Rescue of 60 bonded brick kiln workers from a brick kiln in Medak district, Andhra Pradesh

January 20, 2014

PRESS RELEASE

Brick-kiln Workers’ Union of Ranga Reddy district and Solidarity Committee for brick-kiln workers of Andhra Pradesh, hereby wantsto bring to your notice the issue of use of bonded labour and brutal violence at a brick kiln in Koppulapally village, Yeldurthi Mandal, Medak district. We were informed by the workers of the kiln about violent attacks by the owner and the management. Accordingly, on 17 January 2014 a team of human rights and civil liberties activists, and journalists conducted a fact finding at the kiln.

The workers there complained about the regular use of violence on them by the owner and the management. The workers, totally 60 in number, had been brought to here from various districts in Odisha, such as Nuapada, Bargar, Balangir, in the month of October, after payment of a small advance of Rs. 10000 to 15000 per worker. Once they reached the area, first some of them were employed for harvesting the crops on the owner’s fields, and then for preparing the kiln itself, none of which was supposed to be their work, and for which none of them got paid anything. After that they were employed in the brick-making work. People were being forced to work even when they were sick. One pregnant woman was forced to work. Those who protested against such practices were attacked. Many people, including women and the elderly, suffered injuries. Earlier, two workers fled form the kiln out of fear. But the worst incidence of crude violence occurred five days back when Muniram, one of the workers, was brutally beaten up and taken away by the management. No current details about Muniram is known to us yet. Other than Muniram, three other workers, Sujan, Pinki and Mithila were also beaten up, with bricks and sticks. 3 of the workers were forced to work even as they were suffering from chicken pox. A number of children in the age group of 6 to 14 were also employed at the kiln. Apart from this, other violations of law, such as no wages, physical and verbal harassment, flouting of pollution norms, are a regular occurrence in this kiln. Later in the day, on 17th January, the workers were rescued from the kiln, and given temporary shelter in Old Boys Hostel, Yeldurthi village, under police protection. Police complaints have been filed against the owner of the kiln. We are now trying to ensure proper rehabilitation and compensation for the rescued workers, and their safe return to their villages, as stipulated under The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976. We also demand the payment of the due amount to the workers, under the Minimum Wages Act, based upon the number of bricks they have made over the last 4 months. Meanwhile the owner Narasimha Reddy and other attackers are still roaming around freely, and taking every opportunity to threaten the workers and force them to get back to the kiln. Even after the filing of police complaints, the owner was seen threatening the workers with bodily harm.

But the MRO Yeldurthi is showing extreme reluctance in understanding the situation of the brick kiln workers rescued from the brick kiln. Even getting her to provide for food and other basic facilities for the rescued workers is proving to be an extremely hard task. Despite explaining to her in written form and orally how this case constitutes bonded labour and how it is similar to other cases of bonded labour that have been identified in and around Hyderabad in recent times, she refused to listen to the activists. She also did not try to find out for herself what the law says with regard to what constitutes bonded labour and how such cases are to be handled. On the one hand our State and Central governments say they are very serious about implementing the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and on the other there is such reluctance on the part of relevant authorities to even understand bonded labour systems as they exist today and to act upon them appropriately. According to the Supreme Court judgment on bonded labour in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. State of Tamil Nadu case, the District Magistrates have been directed to effectively implement Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Bonded Labour Act and to discharge their functions with due diligence, with empathy and sensitivity, taking note of the fact that the Act is a welfare legislation. Further, according to the Court judgment, he District Magistrate and the State Government / UTs should see that the Minimum Wages Act, the Workmen Compensation Act, the Inter- State Migrant Workmen Act, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act are also properly and effectively implemented.

We therefore demand that the MRO Yeldurthi, RDO Medak and Collector Medak should take immediate appropriate actions to recognize this issue as one of bonded labour as defined in the law and interpreted by the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission. We also demand that they take immediate steps to prevent this and other similar instances of the use of bonded labour, and implement the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for rehabilitation of bonded labour (http://labour.nic.in/content/dglw/Schemes/BondedLabour.html) and issue bonded labour certificates to the workers. We demand the Commissioner of Labour to take immediate steps to calculate the due wages of the workers in accordance with the Minimum Wages Act, and settle their wages immediately, and ensure their safe return to their villages.

In this regard we request you to bring to light the gross violations of basic human rights and legalities that has been happening in this kiln, and the incompetence and collusion of the administration with the brick kiln owners and management, and the complete anti-labour bias among the bureaucrats.

brick_kiln_medak_1

brick_kiln_medak_2

brick_kiln_medak_3