Puroik girl kept as bonded labourer

[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, Dec 2: A case of bonded labour involving a 14-year-old girl has been reported from East Kameng district.
The girl, who belongs to the Puroik tribe – an erstwhile bonded labourers’ community – was sold off by the master of her family to another family to pay off a debt. After she escaped from her captors, one of her uncles brought her to Itanagar and tried to traffic her again, when she finally managed to find help through a church-run NGO.
The case is currently being taken up by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Itanagar. The CWC has said that it is seeking the help of the Arunachal Pradesh Legal Services Authority regarding the case.
“I was very young when I was taken away from my parents by the masters who later sold me off to another family. My parents did not know that I had been sold off to another family. They thought that I was serving the family of their masters in Seppa as is the practice with many Puroik families,” she says.
The young girl is a native of a village in Chayangtajo circle. Her parents extract canes to earn their livelihood and do not have a fixed residence.
“I was tired of working and beatings. And they wanted to marry me off to a Puroik who was almost in the same situation as I was, so I decided to run away,” she says.
She does not remember the date when she made the daring escape. She says it was the season of school admission this year.
“I ran away to Tippi (in West Kameng) and stayed with my aunt. One day, while we were working in the field, an uncle said that I had to accompany him to Itanagar to get my Aadhaar card made.”
She accompanied her uncle to Naharlagun a week ago, little knowing that she was being trafficked.
“My lady of the house told me what my uncle was planning. So I ran away again with the help of a friend who knew the people running the NGO,” she says. “I want to go to school. I want to study.”
None of her five siblings go to school.
There are many Puroik girls who work in the houses of their masters as bonded labourers, she says.
This is the fourth case of bondage labour that has come to Childline so far. Three children from the same family were rescued in 2014.
Deputy Commissioner East Kameng, Rajiv Takuk, says that cases of bonded labour are not as rampant as presumed previously. But he says that Puroiks need to be emancipated in full measure.
The tribe, which was earlier known as Sullung, was officially recognised as Puroiks on 26 January, 1976 – a formality by the Indian state to free them from subservience to their masters who mostly belonged to the Miji and Nyishi communities.