Nineteen bonded labourers were rescued from a sugarcane field in Nambooranpatti village near Gandaravakottai in the district on Tuesday by a team of revenue and police officials and volunteers of Childline in Thanjavur and Pudukottai.
The labourers included nine men, eight women and two adolescent boys, all belonging to Irula community hailing from Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Chingleput and Kancheepuram.
Each family got between Rs.4,000 and Rs.7,000 before they started working in sugarcane fields.
They were shifted from one village to another within a district and from one district to another, depending upon the harvest season. Most of them, being illiterates, were unable to provide adequate information to the officials enquiring the matter. Some of them were even unable to say how long they were employed. Their ignorance was exploited by a labour agent Kumar of Panrutti, according to official sources. Timely intervention by revenue, police and volunteers of Childline prevented their next camp in Courtallam, said A. Kamalakannan, Tahsildar, Gandavarkottai, who conducted preliminary enquiries.
R. Rajaram, Revenue Divisional Officer, Pudukottai, said he would issue the release order to the labourers on Wednesday, following which a relief of Rs. 1,000 will be given to each individual. Police case would be registered based on the complaint of the tahsildar against Kumar under the provisions of Bonded Labour Abolition Act. The land owners had paid each of them a daily wage of Rs. 20 along with rice. The Collectors of respective districts will sanction rehabilitation measures for these labourers. Velu (40), one of the bonded labourers, told The Hindu that he along with his wife had taken Rs. 7,000 and were working from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. for cutting cane. International Justice Mission, Chennai, and Shed India, both NGOs, coordinated the rescue process.