On February 21, 2019, JVI and one of its local partners collaborated with government authorities to rescue five male victims from bonded labor slavery. One of the victims, Manjeet*, had been separated from his family and forced into bonded labor since age 10.
Following the Kosi flood in Bihar in 2008 (one of the most disastrous floods in the history of the state), the state was in tatters and work was hard to find. That same year, Manjeet’s elder brother went to work for a man named Kishore* to repay a debt, but sadly never came back home. Even though the family lost their son, they felt the only option left was to send Manjeet away as well and hope for the best. Kishore assured the family that Manjeet would be in a good working environment and receive decent pay.
For the next 9 years Manjeet was not allowed to visit his family and was forced to work in various factories where he worked a minimum of 12 hours each day doing manual labor. Manjeet worked seven days a week and only got to rest during festivals. He was promised a salary of $125 every month which he never received, and was instead given $11 each month to cover his basic expenses. Kishore deducted unfair amounts for rent, food, water and other expenses from Manjeet’s promised salary, continuing to make him work month after month. Kishore verbally abused Manjeet and often threatened to beat him up. Manjeet’s movement was restricted. He was not allowed to go anywhere without permission. He was always under Kishore’s watch, who would accompany him even to the market.
In May of 2018, Manjeet was shifted to a water bottle manufacturing unit in Sampla, Haryana where he endured similar conditions and abuse. Manjeet worked there with four other males who were forced to work to repay debts. One of them tried escaping but was found in his home and was forcefully dragged back to the factory by Kishore.
Manjeet grew up never knowing what it was like to be free and lived in a constant state of fear until his rescue on February 21st, 2019.
Working closely with the government authorities, JVI and its local partner ensured the safe repatriation of the survivors back to their hometown. The JVI partners received the survivors and personally handed each survivor over to their families. Through JVI’s aftercare program the survivors will be placed under a two year rehabilitation program, while JVI lawyers work with the concerned authorities to ensure the contractor and others involved are held accountable under relevant provisions of law.
After nearly 10 years apart, Manjeet is finally reunited with his parents and will no longer have to live in fear.
He can now life a life of freedom and dignity.
*names changed to protect identity
Learn more about JVI’s work in India to eradicate human trafficking, empower the urban poor and ensure access to justice.