In the last three years, over 1800 people in Tamil Nadu have been rescued from bonded labour and of them, 30% are minors. These labourers are trapped in brick kilns, agricultural fields and even forest across the state, struggling to repay the loan that they or their forefathers took from the 'owner'. They work for decades to pay back loans as small as Rs 1000. But they are not held by walls in these venues where they are exploited and abused. They are held by fear.
This is because freedom often comes at the cost of their children.
Palaniappan and Shankar, who both belong to the Irula community, worked with their families as bonded labourers in Tanjavur and Chennai respectively. When Palaniappan and wife requested for a short break to visit their native village for Pongal in 2016, their employer let them go but only after they left behind their 6-year-old child Bhuvana. She was physically abused, forced to do domestic work and even sexually harassed in an effort to ensure that her parents came back to work in the sugarcane field.
In Shankar's case meanwhile, the employer threatened to fire the family if they did not stop the education of their 15-year-old daughter Soundarya. He demanded that she be brought to work at the woodcutting unit. When Shankar refused, he was beaten into submission.
"Parents leaving behind children is a very common phenomenon in bonded labour. You will never see parents travelling together. One person needs to be left behind and most often it is children. The only treasure or worth these parents have is the kids and very often these kids are used as bargaining chips,” says Sharon Jabez of the International Justice Mission. “We've seen kids being abducted, we've seen kids being beaten, we've seen kids being hidden - just to make the labourers work.”
When children become collateral for parents enslaved in bonded labour: A documentary.
When children become collateral for parents enslaved in bonded labour: A documentary.Posted by TheNewsMinute on Sunday, 1 July 2018