Chained to misery, bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu’s brick kilns

Brick kiln labour, bonded labour
According to Gopi, president of Kancheepuram Rescued Bonded Labours Association, it is not that easy to rescue labourers from brick kilns as owners keep changing the pattern of employment. | Photo - Prabhakaran Tamilarasu

The once bright coral pink paint on the walls of her house has faded to a paler shade, peeling at places, giving the one-room concrete abode a bleak look.

Inside the house, R Kala in her late 30s sits and recalls her life story brick by brick — memories of a grim past that she fears will never fade.

Kala was in her early 20s, a young bride, married to Ramesh of Thekkaloor village in Tamil Nadu's Thiruvallur district. While Ramesh would earn cutting wood, Kala used to help him run the household by doing odd jobs at farms that mostly included shelling bags of groundnut by hand that would leave her fingers sore at night. Yet, Kala was hopeful of a better future.

That was until 2005.

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