4-year-old saved from brick kiln

Four-year-old B. Pachaiammal got her freedom on Tuesday when she was rescued along with 10 other bonded labourers from a brick-kiln in Avadi, where they had been toiling for the last two years.

Pachaimmal and her grandparents Mr Shankar, 50, and Ms Murugammal, 45, were freed from the kiln by a team led by Revenue divisional officer Mr M.K. Shanmugam of Ambattur division and members of the International Justice Mission (IJM), a voluntary body working for bonded labourers, following an alert from neighbours. A complaint has been registered against kiln owners Mr Ethiraj and his wife Ms Saraswathy.

According to the RDO Mr Shanmugam, the workers were paid just Rs300 a week. “They were forced to work from 3 am to 11 pm. They looked famished. When we arrived at the spot, the child was not working, but she too looked pale and malnourished. We have given the release certificates to the workers and Rs1,000 to each of them to reach their native towns in Vandavasi and Chenchi. They will be assisted in getting new jobs or to initiate start-ups,” he said.

During a panel meeting organised by IJM here on Tuesday, the volunteers pointed out that there were nearly 4 crore bonded labourers working in factories and kilns across the country.

Mr Andy Griffiths, field office director of IJM in Chennai said that periodic and unscheduled inspections to factories by Labour Welfare officers were important to eradicate bonded labour.

Highlighting the issues of migrant bonded workers, Professor Ravi Srivastava from Jawaharlal Nehru University said, “Scores of families from northern states are migrating to Tamil Nadu for jobs. Migration denotes high incidence of bonded labour problem. Bonded labour may not be seen in traditional professions like washer men, but it has reared up in the form of migrant workers.”

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