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
Back to Stories

Trafficked, widowed, now free: Sandeep's story


Trafficked, widowed, now free: Sandeep's story

Once trapped in bonded labour, today this family is full of hope – and Sandeep is speaking out as a survivor leader.


August 2023

andeep’s struggles began when he was 20. He and his wife, Anita, had two young boys at home. Needing to support his children and his elderly parents too, Sandeep was pleased when a family friend helped find them jobs at a sugarcane farm.

Little did they know that the farm owner and this family “friend” had tricked and trafficked them. The promised advance payment never materialised, and they became trapped in bonded labour.

Hard Work, High Walls and Losing Hope

Within a few months of living and working at the farm, Sandeep’s daily wages were cut until he was given only dry rations of rice and lentils. What started as a hopeful dream of a better life was quickly falling apart.

“There was no such thing as relief for us,” Sandeep says. “We slogged for hours on end.” 

Sandeep and his family tried to escape, but the farmer’s connections and reputation made him a powerful man. He tracked them down, beat them, forced them back to the farm, and increased his reign of control and abuse.

“He warned us: ‘You want to run away? Now let us see how. If you run again, then I’ll beat you awfully bad. I’ll kill you and dig a pit with [a tractor] and bury you there.’

Sandeep’s elderly father lost several fingers after getting his hand trapped in heavy machinery. Just days later, while his wounds were still fresh, he was forced to peel off the stitches himself to continue working at the farm.

“The place where we were held felt like a prison,” Sandeep remembers.

“[They] erected high fences with barbed wires and gates on both sides, and even ran electric currents through the wires to prevent anyone from escaping.”

A Devastating Loss

The greatest tragedy was yet to come. One day, Sandeep’s wife Anita developed a fever and persistent cough. Growing dangerously unwell, Sandeep hurried her to the hospital in the middle of the night where she was admitted to ICU.

To his great distress, Sandeep was forced to return to the farm. “My employer called me repeatedly, asking me to leave the hospital. He even started abusing me and insisted that I return to work. I had no choice but to leave.”

Tragically, by the next morning, Anita had passed away without her husband by her side. Sandeep never learned the full story of what happened. He’s haunted by not being able to say goodbye.

“It was the most sorrowful day of my life. They took her away from me," Sandeep says, his eyes welling up with tears. “It was a devastating loss for our family.”

Sandeep became afraid that his children too might die in bonded labour. He grieved, “My kids only saw farms and fences; they knew nothing about the outside world.”

Freedom from slavery at last

Hope wasn’t lost – thanks to Sandeep’s cousin Madan. Madan had grown concerned about his family and reported their situation to IJM. The local IJM team escalated the case to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the police.

Finally, after eight years of abuse, local authorities arrived at the farm and brought 22 people to safety—including Sandeep’s family. Nine children were among them, including five who had been born at the farm. The youngest, Sandeep’s niece, was just three months old.

“I will never forget the moment they arrived in their vehicles to bring me to safety,” Sandeep reflects. “I burst into tears.”

One IJM staff member described: “Some of the children had never been outside the facility, so they didn't recognise chips and sweets when offered.”

Officers brought the families to a government office, where they received warm meals and a chance to rest. After the authorities had documented their stories and formally broken their false bonds to the farm owner, IJM helped Sandeep and his family return safely to their hometown.

Rebuilding on His Own Terms

Today Sandeep farms his own land and spends time with his three sons Prithviraj (12), Shubham (11) and Ganesh (eight). He says, “I love watching my children play on our own land. They keep reminding me of my freedom. It is unexplainable.”

2022 12 Sandeep 50 JPG 202212 MUM Sandeep Approved for Full Use

Sandeep is also stepping up as a survivor leader, sharing his story with local officials and journalists to help raise awareness and protect more people from bonded labour.

After so many years under the farm owner’s control, today 31-year-old Sandeep celebrates being free to make his own choices.

“Freedom means being the king of our own heart,” he explains. “When we were there, we were like dead bodies…We felt like we were in jail.”

He adds, “Now, we are happy here. Now we can do whatever we want, go anywhere…I have been granted a new life.”

“I will never forget the moment they brought me to safety.”

You might also be interested in…

About Stories see more
Girls calling for an end to trafficking: Ranjita's story

11th October is International Day of the Girl Child, a day dedicated to promoting the rights and wellbeing of girls. At IJM we're committed to empowering girls who have experienced trafficking or violence to pursue their dreams and to contribute towards a more just world - and Ranjita is leading the way!

Revisiting Worksites Shows IJM's Criminal Deterrence Method is Proving Sustainable and Effective

Revisiting six cases demonstrates IJM's model for criminal deterrence is proving effective. Effective law enforcement—including arresting, charging and convicting perpetrators—creates a long-term preventative effect among offenders and is now curbing exploitation in these worksites and others.

Mallesh: Story Update
Mallesh was 8 years old when he was brutally enslaved on a rose farm. Today, he’s choosing to use his freedom to free others. He said: “I want to have the power to help others. Imagine putting a full stop to child labour."
Twenty Years Enslaved at a Mango Farm – Now Free

Survivor Leaders in the Released Bonded Labourers Association (RBLA) rallied authorities to rescue a couple who had been enslaved at a mango farm for about 20 years. IJM had known about this couple since 2016, but they were always too scared to ever share the truth about their experience, due to the power of the owner.
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