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Free bonded labour in Central Gujarat's brick kiln units: Plea to NHRC, CM

By Our Representative
Does bonded labour exist in Gujarat? While the state officialdom would vehemently deny any such thing, a letter shot by the father of a brick kiln worker in the Kheda district of Central Gujarat has alleged that 21 women and men, two child workers, and 10 very small kids are living and working in a bonded-type condition in three different units.
Belonging to Chhattisgarh, these 21 persons with their children were brought to work in the brick kiln units with the promise of providing them remunerative wages and facilities.
In his letter to the Gujarat chief ministers of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, written by Dharmakirti Rai, who belongs to Mudpar village of Masturi tehsil in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, says that these workers were brought in after luring them with some advance. 
"They were told that they would be paid their good wages, but this did not happen. When they demanded wages, they were told these would paid after the Holi festival. Meanwhile, they could make do with meals", the letter, a copy of which has been forwarded to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said.
Following the Holi festival, when the workers again demanded wages, the letter said, "they were refused any wages once more." 
It added, "At the rate of Rs 700 for baking 1,000 bricks, which was agreed upon, each worker was to be paid around Rs 5,000-6,000. The workers told the brick kiln unit owners they would continue working even if the wages were paid on deducting whatever was spent on meals. Even then the owners did pay anything. Instead the owners said they would pay them all their wages once they returned back to their home."
Pointing out that all the workers were living in a state of fear as they were not being allowed to move out of the complex, the letter said, the owner of the brick kilns appeared to be a very influential person. 
"The workers are afraid of speaking out to anyone. Now when they demand wages, they are told that they are indebted to the owners. There is not even arrangement for proper drinking water. Child labour prevails there," the letter said.
The letter reminds the chief ministers, quoting a social worker, that inter-state migrant workers' Act, 1979 regulates those workers who go out to work in other states. Under the Act, the brick kiln workers should have informed the state governments of Chhattisgarh and Gujarat about their decision to take workers to Gujarat. 
"However, this has not happened", the letter said, requesting the chief ministers to take "immediate steps to free the workers living in a bonded type condition". The workers are working in three separate brick kilns in Kaloni, Nayaka and Pathapur in Kheda district, situated within a periphery of four kilometres.

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