Two young families are now free from modern slavery at a south Indian rice mill, thanks to a rescue operation led by government officials and IJM staff last Tuesday.
These families—including five children—had been trapped for three years after taking a loan of about $100 from the rice mill’s owner. Over time, he charged them fake interest and added charges to their debt, which ballooned to $150 even with three years of their work.
Life at the mill grew increasingly difficult. The families were never allowed to leave, even for medical care or religious festivals. Instead, they harvested and dried bag upon bag of rice and lived in constant fear of the owner’s violence.
IJM worked with local authorities to free the families on Tuesday, January 22. After confirming the facts of the case, officials helped the families pack their few belongings and move to safety at a government office, where they got warm meals and a chance to rest.
One mother told IJM, “Now I am at peace. I am relieved that I don’t have to hear the owner’s haunting voice telling me to get up and start work. I am so happy that we are now out.”
As officials processed the legal documents marking their freedom, the children (ages 3 to 13) drew colorful pictures of their dreams of freedom—flowers, big trees, a house, and seeing a beloved dog they left back at home.
Authorities are helping the families return to their homes and will provide ongoing support as they resettle. IJM will also help them adjust and stay safe through our two-year aftercare program as they reclaim the years that they have lost.
The suspected slave-holder has been taken into police custody and was charged under India’s anti-slavery and anti-discrimination laws.