Mortgaged by Parents at 9, Teen is Freed After NDTV Report

Harda, Madhya Pradesh: 14-year-old Santram has worked on a field since he was nine. He was allegedly mortgaged by his parents for Rs 5,000 and 600 kg of wheat to a local villager.

For five years, he has been working 12 hours a day for 100 kg of wheat a year.

"Whenever I ask my employer when I will be released, he adds interest and says that I still have a lot of loaned amount to repay. I know he will not let me go. l have to work till I am old, and till my body gives up," Santram had told NDTV.

Santram was released this morning, after NDTV highlighted his story and that of many bonded child workers in Madhya Pradesh's Harda district on Sunday.

His employer, Kanhaiya Lal Bhandari, has been taken into custody. "We are taking action against Santram's employer. I thank NDTV for raising this important issue of bonded labour," said Rajneesh Srivastava, District Magistrate, Harda.

The government had earlier claimed that they had not found a single child worker in the district. A senior officer, Timarni JP Sachang, told NDTV, "Our teams had gone in the villages to check if any child is working as a bonded labourer, we did not find any such case."

But besides Santram, NDTV met a 12-year-old boy who has been living with his employer for almost a year. His family mortgaged him for Rs 3,000 to build a house. For endless hours of work, he gets a few morsels of food.

"I ran away from my employer's house four times and went home. But he again brought me back and my parents did not stop him. They said I have to repay the debt by working for the employer," he said.

We met another 10-year-old, who was mortgaged for 4000 rupees as his family needed money to buy an ox. "The employer does not treat me well. He gives me stale leftover food to eat. He shouts at me makes me work a lot. I am not happy here. I want to go back home," he said.

NGO Synergy Santhan estimates there are over 2,000 bonded child labourers just in Harda district.