Sumathi

Sumathi (21 yrs old) and her daughter, Chandralaka (5 yrs old)

Parents:  Naralapa (father); Gangama (mother)
Village:  Kyasamballi in Bangarpet, Kolar District (about 150km from Bangalore)

How did you get trapped into bonded labour?
The reason I had to start working was because all the villages around my village burned down. My father had to go out to get a job outside. My family needed more money; therefore, my mother put me in the landowners home to come and clean the home.

How old were you?
I was 9 years old and I worked there until I was 15

Were you paid?
My mother received 30 rupees a month and given I was given one dress as my only clothes and left over food from the house. I had no
breaks or holidays.

Were you alone or with your family?
I lived at home.

Were you able to stop?
I was not able to leave as the landowner gave my mother the money.

How did you eventually stop?
Once I was allowed to go to school I learned that it was wrong and therefore I stopped. Also, the financing at my home
had improved so my parents didn't need me to work.

How was she treated?
The homeowner treated me well and sometimes my mother came and helped me as well.

How did she bring her life back?
After I went back to school for 11-12th grade things became much better for me. Then I got married and my husband's family started having issues with my dowry and my husband drinks a lot. I found the strength to go out on my own with my own job and now I live my life
independently. I am still married, but I am able to live my own life with my own control.

What is her dream for her daughter?
I dream that she will go into an IIS profession and has an IS occupation.

In her work with Jeevika today, how does she convince people in bonded labor to try and help them?  How does she convince them that this is wrong? 
In the village where I live there is a brick factory with 20-30 people in it. A lot of kids work in the factory so I approach the workers and try to convince them that their situation is wrong. Many times I cannot go directly and talk to the people as the owners would get upset. The workers cannot just run away, as all of their families live in the same village. If they did try to escape the land owners would track them down and punish them.

How did they get in this situation?
The land owners lent them money. Then the land owners made a bond that they have to repay the landowners by working for them in the factory. They are in this hold until they repay them back.  They cannot work for someone else and pay them like a loan.  They are bound to the landowner.

The workers earn Rs.6,000 a month and the youngest kids in the factory are 7-8 years old.  These kids work in the brick factory and do the movement of materials work.  They bring the water on their backs to the cement area to make the bricks.  Then they move the molded bricks to the area where they bake it.   

How many kids are in the brick factory?
10

What about school?
We are putting pressure on the factory owners so recently the kids have been allowed to start going school. 5 have started to go to school already. 

When can the kid's leave the brick factory work?
The parents borrowed money so they are saying they have to stay to pay this back.  The parents have taken Rs. 30-40k advance (US$480-650). Kids are paid Rs.100 a day (US $1.60) but they nothing in hand.  All the record keeping is done by the landowners.  In many cases the parents were working there for years, so their kids went there automatically.  It is a generational issue.

What will it take to release them? What does the landlord want from them?
The only way for the kids to get out is to have their parents agree and repay the money.

How are the kids treated?
If they work slow, the discipline for the kids will be beatings, but this is considered normal part of their life.

Do you have any specific stories?
Nagaraj is the name of one 7-8 yrs old boy. His sister was getting married and they needed Rs. 35k for dowry. The family had to start working to pay for this so Nagaraj was sent to the agriculture lands. Then he went to work at the owner's bar. Nagaraj's school teacher found out about this and went there. They worked out a program with the landowner that the balance would be worked off by the father instead of the young boy. Before this was caught, Nagaraj worked in the farm and then in the bar for three years.  When he went to the bar, he worked before and after school hours.