Case study 10 - Munni (India, 2004)

children carrying rocks

Children carrying rocks in Pasay City, Philippines, 2010

Bonded labour

In situations of bonded labour a family member's debt can be passed on to others, and the only way of paying it off is by working for the person it is owed to. But usually it is impossible to pay off the debt because it keeps increasing as employers charge for living expenses, equipment or fines for faulty work. Some workers do not know how the debt is calculated or how much it is.

Although this system is illegal, it is common in some countries, where children aged 4-14 have to work along with their parents for up to 14 hours a day.

Munni (India, 2004)

Read information about India.

Munni has four children, two boys and two girls. She is working to pay off a loan. Her debt is growing larger but she doesn't understand why, or how much she owes. If she is ill or not able to work for some other reason, her employer threatens to throw her and her family out of their home.

Munni's story

My name is Munni Devi. I'm 35 to 40 years old. I have four children. I've been working in the quarry for a long, long time, many years. Maybe 20 years. My husband died while he was working there and now I have to work there myself. Life is tough. I've taken a loan and because of that I'm a slave to the person I took it from. Now the situation is getting even worse. I'm in debt. I can't work that much and he threatens to throw me out of my house.

I've been working under the same contractor and I've taken one loan and now it seems to have doubled to become two loans. I'm not really earning too much and my debt is increasing. My original loan was for 9000 rupees (around £125) and I've been trying to repay it for a long time. It just seems to be increasing. I took it for the marriage of my daughter. I'm only paid once in a while. When the lorry comes to be loaded I'm paid about 400 or 500 rupees (£6-£7) depending on his mood.

Even if I'm sick, I'm made to work. When I'm not working my loan amount increases each month. I think I must have paid about half the loan by now, and half might still be due. But he may be cheating me. If that's the case, I'm not sure how much of my loan has been repaid. I don't know what the law says but I don't think it's right. I have no choices. Where will I go? What will I do? This is my house. This is my home. This is the only way I can survive because I have no money and that is all I can do. I can't run away. How will I run? Where will I run?

Questions and discussion points

  • How is the contractor able to get away with treating Munni like this?
  • How would you feel if you were one of Munni's children? What would you do?
  • What would you like to ask or say to Munni?


Back to case studies