Whenever I remember those days I weep and gets scared from inside. I had togive my wife improper cremation since I could not buy adequate woodfor her. My two sons who had lost their mother were also weeping.
Had the brick kiln owner given the labour charge both would have been living with us. As we came back the owner showed no humanity and both of my sons were put to job without even having anything to eat. I too started working but spending every moment at that brick kiln was a pain. I thought, if I had not come here my wife and daughter would have been alive." (From the testimony of 50 years old Patiraj Musahar who spent his whole life working as bonded labour in a brick kiln factory.)
This is not only the case of Patiraj but thousands of bonded labours like him faced unkindness when the demanded their wages or tried the final settlement. It is the worst form of human rights violation. It is violation of Right to Life, Right to Equality, Right to individual dignity, which are more important.
Landless poor, agricultural labourers, some artisan and those having no employment are the main victims of this system. Workers employed therein are members of SC, ST and minorities who are mostly non-literate and non-numerate and do not easily understand the arithmetic of loan/debt/advance and the documentary evidence remains with the creditor and its contents are never made known to the debtor.
The provisions contained in the Article 23 of the constitution prohibits all forms of forced labor including beggary. It makes no difference whether the person who is forced to give his labour or service to another is remunerated or not. Even if remuneration is paid labour supplied by a person would be hit by Article 23, if it is forced labour i.e. service has been rendered by force or compulsion.
Article 23 strikes at all forms of forced labour even if it has its origin in a contract voluntarily entered into by the person obligated to provide labour or service.
A number of workers were not allowed to leave the brick kiln premise and were providing forced labour. Living conditions at brick kilns are very bad. Labours live in jhuggies with bricks piled upon one another as walls and straw covering the top which did not provide any protection against the sun and rain.
These are like hovels where one has to sit to enter and they are unable to stand. Sanitation facilities are absent. Workers have to relieve themselves in the open. This can be problematic at times and even lead to conflicts with neighboring farmers.
Employer Unions and their representatives have also signed a Code of Conduct to ensure proper documentation of the workers and basic facilities at worksite. As a part of Code of Conduct they will help and facilitate education of children of the workers, opening of Bank Account,availability of clean and safe drinking water. But there is no implementation of code of conduct in brick kiln:
Women suffer sexual abuse and violence. Women experience violence because they are women, and often because they do not have the same rights that men do. No woman in a brick kiln is exempt from violence and exploitation.
In the worst kilns, women are raped or economically forced or left with little choice but to serve as prostitutes. The drinking water and fuel (wood) are near to the office of clerk, "You take the wood and in return you will give nothing." (From testimony)
Trafficking of children (half of whom are between 11 and 14 years of age) and women is a plague of the poor. Trafficked children are subjected to physical and sexual abuse and treated as slaves, with debt bondage being one of the many tools employed to trap children into perpetual servitude.
Radha, who is originally from a tribal community in Jharkhand state, is among India's vast population of trafficked children, who are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse.
"I was with my family when a woman called Shanti visited us and told me to come with her. She was from the same village so I trusted her. She said she was going to take me to a fair. But this woman had tricked me and forced me to go to the brick kiln factory. There I had to work for the owner, doing his cooking and cleaning, and also massage him.Two days after I arrived he forced himself on me. He used to give me a tablet, then he would force himself on me. My room was next to where the owner worked and every time he wanted me, he would come to my room. He would come two or three times a day. I told that woman Shanti that I didn't like it, and she said that if you tell anyone,the owner will kill you. One day I opposed it, and the owner beat meup brutally. I was so scared. The brick kiln owner was in his sixties, had no teeth, used to drink a lot, and force me to drink alcohol as well. When I refused, he used to hit me. I'm still in pain from the rapes," recalled Radha.
Sometimes few bonded labours manages to escape from the brick kiln factory but it takes along time to attain the release certificate after identification and release and there is no effective, meaningful and permanent rehabilitation of these labours. They run from pillar to post to get rehabilitation amount of Rs 20, 000/- and due to the apathy from the administration there condition remains vulnerable.
The gap between identification and release on the one hand and release and rehabilitation on the other is clear and pronounced. On account of such a gap, freed bonded labourers lapse back to the vulnerable condition.
Not only these survivors require rehabilitation to cope with a host of emotional, physical, and psychological needs,they also face economic difficulties. But most of them do not even have a proper place to live, and live in slum dwellings without access to water, electricity, or sanitation etc.
Challenging the impunity through breaking the silence is based on eliminating the fear, phobia, hopelessness and fragmentation of the survivors in empathetic safe and secure environment. Their fragmented story changed into consolidate story which convince district administration to grant the release certificates.
The release certificate is not only a legal document for the physical release of the survivors but it is dignity. After receiving release certificate from ADM(Administration) Varanasi Siddiquillah took a long breath of relief and stated, "Now I will not die as a bonded labour".
The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976-- provided punishment for compelling a person to engage in bonded labour. In addition to the prescribed punishment for forcing persons into bonded labour, the act by a declaration frees everyone from bonded labour and prohibits contractual agreements, facilitating bonded labour and continuation or extension of any pre-enactment agreement of similar nature.
The officer conducting an enquiry shall also report whether the employer has committed breach of any of the provisions contained in the Labour Legislations and particularly, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition)Act, 1976, Payment of Wages Act, 1936; Minimum Wages Act, 1948;Prevention of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Atrocities) Act,1989; Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1979; Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act,1976; and Weekly Holidays Act, 1942.
So, in this context People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR)is organizing one day state level public hearing on bonded labour with interface with different stakeholders with support from Dignity Danish Institute Against Torture in Lucknow on 25th October, 2013.
In the public hearing PVCHR will share how it started its foundation journey from 1996 to work on the child labour free village. The Chief Guest of public hearing will be Shri. Yogesh Dube,Member, National Commission for Protection Child Right (NCPCR), New Delhi.
In2002 the founder and CEO of PVCHR was appointed member of District Vigilance Committee on Bonded Labour under Bonded Labour abolition Act 1976 by the Governor of UP. In the last two and half years PVCHR released and rescued 243 bonded labours.
In total the PVCHR has sofar managed to release nearly three thousand bonded labours. All thereleased bonded labour belonged to Dalits, tribal, OBCs and minorities communities. So, elimination of bonded labour is eliminating of caste system, facism, communalism and patriarchy.