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Six families trapped in a poultry farm, freed

“Wherever you go, I’ll come there and bring you back.” These were the words of the owner of a poultry farm who had six families working for him as bonded labourers.

Thanks to the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), Ms. Annammal of Thiruvannamalai, the six families, including 11 adults and 11 children are free today and no longer need to be afraid of their owner’s threats.

The victims said that they did not want a loan. But the owner gave them Rs. 500 and asked them to come and work in his farm. But from the day they took the money about four years ago, they have been forced to work only for their owner and were denied their basic rights and freedoms.

Care for chicken, not people

The owner had a big poultry farm and an agricultural farm as well. The labourers were made to harvest vegetables early in the morning and fertilize the soil in the agricultural farm. Following this, they had to move to the poultry farm to clean, feed and care for the chickens.

The labourers were living in a situation where they had to give medicines for the chickens but could not go to a hospital if they needed medical attention.

This was the case even for a young girl who looked about 18 years old. She had been pregnant for seven months but not once was she allowed to go to a hospital.

Mothers were not allowed to care for their babies. They had to work. So mothers used sarees as swings to rock their babies to sleep as they continued to tend to the chickens.

The RDO was particularly moved when she saw the pathetic living conditions. The labourers lived in small makeshift houses that were filled with houseflies, accompanied by a strong stench that filled the air. The walls were not sturdy and did not even reach the roof of the house, leaving space for insects to come in. This was difficult to manage considering the extreme weather conditions experienced in Tamil Nadu.

In order to protect themselves from the insects, rain/sun, one of the labourers used a tarpaulin sheet to close the gaps in the house. He used stones as weights so that the sheet would not fly away. But the sight angered the owner and so he used the stub of a coconut to beat the labourers.

Years of suffering in silence ends today

The RDO, Ms. Annammal gave 11 Release Certificates to the victims, freeing them from years of bondage. She also gave them new sets of clothes as they re-start their lives in freedom. She arranged for the labourers to be taken back to their native village accompanied by government officials.