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Freedom for bonded labourers, at last

Suresh Krishnamoorthy
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Homeward bound:Manju Gadia (extreme left) of the Jana Jagriti Kendra, an NGO working in Odisha, and Anu George Canjanathoppil (right) of the International Justice Mission talking to freed bonded labourers on board the Visakha Express at the Secunderabad railway station.— PHOTO: NAGARA GOPAL
Homeward bound:Manju Gadia (extreme left) of the Jana Jagriti Kendra, an NGO working in Odisha, and Anu George Canjanathoppil (right) of the International Justice Mission talking to freed bonded labourers on board the Visakha Express at the Secunderabad railway station.— PHOTO: NAGARA GOPAL

Sushmita, daughter of Sagar, hailing from Bargarh district in Odisha, spent at least eight hours a day for the past several months turning bricks under the blazing sun to ensure that the moisture evaporated in the heat in uniform fashion. She is just three years old.

Little Sushmita is not alone. She was just one among three dozen such young ones whose ages ranged up to 13 years of age and part of a group of 149 people from Odisha, including 34 children.

They were freed from bonded labour in a brick kiln at Penchikalapahad near Bhongir in adjoining Nalgonda district, late on Tuesday.

Seema (17) wants to study and get a government job, but fortune willed otherwise and she was forced to accompany her parents to Andhra Pradesh. Priya Mahant, a young mother worked at the kiln with her husband and found it very difficult managing her three-month-old baby girl.

In a daze

At the Secunderabad railway station on Thursday evening, they were in a daze, too exhausted physically as they sat aboard a special bogie attached to the Visakha Express. They were glad to be on their way back home in Odisha, via Visakhapatnam and Navpada district and when asked, they said, eyes closed, “We are glad to sleep.”

Their day began at 3 a.m. and after getting ready, they got to work from as early as 4 a.m., slogging till 1 p.m. in the afternoon. The women among the lot of 104 adults who were rescued had just an hour to cook whatever they could, eat and get back to work at 2 p.m., to continue till 1 a.m. in the wee hours.

“They had only two hours of sleep for the past few weeks and months and they were all so malnourished that after their first full meal in a long time, on Tuesday night, many of them either threw up or suffered from diarrhoea,” said Anu George Canjanathoppil, of the International Justice Mission (IJM).

The IJM worked together with the Jana Jagriti Kendra (JJK) of Odisha, with assistance from Divya Devarajan, Sub-Collector at Bhongir and staff from various government departments.


  • The day began at 3 a.m. and ended at 1 a.m. for the labourers in brick kilns

  • They were so malnourished that they threw up after their first full meal in a long time


  • Even sleep was a luxury for the 149 persons rescued from working in inhuman conditions in brick kilns


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