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Boy escapes bonded labour, set to reunite with family

Seventeen-year-old S. Thangadurai (name changed), who broke free from a snack-making unit at Basavakalyan in Karnataka-Maharashtra border, was set to be reunited with his family members. He was forced to work from dawn to late night as bonded labourer and subjected to physical violence for over three years.

The boy, who was produced before the Child Welfare Committee on Tuesday and would be allowed to go with his family in a day or two, is gradually coming to terms with the fact that he is set free. The Railway Protection Force registered an FIR under Sections 370 (4) and 374 of the IPC. Members of the International Justice Mission — an NGO, are helping the family to get the release certificate from officials and help his case.

“I was given food only twice — about 10 a.m. and about 9 p.m. Soon after my elder brother escaped, physical torture commenced and they threw my phone into fire so I could not contact anyone,” recalls the boy, a native of Thiruthangal in Virudhunagar district.

In 2014, Thangadurai along with his elder brother were taken to Basavakalyan for work by a broker, who paid an advance of ₹5,000 to their father on a promise that he would be paid ₹50,000 for both the boys.

“The boys were not studying well and I thought sending them to work would help. Though things were fine for a year, my elder son escaped and the second son was caught there,” says his father 50-year-old S. Kannan. He is in Chennai with his eldest son after a call from the RPF that his youngest son has reached Chennai by train. Escaping from the snack-making unit at Basavakalyan was not easy for Thangadurai, who was waiting for a chance to flee. “Every time another worker Perumalsamy tried to escape, they would catch him, tie him up and beat him. It scared me!”

So what geared him up for this escape? “On that night, the owner’s son slept off leaving his phone unattended. And I thought this was the chance! Soon after Perumalsamy and I came out, a police vehicle caught us. On realising our plight, they helped us reach a nearby town,” he says. The duo reached Kalaburagi by a lorry and Chennai by train.