8 Days. 8 Operations. 88 Rescued.

The month of September saw a wave of activity as IJM teams across India supported local authorities in carrying out eight successful rescue operations in just eight days, freeing a total of 88 people from bonded labour and sex trafficking!
 
 
September 14: Four girls freed
The wave of rescues began on September 14, when the Kolkata Police, with assistance from IJM, saved four girls from a private sex trafficking network in Kolkata. The youngest girl was only 13 years old. She and the others had been moved around constantly by the traffickers, who had been selling them for sex at private homes and apartments—making it extremely difficult for authorities to pinpoint their location.

The first attempt to rescue these girls had failed, but after a relentless search all the victims were finally brought to safety. Today, they are recovering in an aftercare shelter, and five suspects are facing charges for abusing them. Read about this rescue in The Times of India.
 
 
September 18: Ten years in bondage
Just four days later, government officials in Tamil Nadu freed a family who had been trapped in bonded labour for ten years.

This family had taken a small loan from the owner of a rock quarry, and on the basis of this paltry sum, he had forced them to work in gruelling conditions. Isolated in a tiny, thatched house away from the village, no one had been aware of their condition. Some of the children were born at the quarry.

Today, all nine members of this family are safe, and as they rebuild their lives in freedom, they are being supported by local government partners. The man who held them in bondage has been taken into custody and charged under relevant anti-trafficking laws.

Read more about this case in The Hindu and watch a short local-language news clip.
 
 
September 18: Seven child shepherds Safe
On the same day, the IJM team at Delhi worked with a trained partner NGO Jan Sahas to free seven children who were working as shepherds in a rural area. The youngest boy is only 7 years old. He and the other children had been forced to lead the sheep across huge distances to graze, leaving them vulnerable to hunger, exhaustion and exposure to the hot sun.

After the successful rescue, these children are being taken care of by local officials and Jan Sahas’ staff will continue to pursue the case until the offenders are brought to justice.
 

September 18: Seven children had been forced to walk their sheep across huge distances. Now, thanks to IJM’s partner, they can have the safe childhoods they deserve.

September 19: One woman was rescued from this cramped Mumbai brothel, where sex was sold behind a few flimsy curtains every day.

 
 
September 19: One woman, one dark brothel
The next day, local police and the IJM team in Mumbai rescued a young woman who had been trafficked into a cramped brothel in a major red-light district. She and other women had stayed in a large room with four beds separated by flimsy curtains. Night after night, she had been forced to sell her body and she was desperate for release.

Amid the relentless monsoon rains, police and IJM staff worked through the night to bring her to safety and documented the tactics the traffickers had used in exploiting her. The police arrested two suspects and officially closed the abusive brothel.
 
 
September 20: Two-day rescue frees 28
Continuing the week’s momentum, the IJM team in Bangalore assisted anti-trafficking authorities on a two-day operation to free 28 people from a sugarcane farm.

These eight families had been forced to live in deplorable conditions—just a few make-shift huts made from tarps, branches and soil—and had to cut sugarcane for hours on end. The traffickers who exploited them also moved the families frequently between farms, which made it very difficult for officials to plan the rescue at just the right location.

After a long night and day of gathering evidence and confirming details, local officials granted Release Certificates to the 18 labourers who had been forced to work at the farm (not including children and the elderly). Police also filed charges against the traffickers who had trapped the families in such brutal conditions, and these suspects are currently in custody.
 

September 20: Bangalore officials rescued eight families from bondage at a sugarcane farm, where they lived in appalling conditions as they were forced to work.

September 22: Labourers walk away from the wood-cutting and charcoal unit where they had been for up to five years outside of Chennai.

 
 
September 22: Triple rescues free dozens in one day
Concluding the eight-day streak, IJM teams in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata supported local authorities in three successful rescue operations on September 22.

In Chennai, officials acted on IJM’s reports of several families trapped in a wood-cutting unit, where they chopped down trees for hours on end and fired the wood into charcoal. The dismal conditions in which these 11 people lived moved the authorities to quick action—with charges filed against their owner even before the rescue team left the worksite. Today, the families have been officially freed by the government and are recovering in safety. Learn more about this case from The Times of India.

In Mumbai, police and IJM came together in an operation targeting two young women being exploited in a private sex trafficking network. They were finally located in a suburban apartment and rescued before they could be sold for sex again. Police also arrested two suspects involved in exploiting these young women for sex at a huge profit. Read about this rescue in The Hindu.
 

September 22: The Kolkata rescue team worked late into the night to process evidence and to record the stories of 26 survivors of sex trafficking.

 
The final rescue came late on Friday evening, when IJM’s team in Kolkata worked with authorities to search for two teenagers being sold for sex in a hotel.

When the team arrived, however, they found 26 girls and young women being exploited and managed to bring them to safety. Police also arrested 30 suspects—including traffickers, customers and pimps—and gathered sufficient evidence to charge them under India’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws.
 
 
88 freed, thousands protected
Altogether, the eight-day rescue streak freed 88 people from bonded labor slavery and sex trafficking across India. Today, these children, women and men are beginning new lives in freedom. What’s more, with traffickers, pimps and owners now in custody, thousands more are safer from ever being abused. IJM lauds the concerted effort made by local officials enforcing the laws against trafficking and ushering in a new era of protection for the poor.