The rescued labourers were given a two-year training to teach them fresh skills, integrate them into the system and bolster their confidence.

Rescued from TN these bonded labourers are now living life on their own terms
news Bonded Labour Monday, September 24, 2018 - 13:13

A young woman stands amidst her family of seven, chirping away excitedly in Odiya as she points to a magnificent stage set up in the village of Tittlagarh in Odisha’s Balangir district. Dressed in a pink salwar, the 18-year-old is gearing up for a rare honour – she will be receiving an award from Balangir MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo for being a leader her community looks up to. From her calm demeanour and ready smile, it is impossible to tell that just two years back, she was forced into a life of slavery by her own father, for an amount of Rs 16,000.

Meet Pinky Kaindi, a bonder labourer-turned-businesswoman who was rescued from a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu’s Tirvallur district in 2016.

Pinky along with 500 others were saved from the kiln by the district administration with the help of the International Justice Mission (IJM), which works to rescue and rehabilitate bonded labourers. They had been illegally brought from districts across Odisha after being paid advances ranging from Rs 15,000 – Rs 16,000.

“I used to work for at least 15 hours a day at the kiln and even a small break meant physical and verbal abuse from the owner,” Pinky recalls. “We were beaten up a lot and I thought my life was ruined. I’ve seen the owner even misbehave with some older women,” she adds.

But three months into her time at the kiln, Pinky was rescued and given a new lease of life. She was given training in tailoring at a local institute. And now the hands that shaped bricks for less than Rs 100 a week are busy stitching clothes with ease.

“Just last week, I got an order for 500 uniforms,” she says proudly. “I don’t charge much because I want to first ensure that I get enough orders. But I am already earning close to Rs 4,000 a month,” she says.

Pinky is just one among the five former bonded labourers who received awards for the resilience they had shown in the face of adversity. On Friday, they had all gathered in Balangir district to meet the labourers they had been rescued with, after a two-year training programme hosted by IJM to teach them fresh skills, integrate them into the system and bolster their confidence.

Wearing a bright orange shirt, 27-year-old Jaya Katki stands proudly near his wife and two-year-old child. Jaya is another example of the reach of the rehabilitation programme. His son was in still in his mother’s womb when this family was rescued from the kiln in Tiruvallur district.

“I thought my wife would die,” says Jaya, recalling the horror he had experienced. “She was heavily pregnant and the owner didn’t even let us go to the hospital for a check-up. He made her work over 12 hours a day even in that condition and he beat me up mercilessly if I requested him,” he adds, his voice constricting.

Jaya and his wife had come to TN after taking an advance of Rs 30,000 but once at the kiln, they were paid only Rs 100 per head every week.

“I couldn’t even get enough food for my wife. It felt like a nightmare we couldn’t get out of. We didn’t even have proper shelter,” he explains. But not only was Jaya rescued, he now puts a roof over several heads to earn money. “With the help of loans from government self-help groups, I started a tent business. Now we make Rs 3,000 – 4,000 a week based on the season. We have never been happier,” he says proudly.

But for these survivors, the dream doesn’t end with just their success.

“I’m going to start my own tailoring unit and hire others,” Pinky says. “And they will all get fair wages.” 

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.