Hailing from Maruthadu village in Vandavasi taluk in Tiruvannamalai district, Kanniappan began working as a woodcutter from a very young age. Soon he became a bonded labourer, not allowed to celebrate festivals nor let out to cast his vote.
Kanniappan was rescued in 2017 from woodcutting and charcoal making units in remote villages in Kancheepuram and Tiruvannamalai districts along with 50 other workers.
A member from the International Justice Mission, an NGO that rescued Kanniappan says, “They were promised Rs 800 per tonne of wood. But they were being given Rs 100 to Rs 200 per week for a family of two.”
The NGO was also instrumental in helping the rescued labourers, Kanniappan included, in applying for and obtaining their voters id.
With his years of being confined to back-breaking work, Kanniappan has very little knowledge of the outside world. While he remembers leaders such as MGR, Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa, he does not know much about the present leaders.
Kanniappan is however excited to be casting his vote for the very first time and even learnt how to operate the polling machine from the Tiruvannamalai Collector. “They visited me directly and taught me how to operate the machine,” he tells us.
Kanniappan is also sure that whoever he votes for should be a person like him. “Surely someone like us and someone who cares about people’s welfare,” he tells us.
Kanniappan chops wood for a living even at this age, but as a free man. Living with his daughter Karupayee (60), her sons Babu (33) and Prabhu (20) and few others in Maruthadu village, Kanniappan is happy to be among the several thousand voters who will be voting in Tamil Nadu for the upcoming elections.
Source: The News Minute