Another day of travelling and for reasons of logistics, a word that seems to have been hijacked by haulage companies to make them sound posh, the other five members in my party were flying on a different airline, albeit only 10 mins before me, from Mumbai to Delhi. Which meant a number of things:
1. Because my flight was only delayed for 30 mins, as opposed to their 50 minutes, I was going to land before them. Ha!
2. They didn't get the benefit of listening to orchestral versions of 'Jingle Bells', 'Let it Snow' and 'Joy to the World' as my plane prepared for take off.
3. I arrived at the terminal we were all supposed to arrive at. They didn't. Their bags did.
Anyway, after much confusion as to where everyone was, we had a joyful reunion at the IJM office in Delhi and were warmly welcomed by the staff here. There are a large team dealing mainly with Bonded Labour cases, but also the National Interventions Team is based here. With all the delays, not mine I hasten to add, we didn't get to the offices until 5.00pm but we were given a presentation of the nature of their work before heading off to find our hotel down roads which looked very familiar even though I've never been here before. Poverty, homelessness, hopeless. As I say, rather familiar having been to Kolkata and Mumbai.
I really can't believe how people treat their fellow human beings. I'll explain a bit more about bonded labour and how binding and insidious it is tomorrow as we are going to be meeting survivors of Brick Kiln slavery in the Punjab after a 4.30am start. At least we're all on the same plane so I can keep an eye on my travelling companions. Suffice it to say for now that, for example, in the brick kilns, men and women are forced to carry 10 to 12 bricks for 18 hours a day. Even the strong man of our team, Tim Watts, rower extraordinaire, had to admit that holding the 4 bricks which the IJM team had to show us, for any period of time was tough. These poor souls have to carry these bricks all day, everyday, whether well or sick. And there are known cases where this abuse has continued for 20 years. In 2013 two such men ran away. They were caught and given the option of having either their heads or their right hands cut off. They chose to loose their hands. I've seen the photos as these were men rescued by IJM.
What is more children as young as 3 have been found working in these kilns. This is the sort of thing that Lord Shaftesbury fought successfully to stop in nineteenth century England.
These people, God's workmanship, are forced to live in terrible conditions. In the photo below a family that had been forced to work the land lived in an area infested with snakes, and not by choice, and hence the shelter (for it is no more) is built on sticks.
The numbers of people in bonded labour in India is shocking. It is in excess of 10 million. But as Gary Haugen, founder of IJM says in his book 'Good News about Injustice':
'We don't fight for statistics; we fight for human beings created in our Father's image, and one by one, we can actually make a difference that changes the odds.'
And the good news is that there is good news! The family you see in these pictures were all freed and have been rehabilitated into society. As many of you at St Thomas know I am a keen chicken fancier and planning on getting some of our own in the spring. So I was touched to see that when IJM rescue families they don't leave without taking the whole family, including our egg laying (now do you get the title?) feathered friends with them!