Quarterly Meeting of the NASC Team at Nagarjuna Sagar, Vijayapuri, Telangana State

    The National Adivasi Solidarity Council is a network of grassroots organisations working through Foundation for Sustainable Development with IJM cooperation to eradicate modern slavery practice in India. Currently we are operating in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh states by implementing Article 23 of the Constitution to ensure Right to Freedom, Equality and Social Justice by abolishing the Bonded Labour issue. The objective of the organization is transforming the Public Justice System for the benefit of vulnerable & voiceless people of the country inline with Preamble of the Constitution of India.

    The National Adivasi Solidarity Council (NASC) has been committed to the abolition of bonded labour in India for the past several years.  During this time the operations have grown to be active in many states and branched off to educating partner organisations as well as three NASC teams who make their own rescues.  The three state teams are from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana.  As a whole, the NASC group meets once every three months to maintain their efficiency and to plan for the next three-month period.  The meetings are facilitated by the executive director of the NASC Krishnan. 

    Dr Krishnan is a charismatic leader who manages to weave humour into discussions while still challenging and asking for the best from the NASC team.  These meetings serve as an opportunity to build relationships and connections between the different teams and also to discuss strategies and procedures face to face. This is an opportunity for the team members to overcome challenges with collective strength and it builds skills among them. 

    The NASC teams met in Telangana this quarter during 27-29 September to review the work on bonded labour.  There were many reasons why Telangana was chosen to host the meeting.  Firstly, in recent years the area has become a popular migrants fleeing flood areas.  These migrants are often in very vulnerable positions and become targets of exploitation, often becoming bonded labourers.  Also, many other human rights violations occur in this area such as Telangana being known as having the largest infant market in the whole of India.  However, despite these struggles, NASC still holds hope for the area and they drew motivation from the previous occupiers of this land in 300 A.D who named the area Vijayapuri, which translates to “victory place”.  The National Adivasi Solidarity Council too believe that they will be able to move closer towards a victory over the social injustices of the area.

    The agenda for the meetings that occurred over three days consisted of discussions on the multiple aspects of the team’s work with an aim to further streamline the operations at the NASC.  The first day was an introduction of everyone to accommodate for those who were new to the group.  This was followed by a discussion on why and how the rehabilitation team should work with the bonded labourers to maintain sustainable survival in the outside world.  The second day saw discussion lead to the importance for the rescue team to communicate well with local governments.  The group brainstormed different ideas that would create professional relationships and build mutual respect between governments and the NASC.  On the third day of discussions, the various segments of each state’s bonded labour team were identified so that they could communicate with one another.  The philosophy at NASC is to bring experts in from each field to fulfil the tasks at a rate that is close to perfection.  These teams include the: identification team, rescue team, legal team and the rehabilitation team.  The process begins with the identification team locating worksites that are hosting bonded labourers.  Next, the rescue team coordinate with the local authorities and execute a rescue of those identified labourers.  The legal team then organises the formalities such as release certificates with the local government.  Finally, the rehabilitation team work with the labourers over an extended period of time to assist them maintain their psycho-social well-being and empower them to be able to manage their new lives outside of bonded labour.  By creating the connections between members of each of these team in different states, NASC have created pathways for communication which with further streamline their operation. 

    The National Adivasi Solidarity Council has an understanding that the best work is done when their people are well rested and content.  To ensure that the staff were content during the meetings, there were excursions arranged for each day and cultural sessions of singing and dancing in the evenings.  After the first meeting, the team ventured past the dam and to some nearby waterfalls.  Here, they were greeted by some enthusiastic monkeys and surrounded by the beautiful nature that this area has to offer.  The second excursion for the trip was to the Nagarjuna Sagar, which is a small island in the middle of the dam.  The staff shared laughter and awe as they wandered through the beautiful gardens and through the museum of archaeological relics.  The third day saw the team saying their goodbyes after a short meeting in the morning.  After which, the Kerala and Tamil Nadu teams headed for Chennai where they stopped off at a large temple before making their journeys to their respective states.  Each of these trips served as a chance for the teams to bond with one another and relax after the hard work that each member invested into the meetings.

    There was an emphasis of family and connection amongst the content of the meetings.  Throughout the entire three day meetings there were relationships being built through the discussions and various activities.  These relationships resulted in a sense of mutual respect amongst the different team members.  The sessions were accommodating and celebration of different cultures.  The staff were encouraged to speak in their most comfortable language and their messages would be translated.  At the end of the three days of sessions, the Director of the NASC Krishnan addressed the group and stated that he believes as a unit, the NASC bonded labour teams function as a family together and that they should continue to aspire to that.   There was also an emphasis for each individual team member to spend time with their own families.  Krishnan led by example with this as he had brought his family along to experience the sightseeing and cultural activities.

    There were two phrases that were repeated by many workers over the three days that capture the passion and commitment of the NASC bonder labour team ‘we do hard work but we are happy’ and ‘we may succeed or we may fail, but we always laugh’. This shows the power of collectiveness to challenges the difficulties with more confidence.

    This document by:
    Mr. Blake Suzor,
    Australian Volunteer from Queensland University to FSD  
    Brisbane, Queensland