shield arrow-simple-alt-top arrow-simple-alt-left arrow-simple-alt-right arrow-simple-alt-bottom facebook instagram linkedin medium pinterest rss search-alt shaper twitter video-play arrow-long-right arrow-long-left arrow-long-top arrow-long-bottom arrow-simple-right arrow-simple-left arrow-simple-bottom readio arrow-simple-top speaker-down plus minus cloud hb pin camera globe cart rotate Group-35 star edit arrow-top arrow-right arrow-left arrow-bottom check search Close square speaker-up speaker-mute return play pause love new-tab equalizer

Four Convicted in Bangalore, Setting New Milestone for IJM’s Anti-Slavery Work

Last week, an Indian court made great strides in protecting the poor by convicting two brick kiln owners and two supervisors who had forced families—including children as young as 5—to work as bonded labourers.

The four accused had been arrested by local authorities in two separate IJM cases. These men had lured poor families with promises of good jobs and fair pay. Instead, the labourers and their children were trapped with violence and forced to work as slaves in order to pay off an ever-growing false debt.

'Large advances are no reason to hold someone against their will,' says Sashmeeta Mulmi, legal director with IJM in Bangalore. 'The key is whether this obligation has resulted in their exploitation or their freedom being restricted.'

Courts saw the clear exploitation that had taken place in these cases and, on Friday, 29th January, found the kiln owners and supervisors guilty under multiple sections of India’s Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976. By Monday, they were sentenced to two years of imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine for their crimes.

Case 1: Threats of Violence Kept Families in Fear

It was just days before Christmas in 2012 when government officials and IJM staff rescued 61 women, children and men from a brutal brick factory where they had been held in bonded labour slavery.

Entire families were trapped in this kiln, with even children as young as 5 forced to turn the heavy bricks. The labourers were never allowed to leave and could not even go to the toilet without being watched. They endured beatings and violent threats—even being threatened with electrical shocks—if their work did not meet the owner’s standards.

On the night the rescue team arrived to free them, it became clear this abusive kiln owner had heard about the government’s plans: All eight children had been hidden away. Parents fell to their hands and knees before the officers, begging to be set free and to get their children back. The officials were deeply moved and worked tirelessly to question the owner, eventually reuniting the families and bringing them all to safety.

Case 2: Owner Confined Labourers to a Tiny Shed

The second case came from another brick kiln rescue in March 2014, when IJM met a woman desperate for help for her family members, who had been held by the controlling kiln owner for over a year.

These four adults and three children worked nearly 14 hours each day making and hauling heavy bricks. The owner watched them constantly, and frequently beat these workers when they faltered. When they were not working, the families were confined to a small shed.

When one labourer attempted to escape the kiln, the owner tracked him down, dragged him back, and locked him in a room for two days as punishment.

Our IJM team worked with government officials and local police to investigate the kiln and soon conducted a rescue operation to free all seven people. The rescued labourers shared the truth boldly in their official statements and quickly received the medical care and warm meals they needed.

The rescued families in both cases joined IJM’s two-year aftercare program. Social workers helped them return to their home villages and have met with the families often for skills training and ongoing support as they build new lives in freedom.

Significant Progress in the Ongoing Fight against Slavery

Historically, convictions in cases like these have been difficult in India’s court system. Officials are often hesitant to bring charges against wealthy business owners who mistreat the poor, and unreliable evidence gathered by untrained police often fails to sustain a strong prosecution.

IJM’s team in Bangalore has worked with officials since 2006 to combat bonded labour slavery and improve the way police and courts uphold justice for the poor. They have collaborated closely with the Anti-Human Trafficking Police to rescue hundreds of children and families over the last few years.

'Convictions for bonded labor crimes have been rare,' says Esther Daniel, IJM’s director of justice system engagement in Bangalore. 'But through strong sentences in [these recent judgments], the Court emphasized the seriousness of the crime and brought the perpetrators to justice quickly and decisively.'

These recent convictions are significant because each step of the trial process functioned correctly. Victims showed perseverance and bravery while testifying in court. Public prosecutors showed compassion for the victims and were proactive throughout. The judge was constantly engaged during the trial, and was meticulous in his duties. He ensured that every statement of testimony was recorded, and his judgment demonstrated strong adherence to the letter of the laws against bonded labour in India.

These convictions demonstrate how the police and court systems can provide justice for the poor and vulnerable, and how perpetrators of bonded labour slavery can expect to be punished.

T'his is just the beginning of the tipping point,' Esther adds. 'Meaningful sentences and effective enforcement of the law will little by little—but surely—build safe communities and protect the poor from violent crimes like bonded labour slavery.'

You might also be interested in…

About Stories see more
Three traffickers found guilty of sex trafficking in the UK

Mara*, a survivor of trafficking from Romania, has received justice.

Families’ Relief at Justice for Joseph, Josephat and Willie

Today, at long last, the wait for justice is over.

Trafficker sentenced to 7 years in prison

Two survivors of sex trafficking in Mumbai received justice after a trafficker was convicted for exploiting women and girls.

Two traffickers jailed for exploiting Romanian women in the UK

A husband and wife have been jailed at Southwark Crown Court after being convicted of numerous counts of human trafficking against Romanian women, who had been deceived into coming to the UK with the promise of work.

You Can Help Send Rescue Today.

When you give a gift today, you’ll be fighting slavery, violence, and injustice across the globe. Together, we can end slavery and violence in our lifetime.

You can make the most impact as a Freedom Partner today.

Your generous monthly support will help send rescue to vulnerable children and families at a moment’s notice, stand with them as they rebuild their lives in freedom and have perpetrators held accountable.


Donor Portal

Review your giving, tax statements and contact info via the IJM Donor Portal.

please sign in
Email Sign Up
Get updates from IJM on stories from the field, events in your area and opportunities to get involved.
sign up