Women among 5000 'bonded labourers' rescued from J&K’s brick kilns in 12 years: NCCEBL

‘Landless agricultural labourers with their families migrate to J&K, Punjab and Haryana in search of work and good wage end up become bonded labourers’
Although the work involves a high level of risk, most of the time the administration and police support them in the rescue operations.
Although the work involves a high level of risk, most of the time the administration and police support them in the rescue operations.File: ANI

Jammu: National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour (NCCEBL) has said  that they have rescued women among 5000 “bonded labourers” working across Jammu and Kashmir’s brick kilns in the last 12 years.

These skilled labourers are mostly landless agricultural workers who migrate with their families from Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to find work in Haryana, Punjab and J&K.

NCCEBL, convenor, Nirmal Gorana Agni told Greater Kashmir over phone from Delhi that they have rescued over 5000 such bonded labourers from different districts of the Union Territory i.e., Poonch, Rajouri’s Nowshera, Samba, Kathua, Jammu and other districts of Kashmir valley.

“There is no social organisation or NGO working for these bonded labourers n J&K. We have to work alone from Delhi. Whenever we get to know about these labourers, we go to the concerned district to rescue them with the help of civil administration and police,” he said.

Although the work involves a high level of risk, most of the time the administration and police support them in the rescue operations.

“In one of such instances, we were dragged and beaten up by the owner of a brick kiln in one of the tehsils of Pir Panjal and the authorities were under pressure even as the local police were trying to help us. One of our colleagues was wounded,” he recalled and added that on reaching the Jammu Railway Station he found that he had no mobile phone and no cash to buy a railway ticket for Delhi.

“Therefore, I along with the rescued bonded labourers begged on the railway station (platforms) in Jammu to arrange money for travel. The money which we had collected was very less. Somehow we boarded the train to Delhi. In Delhi, we took food after 24 hours,” he said while narrating the horrific incident he faced during a toughest rescue operation.

He further said that the rescued bonded labourers need a release certificate from the concerned district magistrate so that they can be compensated and rehabilitated accordingly by the government in their respective states. However, in certain cases the authorities do not give release certificates and hence, it creates problems for their rehabilitation.

“In some of the cases, the bonded labourer’s release is not acknowledged by the district authorities due to the reason that they do not want to accept that such labourers exist in their districts as it brings bad name,” he said while terming he bonded labourers as “modern day slavery and trafficking.”

To a question as to how they identify bonded labourers, he said, “When labourer’s movement is strictly restricted to the brick kiln and their movement is constantly monitored.”

“These bonded labourers are not paid as per their work, they work for almost 12/18 hours, no record is maintained with their signature, their underage children and women also make bricks. Whereas, no crutch is established for their children, no clean drinking water facility is provided to them nor any social security is provided. If the workers want to shift to other work, the owner of the brick kilns does not allow them to do so,” he said.

He further said “If one falls ill then only one member is allowed to go to doctor and rest are compelled to stay back at the brick kilns to ensure that they do not escape,” he said comes under the category of bonded labourers and these things mostly happen in brick kilns.

He said that these families migrate because they get less wage in their respective states and the financial conditions force them to migrate to Haryana, Punjab and J&K for work and to get well paid.

“When they are brought to these states by the agents with promises of good wages, they are forced into bonded labourers with less wage and exploitation. The agents have no role as they take commission and leave the place,” he added while saying that many brutality cases have also come to fore and many cases are pending before the National Human Rights Commission.

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