seeking justice for their family. The SHRC immediately took on the case, investigated the brick kiln and what happened, and summoned local officials to revisit the case.

An official from the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in Tamil Nadu interviews a woman who had been trapped in bonded labour at a brick kiln.

With new pressure from the state, local officials then went back to the brick kiln for a full enquiry under the law. They rescued all ten victims in June and gave them their Release Certificates to prove their freedom. Authorities also arranged transportation back to the victims’ hometown and promised to ensure their ongoing safety.

Following this case, the district leader led two more inspections at nearby facilities and rescued five additional victims of bonded labour.

The success of these three rescue operations proves the incredible value of state accountability measures to equip local leaders and ensure they are protecting people in poverty.

IJM has regularly engaged with the SHRC and provided trainings on similar cases. Throughout their partnership, the SHRC has steadily improved their knowledge of bonded labour laws and increasingly taken action to prompt local authorities where gaps exist. Their efforts have sped up the conduct of rescue operations moving forward. And for families trapped in bonded labour across the state today, this speedier and more sensitive intervention makes all the difference.

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