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42 Freed from a Brick Kiln after Advocacy from Released Bonded Labourers' Association

Thirteen families are now free from forced labour at a brick kiln thanks to local officials, IJM staff, and the tireless advocacy of the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association—a network of survivors who stand up for others living in bondage.

On February 4, these families were liberated from a brick kiln where they faced ongoing abuse, deprivation, and exhausting work—some for just weeks, and some for the last five years.

Efforts to rescue them had begun in June 2018, when the RBLA heard about their plight in the kiln and brought the case to the government. But before local officials could act, someone tipped off the kiln owner and he sent many of the labourers away. He was politically well-connected and flexed his power to bury the case further. From there, everything stalled.

Undeterred, RBLA leaders continued to advocate to the government to re-investigate the kiln and the abusive owner. Their case eventually made its way to India’s National Human Rights Commission, who directed the district officials to re-open the case in February 2020.

This time, district officials proactively investigated the reports and found that this owner had trafficked additional families into his kiln. Other families were found to have been working there over false debts for the last five years. Many of the labourers were injured or malnourished, with no access to good food or medical care. Several women were pregnant, and many children worked alongside the adults.

On February 4, IJM supported local authorities in a rescue operation at the brick kiln to bring these families to safety. They rescued 42 people, including 13 children, and brought them to a government office to rest and gather evidence.

During the operation, children demonstrated to officials how they would turn the baking bricks in the hot sun. Their nimble hands and rough fingers proved how this had been their reality for a long time.

Government officials then stepped up to provide warm meals, medical check-ups and other necessities for the rescued families. They also gave them Release Certificates, which break their false debts to the kiln owner and help them access government benefits in the future. Local officials also arranged to take the families back to their home villages to rebuild life in freedom.

IJM commended these proactive officials for following the laws and best practices around rescuing bonded labourers, and for treating the survivors with dignity and respect throughout the process.

(Note: This counts as a Government-Led Operation, not an IJM case.)

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