Less than two weeks after bonded labourers were rescued in Uthukottai in Tiruvallur district, 17 persons were freed from bonded labour at a brick kiln in Ponneri taluk, on Friday.

A team led by Ponneri revenue divisional officer Manuel Raj and volunteers of International Justice Mission (IJM), a voluntary organisation, carried out the rescue operation. The labourers were found working long hours with minimal wages in the kiln in Pudupakkam village. They were in bondage for over three years.

The labourers of Vandavasi taluk in Tiruvannamalai district were confined to their work area and worked for weekly wages of Rs. 200 for a family. Ezhumalai, one of the rescued workers, alleged they were sometimes beaten. They had to leave someone behind even on those rare occasions when they were allowed to go out.

Though the labourers plan to take up daily wage work, they said they would not take money in advance as it will trap them in bonded labour again. Gladys Finney, senior aftercare manager, IJM, who led the operation, said the labourers had not been receiving any medical attention. Four children, including a week-old infant, were also rescued and sent back to their native villages.

The victims were provided with release certificates that would entitle them to government rehabilitation funds. They were also given initial rehabilitation fund of Rs. 1,000 each. “We will continue to conduct awareness programmes on savings and livelihood options. On June 23, we rescued 31 bonded labourers who were engaged in tree-cutting,” she added.

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