Chennai: On the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, DC spoke to two minors who were once bonded labourers and are now pursuing their dreams with their mother by their side through thick and thin.
Shakunthala had been working for 25 years in a brick kiln in Vellore district with her parents in Vellore district to pay back the money her parents had borrowed.
Shakunthala was managing both work and education and rising above all the shackles of bonded labour. She would get up at 4 o’clock and work till 8 and then go to school, come back at 5 and work till 8 o’ clock. She went on to complete 8th standard when she got married in the brick kiln unit itself. But the burden on her shoulders grew bigger as her husband, who was also staying with the family in the bricklin after marriage, took some money (Rs 30,000) from the same owner to meet the marriage expenses. Ravishankar and Sanjay were born in 2004 and 2006.
Shakunthala had always wanted to educate her children. When she went to the owner to talk about it, he placed a condition that they would have to work in order to continue their education, and their education has not stopped ever since.”It was 2013 when one day an argument broke out between my husband and the owner over the amount of money we owed to him. The owner tied him to a tree and beat him with a wooden log. Then my husband left us for good,” shares Shakuntala who has never let her kids feel that a father leaving the family was going to make their lives difficult.
Ravishankar and Sanjay would help the family with all the brick kiln work- from collecting the sand to mixing it and then taking the final product to the godown- everything- from 4-8 in the morning and 5-8, after school, in the evening.
“After their father left us, movement of restriction got higher as the owner feared we would run away,” shares Shakunthala who is currently a member of Released Bonded Labourers’ Association and has recently led a rescue operation in Vellore. In a bid to make a living and sustain her dream of her children’s education, she works in a shoe-making unit and also takes up daily wage work.
Ravishankar , who is in class 10 now, wants to join the Army. “One day I asked him about his dream, he said he was ready for it -even if that meant leaving us for good only to serve the country.” Sanjay, who is in class 9 now, wants to be a cop.
The family was rescued in 2016 with the help of National Adivasi Solidarity Council....