Paying their parentsí debts
Millions of children work as bonded laborers in countries around the world. 15 million bonded child laborers exist in India alone. Bonded labor takes place when a family receives an advantage payment to hand to a child to an employer.
Here is a story about bonded labor in Bengandhalli village in India:
This village of 800 residents has 17 bonded laborers, most of them children. The society treats them as inferiors—preventing them from entering their homes during functions, and forcing them to sit separately. Once trapped into bonded labor, the children can see life closing its door on them.
10 year-old Harisha has been grazing animals for the last three years. He used to go to school.
His older brother, Ananda, goes to his owner every morning and is assigned the tasks that he has to complete by 8 at night. He has no days off and works 14 hours everyday, for the whole year. He receives no pay for his job. Since it’s been 4 years since he left school, he’s forgetting to read but still loves studying.
Their oldest brother, Nagenda, age 17, has never gone to school but he’s very knowledgeable in agriculture. He gets nothing but three leftover meals a day and two pairs of clothes a year.
Their father first took money by giving away his daughter for marriage. He then sold Nagendra into bonded labor for money. When he again needed money, he turned Ananda into a bonded laborer. And then again Harisha.
A debt of 1,500 Rupees (US$32) translates into one year of bonded labor. Once a poor family gets into a situation like Harisha’s family, it’s hard to escape.
Physical abuse is accepted in this environment and is quite common. One newspaper, for instance, reported that one owner had hammered nails into his bonded laborer’s feet to prevent him from running away. Another story told of an owner who tied his laborer in the pigsty and didn’t give him food for days.
Ananda’s feet were once tied in chains but he never attempted to escape. Why? He says, “If I run away, my mother or my father will have to work in my place. I don’t even know how to do any other work. What will I do?”
(This story was transcribed from a film by children of MYRADA- Plan India)