Hyderabad – Report on public meeting of the brick kiln workers’ movement

May 21, 2013

Solidarity Committee of the Rangareddy Brick kiln Workers’ Union organised a public meeting of the Brick-kiln Workers’ Movement.on 19th May 2013 at Dundigal village bus stop, Qutbullahpur mandal, Rangareddy dist. The speakers included S.L. Padma (IFTU), Vengal Reddy (Commitment), V. Praveen (IFTU), A. Krishna (Prayas), Shantilal (Activist, Brick kiln workers movements in Rajasthan and Gujarat), Sudipto Muhuri (Brick Kiln Workers Union), Kalpana (Action Aid), Suraj Kumar Jhariya (Brick kiln worker, Union member), Kishor Dansana (Brick kiln worker, Union member).

Roughly 150 workers attended the meeting, both men and women. Many workers sacrificed their weekly payment to come to the meeting. Many workers reported that the managements delayed the payment of their weekly allowance by a few hours, to ensure that they could not come to the meeting. The main issue discussed was the issue of wages. The Minimum Wage for brick-kiln workers as stipulated by A.P. government is rs.386/1000 bricks made. Till recently the net wages paid used to be Rs. 200-220 for making 1000 bricks. This season, as a result of incessant struggle by the workers, the labour department declared a wage of Rs. 265/-rupees per 1000 bricks making and 120/-rupees per 1000 brick. While this is a partial victory of the Union, the Union refuses to settle for anything less than the Minimum Wages. The Union has also demanded transparent payment of wages to the workers, which involves proper scrutiny of the accounts, and issue of pay slips to the workers during payment. The Union has also demanded the payment of displacement and travel allowances (in accordance of the Inter State Migrant Workmen Act) to the workers as the season draws to an end and workers are going to be on their way back home soon.

The workers present at the meeting expressed their frustrations with the working and living conditions in the work sites. The lack of proper drinking water, proper sanitation facilities, the refusal on part of the owners to pay for medical treatments of the workers were some of the main issues that were discussed. Another major issue faced by the workers is the physical, sexual and verbal abuse by the owners. There were many workers present at the meeting who complained about having faced physical violence from the owners and people hired by them. The Union strongly condemns such acts on the part of the owners, and has decided to deal strongly with any such occurence in future. Two of the speakers particularly drew attention to the violence faced by the women workers, and how the women and children workers are the most vulnerable in such situations. The rest of the speakers talked about the basic rights of the workers, the Minimum Wages Act, and the need to develop working class leadership for building a successful workers’ movement. It was also discussed that although the Union is focusing on the Minimum Wage issue at present, the struggle has a long way to go beyond mere payment of minimum wages.

It is horrific to note how the basic fundamental, human and constitutional rights of the workers are being systematically violated in the brick kiln industry. Every year hundreds of thousands of workers migrate from the drought prone districts of Western Odisha to work in subhuman conditions in the brick-kilns in and around Hyderabad. They face every imaginable kind of atrocity in the hands of the brick-kiln owners and contractors. All the stipulated labour welfare and empowerment laws are flouted in these work-spaces and working hours range from 14-16 hrs. a day with no holidays, no medical or maternity provisions, rampant use of child-labour, routine sexual violence and persistent physical abuse. The whole system is a form of Bonded Labour intimately connected with the current agricultural distress in India. As in most issues of distress migration, here too the ‘Advance’ paid to the workers is a ‘carry over’ of usurious debt accrued by the migrants for doing agricultural work. Neoliberalism feeds on certain kinds of crises and consciously cultivates them, and the impoverished unorganized migrant labourer (often bonded) is a direct product of neo-liberalism; she embodies both the abused wage-labourer while a migrant and a distressed farm-worker while at home. The exploitation of these workers subsidizes the entire Real Estate business of this city and thus provides luxury to some few parasites at the cost of dignity of life of lakhs of real value producers – classic neo-liberal way of life.

A more detailed account of the prevailing situation of the brick-kiln workers and the movement work so far is discussed in the following links:

http://sanhati.com/excerpted/5853/

http://thealternative.in/inclusivity/bonded-to-bricks-hyderabads-brick-kiln-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bonded-to-bricks-hyderabads-brick-kiln-workers

http://sanhati.com/event/6173/

http://sanhati.com/articles/6239/

Workers Demands:

1. Immediate implementation of the Minimum Wages Act 1948, and payment of it with arrears before the end of the season.

2. Immediate scrutiny of the records by the Labour Department and a transparent process of payment of wages to the fullest, including issue of pay slips to the workers.

3. Full-fledged inspection in the kilns by the Labour Department to take stock of the working and living conditions.

4. Immediate implementation of the provisions of the Inter-state Migrant Workmen’s’ Act 1979 (ISMWA).

We request your esteemed media collective to carry this news, and also engage in a sustained effort with the workers to bring to light this extremely serious situation.

On behalf of Solidarity Committee for Brick-kiln Workers’ Union.
Contact persons: Kalpana-09490751791, Tathagata Sengupta-09440486707, V. Praveen-09492431440, A. Krishna-09959098737