Chennai: Poor girls in rural Tamil Nadu are being exploited by spinning mills promising a lump sum for their wedding if they work for three years.
It's similar to the bonded labour system violating labour laws, perhaps for the first time victims exposed the racket in a public hearing.
At 17 Shanthi agreed to work for a spinning mill in Coimbatore on a three-year contract.
In addition to her daily wages, the employer had promised her family 30,000 rupees t the end of her contract.
But six months before her tenure ended, she met with an accident at work. She was sent back home with no compensation or the promised amount.
"Life has become so complicated and difficult for me now. Often I feel should I live at all? asked Shanthi, victim.
Shanthi is one of the 40 young women who narrated their plight at this public hearing organised by the Tamil Nadu women's commission.
This woman claims how she was sexually abused at work. It's a modern bonded labour system called Sumangali, targeting poor unmarried girls.
Spinning mills lure poor families in remote villages with wedding prospects for their daughters.
But drop outs at any stage are not even paid the proportionate lump sum.
"There is some exploitation, we are not saying no, but we are also sending clear guidelines to our mills what they can do and what they cannot do," said K Venkatachalam, Chief Advisor, Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association.
The government agrees that the labour department has been turning a blind eye to the practice.
"The labour department can be a bit more pro-active, that's what the jury felt," said Dr Qudsia Gandhi, Member, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women.
According to government estimates more than thirty seven thousand adolescent girls are trapped in this system across Tamil Nadu. But ironically this public hearing was limited to working out cash compensation, there was no action on human rights violations.