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South Asia

Twenty-Nine Freed from Years of Bondage at Construction Sites

DELHI, INDIA – On 15 December 2020, IJM assisted our partner NGO and local authorities to rescue 29 people from bonded labour at a construction site where they had been trapped for years.

These families—including eight children—were originally from a tribal community in Telangana state, but had been lured to Karnataka by a trafficker working as a construction sub-contractor.

IJM and our partner Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) have seen an emerging pattern of trafficking happening between these two states. Recruiters would convince impoverished families to follow them to good jobs in Karnataka’s booming cities, then leave them in appalling working conditions. They would also give the families payment advances, which then become debts they’d have to repay through their labour.

The families in this case had allegedly been trapped under these false debts for up to three years. Their children were never allowed to go to school and instead had to watch their parents suffer or work alongside them. The contractors often moved the families between worksites. Most recently, they were working at a construction site for a university in Shivamogga District.

Once FSD and IJM staff alerted them of the abuses happening at the worksite, a government team representing police, the Labour Department and the Women and Child Development department staged a rescue operation to bring the families to safety at last.

“These survivors are the poorest of the poor,” shared one FSD leader. “Due to extreme poverty, money lenders and middlemen are easily targeting and exploiting this community. Today, they got freedom from bondage. They are happy…Today we witnessed brighter faces and sunshine in their speechless look.”

Officials gave the rescued adults Release Certificates, which break their false debts and will help them get additional services from the government. Authorities have filed police reports against two site supervisors for trafficking and bonded labour, as well as special protection orders to keep the families safe as they return to Telangana.

As the families arrive home for the first time in years, IJM and FSD and our partners will help them readjust to life in freedom and get the long-term aftercare they need to recover.


Read more about this case in The Hindu. Watch local-language coverage of the case on news channel GNS here.

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