‘Me, The Change’ is The Quint’s campaign for the first-time women voter who has an achievement to her name, however big or small. As part of the campaign, The Quint is accepting nominations for these young women achievers and showcasing these stories. If you know someone who fits the bill, let us know by emailing at email@example.com.
Pachayammal was married to Arul when she was barely sixteen years old. She married willingly, for love. But little did she know that she married into slavery. Arul had been a bonded labourer from when he was eight years old. He had ‘inherited’ his father’s debt (a mere Rs 10,000) after his father had run away, leaving him at the mercy of the rock quarry owner.
For six years, Pachayammal slaved for the quarry owner with more than 25 other bonded labourers. The days would be hard and long, breaking and carrying rock from 4:30 am to 9:00 pm. There would be only one meal a day, of watery rice gruel. They had to face physical, verbal and sexual abuse on a daily basis.
Pachayammal was rescued when she was 23. Freedom changed her in ways no one imagined.
She now draws from an unending well of self-confidence, to seek out from the government basic rights (home, electricity, work) for rescued bonded labourers. And she rescues those still under the throes of slavery. She stakes out quarries, brick kilns, carpentry units for months on end. Goes in to work in those units, to get close to the bonded labourers to ascertain the truth, ropes in government officials and organises a raid!
In less than three years, Pachayammal has rescued over 100 people from slavery, advocated for homes and work for them, and has rehabilitated them.
Pachayammal is twenty five years old.
There are over 10 lakh bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu alone.
The original article published on The Quint can be found here.