Naganna, Megalapalya Village
Parents: Kurimallappa (father), Marekka (mother)
Megalapalya village in Peavagada Taluk, Tumkur District
How old were you when you started working in bonded labor?
I was10 years old.
How many years in bonded labor?
I was there for nearly 36 years in labor. I am now 46 years old.
What kind of work were you doing?
It was agriculture type of work and at night I was doing the motor irrigation in field. i also did misc work for the owner like washing clothes in the owners home, filling the water from the pond and carrying it to the house. They also made me wash the ladies clothes but I did not feel right about doing that so I refused, but they beat him many times for refusing to do anything they asked. They were scolding and beating me often.
How did he get into this so young?
My grandfather had borrowed Rs.20,000 so my grandfather, my father and then I had to work for this same family to pay it off. They also gave a lot of harassment to my son.
How much of the loan was paid off?
The landowner charged a very high interest and also sometimes they gave money during the festival time or if one of us were
very sick. They now are saying we owe them Rs. 30,000. Every year during the festival time we were taking Rs.2,000 - 3,000 to live off of for the year and in marriage time they gave us Rs. 6,000.
How many years did your grandfather work?
He worked for 15 years, them my father worked for them and then they brought me.
What are the hours that you worked?
I started at 6am and I would be working until 8pm without a rest except to just to take food. Then I had to monitor the irrigation motor at night.
Then when and where did you sleep?
I slept at night in the irrigation field as I had to switch on the motor and monitor it. Snakes would often bite my legs in the field and the landowners would not help me. One time the forest pigs attacked me and I still have the scars from the attack. My wife found me and took me to hospital by selling her gold nose ring.
Did they pay your family anything?
No payments except festival time. My father is still continuing in the bondage. Jeevika has helped to save my life and they have helped me get my release certificate. I am now working for Jeevika. Jeevika has also helped to save my son. He met an accident recently and Jeevika gave us Rs. 10,000 for the hospital bills to fix my son's fractured leg.
You mentioned they were harassing your son. What happened?
The owner had a daughter-in-law named Asha, who was living in the home when I was staying there and working in the agriculture field. The owner was sexually harassing the daughter in law. One day Asha had called my son, Mallaiah, to come as they needed some work to be done. This was just for normal activity that he was required to do. But due to the sexual harassment of her father-in-law, she decided to commit suicide and jumped in the well later that day. When they found her, the police came and they looked at the call list and found that she had call to Mallaiah. The owner was wanting to cover up the sexual abuse he was doing so he created a false claim
accusing my son of murdering Asha. My son was only 17 years old and he was very scared as the police were very supportive of the landowner. But because of my new association with Jeevika and the support they gave us during this time,
the owner got scared. That is the only reason the owner dropped the charges on my son.
Why don't you leave the landowners place?
The owner is demanding our home if we leave. Our entire family is in this home and we do not have anywhere else to live and survive. We do not have the ability to just leave. The land owner is very powerful and we are afraid of what they will do.
Can you tell us more about how you were treated?
I was treated like a machine, not a person. I would get regular beatings with a stick. The owner would look at the clock and if I did not complete the work at a certain time they would beat me.
Tell us about your family.
I have only the one son, who is 17 years old. Years ago, when my wife was pregnant she fell down when a tractor came into her path. We begged the landowner to help us pay for a hospital for her, but they did not give any money for hospital purposes. She lost the baby and was never able to have any more children.
What are you doing now?
I work with Jeevika now and I am a team lead working in this area. I now give many awareness speeches as part of Jeevika's work in the villages. There are 58 bonded laborers in this village today and 4 people still work with the same landowner and bonded laborers. The remaining 21 workers are with daily wages now. I am also constructing a home under NREGA, (a central government scheme).
When I came to Jeevika, this was the only time I was able to wear clothes. Up until this, I only wore a towel and underwear.
Do you have any other situations you can share with us?
In the villages there are some terrorists called Nacasalites*. One day these Nacasalites came to the village and started demanding food from me so I provided them food. When they were eating they set their rifle in my house. The police were somehow informed that there were Nacasalites there and they came to my house. The Nacasalites were able to sneak off but I was left with the rifle in the house. The police then arrested me. The police made him squat down with bricks on my calves and beat me with a stick. Then they gave me a warning and let me leave.
* Dalits sometimes become Nacasalites. The Nacasalites fight for the rights of the Dalits, but they do this in a violent manner. They also often steal from the rich landowners and give the money to the Dalits. They are like a modern day Robin Hood. Their mission is for doing a good cause, but they do it in the wrong way. An example of what they do happened in June 2013 in Jaharkand. They killed 19 people (15 members were the police), and one MP also lost his lives.