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‘Poverty and social oppression make them easy prey’

It is sheer poverty in their home towns that see vulnerable communities like the Irular, who come under the ST category, flocking to Bengaluru to work as bonded labourers.

In October 27, six bonded labourers and their four young children were rescued from a brick kiln in Avalahalli on the outskirts of the city where they had been working for over 10 years.

However, activists believe there may be many more being exploited in the brick kilns and factories that run the city’s economy.

“It was only recently after the introduction of the wildlife acts that Irulas lost their traditional livelihoods and were forced to migrate out of forests, and into the hands of exploitative landlords and factory workers. The Irulars are a hard-working and innocent people and are exploited without them complaining,” said K. Krishnan, executive director, National Adivasi Solidarity Council.

International Justice Mission, which participates with the district administration to rescue bonded labourers, says around 90% of rescued persons are from vulnerable indigenous groups such as Irular. “Poverty and social oppression make them easy prey for traffickers and employers who lure them into bonded labour using false promises and loans... employers (must be) held accountable for their crimes and the poor and vulnerable must be protected,”says Mary Prathima from International Justice Mission.