Trafficked for Paltry Sums, Today They Hope to Rebuild Their Lives

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad & Sandeep Suman
Producer: Akanksha Kumar

For three years, Uma, her husband Ramesh and the couple’s two kids were forced to work at a brick kiln in Karnataka’s Chikkaballapur district.

The family was finally rescued in 2014 when Bengaluru-based NGO IJM (International Justice Mission) alerted the police and the owner of the kiln was arrested on charges of bonded labour.

"“We lived in a lot of fear. We were worried about our survival and uncertainty surrounding our children’s future.”" - Uma, Trafficking SurvivorUnable to Repay Loan Resulted in Bonded Labour

Their troubles began after the family took a loan of Rs 1,30,000 from the brick kiln owner who offered jobs to Uma and Ramesh, saying that they can repay the money in six months.

However, at a rate of Rs 150 for every 1,000 bricks, there was never enough money even to buy groceries; repaying the loan soon began to appear a distant dream.

"“We had to cut 1,500 bricks, come what may, every day. Our work would begin from 6 o’clock in the morning and would continue till 8 in the evening. Sometimes, we wouldn’t be allowed to go home at all.”" - Ramesh, Trafficking Survivor

According to the Global Slavery Index 2018 report, nearly 8 million Indians were still living as modern-day slaves in 2016.

Australia-based ‘Walk Free Foundation’ that publishes the Global Slavery Index annually, defines human trafficking as a form of slavery that includes ‘recruiting through coercive means for the purpose of exploitation.’

Trafficked at 12, Rescued After the Court Stepped In

Eighteen-year-old Surya’s eyes still well up as he recalls the torture inflicted on him by the owner of a confectionery unit in Maharashtra. Surya was employed at the age of twelve, along with his cousin. Both the kids were trafficked from Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu.

A broker had offered an advance of Rs 1,000 to Surya’s father in 2012, promising that more money will be given after Surya starts working in this factory in Nasik.

Surya’s family approached the court after his cousin Vijay ran away from the factory and shared their horror stories back at home.

The confectionery owner’s wife had beaten Surya’s cousin with an iron rod and poured hot oil on his legs after he asked for few days of leave.

"“When I was young, I didn’t feel any pain. I was able to lift up to 50 kg of sugar quite easily. I can’t do any of that now; my body has become frail.”" - Surya, Trafficking Survivor

Surya was finally rescued after an inter-state operation was conducted by the CID following the orders of the Madras High Court.

The question that has been bothering the activists is whether The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, which is pending in the Rajya Sabha offers anything new to survivors like Surya and Uma.

Concerns have been raised about the proposed Anti-Trafficking Fund with experts fearing that such initiatives may deprive the real beneficiaries of any benefit.

Since shelter homes have been under the scanner after the incident of sexual abuse came to light in Bihar, the problem that needs to be addressed immediately is rehabilitation.

Also Read: Bill to ‘Protect’ Trafficking Victims Make Sex Workers Less Safe

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