On May 9th, 2019, JVI and one of its local partners collaborated with police and local government officials to free 29 victims from forced labor slavery at a brick kiln in northern India. Among the families rescued were 16 minors (9 boys, 7 girls) who were also forced to work in the brick kiln under inhumane and illegal conditions for over two years.
These victims were transported across various brick kilns in northern India where they endured harsh working conditions and abuse under numerous owners. The workers were paid less than a dollar a day. The brick kiln owners assigned contractors to ensure each family made a minimum of 2,000 bricks every day by threats and abuse. The contractors also resided on the brick kiln premises restricting the victims’ movement. The victims worked 14 -16 hours each day under the burning sun with temperatures averaging 111 degrees.
The families were found living in small, shanty huts. Each hut was approximately 42 square ft. with 4ft. ceilings. They were deprived of proper sanitation facilities, healthcare and most importantly clean water. Victims would go days without bathing and were forced to drink muddy water in order to survive.
In February 2019, a 16-year-old girl working at the site died due to medical negligence. Not only did the owners refuse to let her go to the hospital, but they also denied the family to perform the final burial rituals that would require the family to leave the site to perform the rituals at their village in Bihar. Instead, the family was forced by the employers to bury her near the brick kiln.
Upon rescue, the local administration immediately recognized this as a case of bonded labor and provided the victims with release certificates. These certificates make them eligible to obtain government entitlements, immediate compensation and rehabilitative welfare schemes. JVI and it’s local partner followed up with the police the next day and filed a complaint which included the name of six accused persons. The complaint included legal provisions pertaining to the offenses committed against them under the Indian Penal Code, Juvenile Justice Act, Bonded Labour (Abolition Act), Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, Minimum Wages Act and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act.
JVI’s legal team is working on the case to press charges against the perpetrators and to ensure that justice is served for the 29 survivors. The rescued families will receive assistance and ongoing support for the next two years to facilitate their sustained freedom.