[Hpn] They build mansions but remain homeless;Tribune;India;7/10/01

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Wed, 11 Jul 2001 10:55:17 -0400


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-------Forwarded article-------

Tuesday, July 10, 2001
The Tribune <http://www.tribuneindia.com>
[India]
Community section
They build mansions but remain homeless
<http://www.tribuneindia.com/20010711/punjab1.htm#17>

[by] Gayatri Rai

Bathinda, July 10
They build big bunglows and mansions but remain homeless throughout their 
lives. Deprived of all basic amenities, brickkiln workers do not dare to 
dream of a home.

Even after putting 12 to 18 hours of labour in adverse climatic conditions, 
these workers barely earn enough to keep themselves hand to mouth. For two 
square meals a day, they are forced to push their children into labour when 
they should be sent to school.

As most labourers are from Bihar, eastern U.P. or Madhya Pradesh and live in 
kuchha houses near brickkilns sans civic and health facilities, most are 
unable to exercise their right to vote.

A random survey of the brickkilns of the district revealed that child 
labour, although banned in the country, is widely prevalent in the kilns. 
But children are not paid anything as most are employed by the labourers 
themselves, just to add to the number of bricks produced in a day.

All these workers are hired on contractual basis at Rs 175 for 1000 bricks. 
Most labourers said it was not possible to produce more than one lakh bricks 
a year by a single person.

The day of a labourer starts at 2 a.m. as he has to prepare kuchhi bricks by 
7 a.m. When the furnace is ready for baking, the labourers have to handle 
almost the entire process involved in making of bricks — preparing the mud, 
making unbaked bricks, baking these at very high temperatures taking these 
out and then counting and arranging these in on order — all for a paltry 
sum.

Most employed at the brickkilns have become drug addict to enhance 
“productivity.” Addiction to tobacco, liquor, opium and poppy husk is 
common.

The contractors are indifferent to the inhuman working conditions. Rough 
estimates revealed that about 85 per cent of their children do not complete 
even primary education.

The houses in which these labourers reside are small and dingy without any 
ventilation electricity and water. Due to the unhealthy conditions, they 
fall ill frequently.

About a fortnight ago, six labourers working in a kiln died of 
gastroenteritis in this district due to consumption of contaminated water. 
Not only this their womenfolk are often exploited by not only contractors 
but by neighbouring villagers too.

Mr Channan Ram, state president of the Brickkiln Labourers Union, said till 
the brickkilns were not brought under the Factories Act and minimum wages 
not ensured for labourers, their lot could not be improved.

To improve the working and living conditions of the labourers, primary 
health centres and schools should be set up near brickkilns. A payroll 
register must be made mandatory at the kilns, he added.

Senior officials of the district administration said the brickkiln workers 
were often denied the right to vote as they did not have permanent residence 
in the state.

The labourers are denied voting rights in their home-states as they are 
often absent during census operations.

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA


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