Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission partners with IJM to support released bonded labourers

January 2019

In January 2019, the Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission (TNSRLM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IJM, stating that IJM will provide technical assistance in implementing the Livelihood Program for Survivors of Bonded Labour. This initiative provides skill training and helps create self-help groups in 42 blocks across five districts in Tamil Nadu. It enables the government to cover many marginalised communities and provide them with livelihood opportunities that will help prevent bonded labour. In order to make this as sustainable project, the TNSRLM has added bonded labour in their action plan.

Mr. Praveen Nair, IAS, Managing Director, TNSRLM speaks to IJM on this novel initiative.

IJM: Briefly tell us about the SRLM’s livelihood project.

Mr. Nair: The core strategy of the SRLM is to target vulnerable groups. The definition of vulnerable groups has evolved over the years. In 1980s and 1990s, our target group was women, and in 2000s, it included the disabled, destitute and elderly from rural areas. In the last 10-15 years, as more cases of human trafficking and violence against women have emerged, we have further expanded the definition to support these victims. In this broader definition, we have included rehabilitation for rescued bonded labourers. National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and National Mission Management (NMU) introduced us to IJM for technical support on this project.

IJM: What are some of the main highlights of this project?

Mr. Nair: This project is a first of its kind in the country as it focusses on the full cycle of rehabilitation. Tamil Nadu is one of the first states to bring out a manual for the process of rescue and primary rehabilitation of bonded labourers. While primary rehabilitation is provided, SRLM takes the initiatives of the Revenue and the “Adi Dravidar” departments forward by focusing on complete rehabilitation. This project aims to put released bonded labourers on a cycle that continuously keeps them out of poverty. Several interventions contribute to this effect. Eligible women will be mobilised into self-help groups to access organised financial systems. Those who have an aptitude for self-employment will be enrolled in enterprise development courses. Ideally, every family should have a customised action plan out of poverty at the end of this project.

IJM: What outcomes are you looking forward to in the coming years?

Mr. Nair: Our target is to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and re-bondage by 100%. Children should not become victims of the bonded labour system. Released bonded labourers should benefit from our technical assistance, avail small loans and become entrepreneurs.