Revenue officials in Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district have rescued 50 labourers from three brick kilns after it was found that they had been engaged in forced or bonded labour for the past 12 years.
Seven children and 24 women are among those rescued.
Three kiln owners -- identified as K Raju, Shekar and M Mani -- who had allegedly exploited the labourers are absconding and a police complaint has been filed, officials said.
The labourers were being forced to work in return of the money they had borrowed or for the payment given in advance.
Officials say each worker had to cut 1,000 bricks every day but each family was paid only Rs 1,000 a week and the rest was taken as repayment of loan and interest.
M Veerasamy, revenue department official of Kumbakonam, told NDTV: "Our investigation reveals children have been denied education. Except a few, others have been working as slaves for twelve years. They had taken loans from Rs 50,000 to Rs 4 lakh for emergencies. Many also allege oral abuse and physical assault. They were allowed to go out just once a year, on Pongal day."
The rescued labourers will receive a relief of Rs 20,000 each along with a rescue certificate.
This year, more than 200 bonded labourers have been rescued in the state from farmlands and spinning mills among other places.
Recently, a boy was taken away as bonded labourer after his mother was unable to repay a loan of Rs 60,000. Nine people were arrested but no one has been convicted in the case yet.
Sharon Jabez, Associate Director at Media and Communications from International Justice Mission -- a non-profit organisation that works for rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labourers -- says: "This (rescue) is all the more inspiring because officials are prioritising rescue even during election time. While this is good, prosecution needs to be enforced and expedited. It is crucial."
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