Aarti brick kiln – By Sudhir Katiyar This is the peak season for brick kiln workers mobilisation. After a slow beginning, the work has picked up and chimneys have been fired. The coming month is going to be crucial. This is the window when pressure can …

Aarti brick kiln

Aarti brick kiln

– By Sudhir Katiyar

This is the peak season for brick kiln workers mobilisation. After a slow beginning, the work has picked up and chimneys have been fired. The coming month is going to be crucial. This is the window when pressure can be mounted on owners for settlement. Prayas is active in three destination states – Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh.

In Bhilwara, Rajasthan, preparations are on for the public meeting on 25th January. Last year the union had reached a settlement with the owners after a strike and a violent attack by the owners on workers and union. This year, the union had given a notice for a settlement of wages to the owners and the Labour Department. However the owners have not shown any inclination towards reaching a settlement. Some owners talk in a conciliatory manner and some are totally opposed to the union.

The union team had gone to meet the workers in a brick kiln on 18th January. The owner was called by the supervisor. He was very abusive and threatening. All the owners collected and came to the police station Mandal. They gave a written application to the police against the union saying that the union team entered their premises illegally and should be booked. The union team was also called to the police station where a senior officer from the district headquarters also came. All this time, the owners adopted a threatening posture. Their main complaint was that why has a public meeting been called? The police were very intimidating in the beginning. They said that the union team will be booked and sent to jail. However later there was a slight change in attitude and the team was allowed to go back.

As of now, it seems that the employers will make every effort to not let the workers attend the public meeting on the 25th. The union has called for a preparatory meeting of workers on 20th January. It also plans to meet the District Magistrate and District Superintendent of police asking for protection of its right to organise the workers. Situation remains tense with high probability of owners resorting to violence.

In Andhra Pradesh, a public meeting was held on 12th January. The meeting was attended by nearly 200 workers. There has been a significant rescue of bonded labourers in Medak district near Hyderabad. On 17th January, Prayas team led by Krishna rescued 22 families of brick kiln workers comprising a total of 63 members. The workers were being subjected to severe violence. Krishna will be sharing more details and photographs also soon.

In Gujarat, time motion study to estimate the physical effort spent in making brick was completed successfully by IIT Bombay. The market is down around Ahmedabad. Brick kilns started late and some kilns have not started even. The owners have sought to break the strength of the union by (i) recruiting workers from new areas like Jharkhand (ii) not recruiting Rajasthani workers who formed the backbone of union. The union team is currently making intensive efforts in Surat, that is a new area.

Prayas team has also received news of brick kiln workers from Chhattisgarh being held bonded in a brick kiln in Raebareilly district of UP. A complaint has been sent to the District administration. Information has also been passed on to local civil society groups who have made a visit to the brick kiln. There has been violence at the kiln. The workers are not even receiving complete food expenses.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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