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Interstate Operation Frees 42 from Violent Abuse at a Sugarcane Farm

MAHARASHTRA, INDIA – In one of our network’s first rescue operations of the year, one of IJM’s grassroots partner organizations coordinated with police in two Indian states to free 42 people from violent bonded labour at a sugarcane factory.

These labourers come from several of India’s tribal communities. These communities tend to face a lot of discrimination, and there are specific laws in India to protect them from abuse.

In this case, a trafficker had approached these families in their home state of Madhya Pradesh and promised them good wages and a place to live if they agreed to work at the sugarcane farm 700 miles away, in Maharashtra state.

They travelled to the farm in December 2019, but almost immediately realized they had been tricked. They were forced to undergo long hours of work cutting and loading the heavy sugarcane stalks. Many experienced violent physical abuse and harassment. The farm owner never allowed them to leave the facility—saying he had paid the trafficker almost $20,000 for them. Some of the labourers tried to run away, but they were quickly caught and brought back.

Luckily, the trapped labourers were able to get word to their family back home, who told our partner about the violence at the farm. Our partner then filed a formal complaint with police, which initiated an interstate rescue operation.

Local authorities in Maharashtra entered the farm and brought 42 labourers to safety on January 11, then helped the rescued labourers return to their homes in Madhya Pradesh.

Our partner’s staff are continuing to follow up on the case to ensure charges are brought against the farm owners and traffickers who abused these families, and to ensure the survivors get ongoing government protection and support.

About IJM’s Partnership Model

IJM has collaborated with local authorities to rescue and restore slaves in India since 2001. In 2012, we launched a new project in Delhi to partner with like-minded organizations across the country, share expertise, replicate success in addressing bonded labour and in building government capacity, and build them up to work with public justice institutions. Our grassroots partners have freed more than 9,000 people from bonded labour to date.

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