He Came To The Rescue Of Child Slaves
- Bhakti Kothari
- Published on 7 Dec 2020, 4:11 pm IST
- 5 minutes read
Trapped by the malicious schemes of money lenders, people of Irular tribe in Tamil Nadu not only ended up as bonded slaves for life, but were also forced to push their children into slavery. It took somebody like the IAS officer Praveen P Nair to put an end to this horrible practice.
- The rescued children study in government schools now
Talk of remarkable transformations. Mallesh Badrappa, studying Bachelor of Social Work at Madras Christian College, one of the most prestigious educational institutes in Chennai, looks like any other student. But the similarity ends here. As a child, Mallesh was a bonded laborer. Had it not been for the efforts of IAS officer Mr. Praveen P Nair, he as well as many other children would have been living a life of servitude.
Credit goes to Mr. Nair for providing Mallesh, and others like him, the life they deserve.
RESCUING BONDED SLAVES
Mallesh is one of the few children that Mr. Nair had rescued from the bonds of slavery. The boy today wakes up early to attend online classes, learns English from his classmates, eats healthy meals, and gets a comfortable night’s sleep. It’s so very different from the horrors he was routinely subjected to seven years ago.
Back in 2013, when Mr. Nair was posted as the Deputy Collector of Krishnagiri, he received information about some children allegedly working in the rose farms as bonded laborers. “We came to know about these kids through International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization working for the uplift of poor,” he said in an interview. Taking immediate action, Mr. Nair along with a team of district officials and police raided the place without any delay and found out that the tip-off to be accurate. Among the many children rescued from the farms, many were found to be malnourished as they were not given healthy food. They didn’t even have proper beds to sleep in and were for all practical purposes mere slaves made to work day and night without any remuneration.
As soon as he witnessed their state, Mr. Nair immediately gave orders to the officials to rescue the bonded children. Fortunately for them, at the time the raid was conducted, the owners of the farm were away and the children were alone. Had they been there, they would have somehow manipulated the situation and the raid would have gone in vain. The officials took the children under their protection and went on to book the owners under various sections of the law.
MISERABLE CONDITION OF THE KIDS
Mr. Nair exclaimed that the condition of the children was extremely bad. They were poorly nourished and this had stunted their growth. “All the officials under guessed their ages by at least two to three years,” said Mr. Nair. After examination, the officials came to know that the children as well as the adult laborers that they had rescued from the farms mainly belonged to the Irular tribe in the region.
Mr Nair explained how the system of bonded slavery works. “They live in straw mat houses and often borrow money from landowners for marriages or medical events. These owners help people with money in exchange for labor work for a fixed number of years on the farm,” he said. However, even after the lenders get their borrowed money back, they don’t let go of the poor laborers. Instead, after the stipulated period comes to an end, the owners claim that the money given back by the laborers only covered the interest, and the principal amount remained intact. The poor and uneducated laborers do not understand their malicious ways and get stuck in the vicious cycle, working till they get old.
Indian Masterminds was not able to have a word with Mr. Nair, but in an interview, he said “These amounts are not large, about Rs 20,000 at times. But still, they end up as bonded laborers for life.”
HELPLESSNESS OF POOR FAMILIES
Adult laborers getting into bonded slavery in return for the unpaid amount they borrowed from the owners is horrible enough. But to drag the hapless laborer’s children into slavery is worse. But the adult laborers are left with no choice but to push their children into slavery too. As Mr Nair explained “The parents do not comprehend that what they’re doing is blatantly wrong, as they’ve had similar experiences as children. Their poor financial conditions force their children to enter the never-ending vicious circle,”.
LIFE BEYOND SLAVERY
Mr Nair officer stated that Mallesh, along with the other children were rescued overtime during his tenure in Krishnagiri. A release certificate was issued to them immediately, which mentioned that debt owed by their parents is paid with immediate effect and the children are now free of slavery. This certificate also acts as their identity document. These children were sent to government schools for studies and resided in the hostels. As for their owners, they have been slapped with a number of sections under the Indian Penal Code, for child labor, exploitation, atrocities against scheduled tribe, bonded labor and other charges.
Despite years of hardships and struggles, these children now have a chance to live life on their own terms. Thanks to Mr Nair, they have got a fresh start and can look forward to a better future.
END OF THE ARTICLE
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