Case study 2 - Rama (India, 2004)

Bonded child labourer behind a loom

Bonded child labourer in India behind a loom. Courtesy of Athar Khan

Child slavery

Some very poor families in India and Pakistan are lured into handing over their children to work in the carpet industry. The employers promise to provide work and education for the children, and say that the children - mostly boys - will be able to send money home to their families. Once they arrive at the workplace, though, the boys are forced to work for no pay, for 10-19 hours a day, six or seven days a week.

Rama (India 2004)

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Rama's family were convinced by promises of education and other facilities to let the carpet factory owners take their son to work on a loom as a carpet maker. Once he was in their hands, though, he was forced to work day and night, and their promises turned out to be lies. Rama managed to run away. The loom owners came after him but he managed to get away and after receiving support from Bal Vikas Ashram, which cares for liberated children, he has been helped to start building a new life for himself.

Rama's story

Before I was taken I did not go to school. I would take the cattle of my neighbours for grazing. I would have fun. We would go in a large group of boys. We would just let the cattle graze while we had fun. In the village I had five brothers, my mother and my sister. I was in the village when a man came and offered food, clothing, shelter and money. My parents sent me even though I didn't want to go. I didn't know what was happening to me - where I would land up. I was very scared. The journey took a long time. I didn't know how to weave but I was taught by being beaten up repeatedly - they beat me up each time I made a mistake.

One morning something snapped. I took my blanket and ran for my life. I jumped on a tractor and it took me to a place I didn't know. A woman sheltered me for the night and sent me to her father's house. The owners of the loom chased me. I was lucky. The loom owner actually came to the house but didn't see me.

I can read now a little bit. When I do go back home, I intend to enrol in school and learn a whole lot more. The happiness and joy that I have found at the Ashram may never come again. Now there are no thoughts about running away in my mind. The work I do here I want to continue when I go home. I want to work as an electrician. I want to tell the government that these kids exist. It's time for you to take these children out of the looms. And it's not so difficult. All you need to do is surround the loom on all sides, come in and take the children. That's all you have to do.

Questions and discussion points

  • Why do you think the loom owner beat Rama when he made mistakes?
  • Why is Rama angry at the government?
  • What would you like to say to Rama?


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