Hidden no longer: Bonded labour survivors address Chennai press

Seizing the opportunity to be heard, survivor Vasantha exclaimed, “There are others who are trapped in bonded labour system like we once were. In order for the world to hear about this, we have come to speak to you”.

08 February 2018, Chennai – For the first time in history, survivors from the Released Bonded Labourers’ Association (RBLA) addressed the press at Chennai Press Club. Held on the eve of a significant day – the day bonded labour was outlawed by the government 42 years ago – survivors addressed 18 media houses. They threw light on this crime and its demeaning nature, and requested the State that 9 February be declared Anti-Bonded Labour Day in order for the world to be informed and for them (victims) to be hidden no longer.

Despite being suppressed all their lives, bonded labour survivors Vasantha, Raman and Chinarasu, boldly shared from their experiences. Raman, a victim of generational bondage expressed that he had been working for his father’s loan and had no memory of what life was like outside the rice mill. But today, thanks to the efforts of social workers, he has become an empowered leader, who not only strives to support his family but also to take his learnings to those who are victims like he once was.

Survivors were supported by representatives from NGOs who have been working on bonded labour cases for more than a decade. Dr. Krishnan from National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC) and Mr. Thandavarayan Kuralamuthan from IJM, attested to how life-changing timely rehabilitation can be. Dr. Krishnan stated that timely rehabilitation is essential for survivors to sustain their freedom. He added that in many districts closer to Tamil Nadu, awareness of the new Central Sector Scheme is still low. Victims still receive only ₹1000 as initial rehabilitation support instead of ₹20,000.

The press meet raised awareness on the need to create non-tech-savvy schemes to support survivors during rehabilitation, increased efforts to rescue and release victims and most importantly on the brutality of the crime. The event resulted in several in-depth articles!

Click on the links below to read more about the RBLA Press Meet:
Declare Feb 9 as day against bonded labour, demands RBLA
Miles to go to break the shackles of bonded labour in Tamil Nadu
New scheme, old woes for bonded labourers in the state