BRICK KILN WORKERS: MUCH CRY BUT THE MISERY CONTINUES

A report by the International Labour Organization (Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour-ILO) on profits earned by the industries exploiting the forced labour coming from the poorest sections of the Indian ‘populations’.

The report says: “The annual revenue generated by a bonded labourer working in the brick kilns of India amounts to US$4,355. This value, when multiplied by the percentage of bonded labourers in the brick kilns, puts the annual revenue contribution of a brick-kiln bonded labourer to the total revenues generated by bonded labourers in South Asia at US$653.”

The report identifies some sectors including the brick kilns as such industries earning profits from the ‘bonded labour’. The other industries that it mentions are carpet weaving, rice and sugar cane industries.

In economically poorer regions with high unemployment, the standalone or small brick kiln operations do not operate on bonded labour but the condition is different for the larger players operating a number of kilns over a large geographical area requiring the manpower on absolutely low or almost non-existential wages or for the brick kilns operating in areas with short supply of manpower.

The forced migration of the labour due to poverty helps them in keeping their manpower in a consistent supply mode, in the ‘bonded labour’ conditions, where they extract the output mercilessly, even from the children.

Just a quick Google search with tags ‘bonded labour + brick kilns + India’ returns with a number of reports from credible research works and media outfits, right from the page-1, supporting the findings in the ILO report:

Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour – ILO – May 20, 2014 (The one that pushed to do this exercise.)

17 bonded labourers, their kids rescued from brick kiln – TNN Times News Network – May 9, 2014

Bonded labourers rescued from brick kiln – Times News Network – February 12, 2014

Why India’s brick kiln workers ‘live like slaves’ – BBC – January 2, 2014

Slave labour in Indian brick kilns – Union Solidarity International – October 9, 2013

No Bonded Labour anymore? Really? – ActionAid – May 16, 2013

A smart way to prevent bonded labour – ILO – May 3, 2013

Toddlers freed from brick kiln bondage – CNN – March 20, 2013

Bonded labour: Brick kilns biggest culprits, says report – Hindustan Times – September 8, 2012

Bonded Labour in India: Its Incidence and Pattern – ILO – 2005

And there are really too many, crying out loud, but not able to make much difference. The misery continues.

The brick kiln workers in ‘bonded conditions’ are taken in as faceless identities and they never know when they would get out. And most of them never realize the meaning of words or phrases like ‘freedom’, ‘bonded labour’, ‘slavery’, ‘labour laws’ or for that matter, ‘human rights’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BRICK KILNS: WHERE WORKERS ARE NEVER TREATED AS ‘WORKERS’

Those having the roots in rural India know it well – the brick kiln workers. What drew my attention to them was an International Labour Organization report on profits earned by the industries exploiting the poverty of the people forced to work in out of their financial misery.

The report identifies some sectors including the brick kilns as such industries earning profits from the ‘bonded labour’.

The other industries that it mentions are carpet weaving, rice and sugar cane industries.

Brick kilns are a regular feature throughout the India dotting the country’s landscape. Cities and towns have them on outskirts. And for villages, these are regulars, employing the folks from the lowest strata, the unskilled labourers.

In my childhood, I used to marvel at the efficiency of carving a simple-designed brick from the mud and heating the soil to make it a solid red-coloured block. Some of my family’s land was contracted to a brick kiln owner and I had some chances to visit there.

I used to question others why they were paid so less and why they used to live like that – soaked in dirt with no moments to take rest. And the condition has not changed much since my childhood.

It was a small operation and there was nothing like bonded labour as much as I could gather then. Yes, people working there were living in abject poverty and were ready to grab whatever earning opportunity they could have had through their physical labour.

But as I grew up and started getting the real sense of the social vulnerabilities of India’s societal formations through my associations and collaborations with some NGOs, I could gauge how deep the problem was.

Standalone or small brick kiln operations do not operate on bonded labour in economically backward regions as the labour is available but the condition is different for the larger players operating a number of kilns over a large geographical area or for brick kilns operating in areas with short supply of manpower to do this labour intensive work that badly affects the health of the workers.

Workers are still paid shamelessly low and the large operators need constant supply of cheap manpower to maintain their business on a consistent running mode.

And to ensure that, keeping the labour ‘bonded’ somehow is the ‘safest’ option for them. And given the poverty of the brick kiln workers, they get it done easily. And these mercenaries do not care if the worker is an adult or a child. The forced migration of the labour helps them in keeping a tight tab on their workforce that they never care for.

Being a ‘worker’ demands the conditions on ‘labour laws’ to be met but they are never treated as the ‘workers’. They are taken in as faceless identities and they remain so as long as they remain there, with no exit options to exercise.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/