Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Former Slaves Build Successful Groundnut Business
Release has rightly paved the way for [Gowshik and Geetha] to live a life of dignity and freedom.CHENNAI, INDIA – In February 2006, IJM and local authorities intervened at the rice mill where Gowshik* and his wife Geetha* were held in slavery. The mill owner had subjected dozens of slaves he held by force to extreme physical and verbal abuse. When these violations of Indian law were uncovered through IJM investigation, IJM’s Chennai staff partnered with local authorities to bring rescue to slaves at the mill, freeing the laborers even as the mill owner attempted to incite a mob to stop the operation.- IJM Chennai Social Worker
IJM staff ensured that every slave freed in the operation received official government release documents certifying their status as emancipated slaves, which entitled them to critical government assistance as they began the process of rebuilding their lives.
IJM staff also worked to ensure that the victims were safe from any harassment from their abuser and began gathering evidence to support his prosecution.
Indian law provides a rehabilitation payment of 20,000 rupees (approximately $467 USD) to freed slaves, in order to help them establish new employment in security and to reduce their vulnerability to re-victimization by slave owners. When Gowshik and Geetha received their rehabilitation payments, they decided to use it to begin an agricultural business. They budgeted a portion of their funds to rent a plot of land on which to cultivate groundnuts and purchased the necessary supplies to begin planting the crops.
Today, Gowshik and Geetha’s groundnut venture has proved remarkably successful. Their initial crop yielded a substantial profit, and they have used their earnings to invest in additional crops. Now their operation is so large that they have hired several people to assist with the operations. They pay their workers fair wages and have saved a substantial amount of their profits, as well as invested more of their earnings into fertilizers and additional supplies. Gowshik and Geetha are living securely and sustainably – and providing employment for others.
IJM staff ensured that every slave freed in the operation received official government release documents certifying their status as emancipated slaves, which entitled them to critical government assistance as they began the process of rebuilding their lives.Others freed from slavery in the same mill have pursued diverse employment opportunities: One former victim owns a mobile merry-go-round, another has a mobile toy shop. Several have taken up agricultural work, multiple women own small shops, another group of former slaves is raising cattle and one former slave now cuts and sells wood .
All of the slaves released from the mill are visited regularly by IJM’s aftercare staff, who continue to ensure that they are able to transition successfully to freedom by providing health and business trainings as well as other vital services. After a recent visit to their land, their IJM social worker noted, “Release has rightly paved the way for [Gowshik and Geetha] to live a life of dignity and freedom.” IJM’s staff in Chennai and Bangalore continue to partner with local authorities to ensure that many more people trapped in slavery have the opportunity to live in the freedom that Gowshick and Geetha do today.