Bonded labour: The big challenge after the drought

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Chennai, May 30: The rescuing of 300 bonded labour from a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu shows the dark side of the industry and how human lives continue to be exploited. Paid a meagre Rs 200 for 20 hours of work, the industry has once agains shown its dark side.

Based on a tip off the police rescued, 300 workers out of which 88 were children. All of them hailed from Odisha and the the owners of the kilns had clearly taken advantage of their financial status.

300 bonded labour rescued in TN

This scenario is however not restricted to Tamil Nadu alone. The brick industry has a major turn over as it is in high demand. Workers are brought in from states such as Odisha, Assam and Bengal and made to work under inhuman conditions.

Exploitation:

The largest number of bonded labour has been from Odisha. This is largely because the state faced a massive drought last year and this had rendered a majority of these persons job less. In search of food, they fall easy prey to the owners of the brick klins and also quarries.

These persons are identified by agents who visit drought hit areas across the country. A meagre sum of Rs 10,000 is paid as a time payment.

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This lures the persons into the industry. Once they are brought to work, they are forced to toil for 15 to 20 hours for a sum of Rs 200 to Rs 240 per week.

For these persons there is no escaping. They have to chose between the devil and the deep sea. If they wish to return to their homes, they will need to pay back the Rs 10,000 they took as advance.

The other issue is returning home does not solve the problem either. Back home, there is no source of livelihood and hence many prefer to work under inhuman conditions and earn that meagre Rs 200 a week.

This year around several parts of the country faced a major drought situation. Agents of these kilns and quarries are sure to prey in several drought hit states.

The police say that it is a difficult situation. The people are desperate and they are ready to do anything to earn that amount. However we are keeping a watch on such kilns and if the work conditions are bad and the labour norms not followed then we won't hesitate to take action, the police say.

However the problem does not look like it would get resolved. The fear of the law is missing and many are extremely influential. The other problem is that if persons are caught engaging bonded labour then the labour laws only mandate a fine of Rs 2,000.

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