While bonded labour has been outlawed for decades, survey data and pre-existing research confirms that this practice still persists. Bonded labour is not only illegal, research confirms that it has serious negative health impacts for those affected, who typically work in unsanitary and dangerous working conditions with no access to health care.
Naganna was 10 years old when he started working as a bonded labourer, inheriting his grandfather’s debt. Naganna was forced to work long hours without rest and subjected to physical violence. It was with the help of Jeevika charity that Naganna was able to escape his situation and is now working with the charity.
I was 10 years old when I started working in bonded labour. I was there for nearly 36 years in labour. I am now 46 years old.
It was agriculture type of work and at night I was doing the motor irrigation in field. I also did misc work for the owner like washing clothes in the owners home, filling the water from the pond and carrying it to the house. They also made me wash the ladies clothes but I did not feel right about doing that so I refused, but they beat him many times for refusing to do anything they asked. They were scolding and beating me often.
My grandfather had borrowed Rs.20,000 so my grandfather, my father and then I had to work for this same family to pay it off. They also gave a lot of harassment to my son.
The landowner charged a very high interest and also sometimes they gave money during the festival time or if one of us were very sick. They now are saying we owe them Rs. 30,000. Every year during the festival time we were taking Rs.2,000 - 3,000 to live off of for the year and in marriage time they gave us Rs. 6,000.
My grandfather worked for 15 years, then my father worked for them and then they brought me.
I started at 6am and I would be working until 8pm without a rest except to just to take food. Then I had to monitor the irrigation motor at night.
I slept at night in the irrigation field as I had to switch on the motor and monitor it. Snakes would often bite my legs in the field and the landowners would not help me. One time the forest pigs attacked me and I still have the scars from the attack. My wife found me and took me to hospital by selling her gold nose ring.
No payments except festival time. My father is still continuing in the bondage. Jeevika has helped to save my life and they have helped me get my release certificate. I am now working for Jeevika. Jeevika has also helped to save my son. He met an accident recently and Jeevika gave us Rs. 10,000 for the hospital bills to fix my son's fractured leg.
The owner had a daughter-in-law named Asha, who was living in the home when I was staying there and working in the agriculture field. The owner was sexually harassing the daughter in law. One day Asha had called my son, Mallaiah, to come as they needed some work to be done. This was just for normal activity that he was required to do. But due to the sexual harassment of her father-in-law, she decided to commit suicide and jumped in the well later that day. When they found her, the police came and they looked at the call list and found that she had call to Mallaiah. The owner was wanting to cover up the sexual abuse he was doing so he created a false claim accusing my son of murdering Asha. My son was only 17 years old and he was very scared as the police were very supportive of the landowner. But because of my new association with Jeevika and the support they gave us during this time, the owner got scared. That is the only reason the owner dropped the charges on my son.
The owner is demanding our home if we leave. Our entire family is in this home and we do not have anywhere else to live and survive. We do not have the ability to just leave. The land owner is very powerful and we are afraid of what they will do.
I was treated like a machine, not a person. I would get regular beatings with a stick. The owner would look at the clock and if I did not complete the work at a certain time they would beat me.
I have only the one son, who is 17 years old. Years ago, when my wife was pregnant she fell down when a tractor came into her path. We begged the landowner to help us pay for a hospital for her, but they did not give any money for hospital purposes. She lost the baby and was never able to have any more children.
I work with Jeevika now and I am a team lead working in this area. I now give many awareness speeches as part of Jeevika's work in the villages. There are 58 bonded laborers in this village today and 4 people still work with the same landowner and bonded laborers. The remaining 21 workers are with daily wages now. I am also constructing a home under NREGA, (a central government scheme).
When I came to Jeevika, this was the only time I was able to wear clothes. Up until this, I only wore a towel and underwear.
In the villages there are some terrorists called Nacasalites. One day these Nacasalites came to the village and started demanding food from me so I provided them food. When they were eating they set their rifle in my house. The police were somehow informed that there were Nacasalites there and they came to my house. The Nacasalites were able to sneak off but I was left with the rifle in the house. The police then arrested me. The police made him squat down with bricks on my calves and beat me with a stick. Then they gave me a warning and let me leave.
Narrative Courtesy of Freedom Child: Awareness for Modern Day Slavery