Freedom – a living reality for all?

The Freedom Campaign was a 9-day awareness drive on bonded labour from August 11th – 19, 2018.

As India celebrates 71 years of freedom and steps into her 72nd year of Independence, this Campaign was designed to ask a very important question – Is freedom a reality for all?
India has undoubtedly achieved much since breaking free from the clutches of bondage in 1947. India at 71 is still is home to 18.4 million bonded labourers, and Karnataka is an emerging hotbed for human trafficking. Shockingly, the rise of Karnataka as a human trafficking hub has taken many by surprise.

So the question for reflection was where is India headed? This campaign was conceptualized as an effort to mainstream effective mass awareness on bonded labour as a crime in the State of Karnataka.

This campaign served as a platform to drive home key messages on bonded labour by creating a theme that ran through different efforts like street theatre and panel discussion on ‘The Changing Faces of Modern Day Slavery’ across the week to ensure public awareness and push the hidden, dark crime of bonded labour into the light.

On August 15th, Independence Day, the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Department, Government of Karnataka in collaboration with International Justice Mission (IJM) and co-hosted by Orion Mall, Brigade Gateway organized an event - ‘Freedom @71’ to create awareness on the continued existence of bonded labour even in 2018.

The main goals of the campaign was increased awareness, visibility, participation and input through bringing on board more voices and more stakeholders to further the cause of bonded labour.

Shri. H. S. Doreswamy, centenarian freedom fighter who fought during India’s struggle for independence was the chief guest of the event; Shri. Boniface Prabhu, an Indian quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player, one of the pioneers of the sport in India and a medal winner at the 1998 World Championships and Padma Shri Awaredee attended the event as the guest of honour.

Key government stakeholders like Mr. Krishnappa N. Kodipalya, Director, Rural Development and Panchayth Raj (RDPR) and Smt. Uma .G, Member Secretary, Karnataka State Legal Service Authority were also guests of honour.

The highlight of the Freedom@71 Event was the Freedom Musical Concert by Shri. Ricky Kej, Grammy Award Winner and US Billboard #1 artist, recipient of the United Nations "Global Humanitarian Artist" award and conferred titles such as "Pride of Karnataka" and “Youth Icon of India" along with his team of artists. Survivors of bonded labour donning ‘End Bonded Labour’ T-shirts were trained pre-event by Ricky Kej and sang along during the Concert. Another remarkable experience that the event offered was compelling stories shared beautifully and boldly by survivors of bonded labour.

The Freedom Concert was a crowd puller and witnessed a multitude of people. As a matter of fact, the footfall on August 15th at the Orion Mall, Brigade Gateway was 87,654.

“.. the future is not one of ease or resting, but of incessant striving.” Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.