June 12, 2022
Source: Times Of India
Jothi doesn’t remember a life before the rice mill she worked in when she was a toddler. “My father used to tell me it was home,” she says.
Starting at 4. 30am, her little hands would mechanically soak, boil, steam and clean paddy grains and fill them up in sacks for the next 19 hours. Jothi’s family got into debt paying for her mother’s chronic illnesses, so school was a far cry for this child. Her social worker says that when the family was rescued from the rice mill in Red Hills in 2011,one could have never guessed that Jothi’s mother was full-term pregnant with her fourth child, as she was severely malnourished.
On many days, the cycle of work designed for three to four shifts often fell on one set of workers, which meant they’d be at the site for almost 24 hours at a stretch.
Soon after rescue, Jothi’s mother died of an illness and her father remarried. Among the first things Jothi’s rescuers did was put her under institutionalised care, where she learned vocational skills.
Today, this 24-year-old is a master tailor and a quilt maker at Intermission Industrial Development Association, where she trains a team of tailors. “Bonded labour doesn’t just affect a community, but a home,” says Jothi. “My father expressed his angst in the form of alcoholism and physical violence. But over years of psycho-traumatic therapy, he is a changed man,” she says. “One of the things every survivor lacks after being rescued is direction and mental health aid. I use my own history with prolonged trauma, to lead my team with patience, engagement and determination. There is no one beyond redemption. ”