In Bade Jamhri village in Narayanpur district, life revolves around the local church. Five local girls were rescued from Gems Agro Exports factory in Namakkal. Initially, they were reluctant to talk about their ordeal until the church permitted them to tell their story.
The girls fell for the machinations of an agent, a Bihari youth married to a local girl, which made him trustworthy enough. The tribal mind trusts easily and does not worry about the consequences. The girls tell their tale with such heart-wrenching simplicity that the dreadful lives they had to endure for a year seems almost pre-ordained and perhaps as easily accepted as destiny.
‘Some girls were made to sleep separately and raped’
IN 2007, Sigay Mandawi passed the Class IX exams, becoming the most educated girl in her village. While she was studying at the Government Higher Secondary School in Narayanpur, she met Bijju. One day, Bijju introduced her to his elder brother Tijuram Korram, who said that he could arrange a job for her. Instead, Korram sold her to Gems Agro Exports in Namakkal along with Rajeshwari and others.
Sigay says that the girls had to pick gherkins and then soak them in chemicals to preserve them. The chemicals used in the process caused allergies and their skin began to peel off. They were not allowed medical treatment nor could they rest.
For all the hard work, the girls were paid just Rs 100 at the end of the month, which was spent on buying soap and oil. “A few girls were even made to sleep separately and raped almost on a nightly basis,” says Sigay. Some were sent back when they became pregnant.
At the factory, their job was to dip vegetables in a preservative formulation and then seal and pack them for export. They were required to cut, clean, peel and then dip them in a solution of salt first before preparing and dipping it in preservatives. The preservative caused an unusual amount of itching and skin burns for which they would be given oil and a bar of Lifebuoy soap.
“We were given two small meals and tea twice a day but the work was never-ending and no one was allowed to go out of the tin sheds where we lived for more than four months,” reveals one girl.