As our Blood Bricks campaign continues to fight to end slavery in India’s brick kilns, we receive the horrific news that two workers died in a bid for freedom.

Two brick kiln workers, Mr Lobo Pathra  (40) and Mr Kamala Kantha Goher (30) died this week in an apparent attempt to escape from the brick kiln where they worked as bonded labourers. The men were residents of Sardapur village in the Nuapada district of the state of Odisha in the east of India.

 

The Hindu newspaper reports that, according to a police report, the men were electrocuted by electric fencing as they tried to escape the kiln on Monday night. Their bodies were found by local farmers and dumped in a canal.

This is reminiscent of the case in late 2013 that saw two brick kiln workers have their hands chopped off for refusing to work. The case attracted international attention and outcry, and lead UK unions to redouble their solidarity efforts with bonded labourers in India. The incident was the impetus for the launch of the Blood Bricks campaign in the UK.

The Blood Bricks campaign – launched by USi in cooperation with Thompsons Solicitors after several years of work with our field partners Prayas in India – has subsequently been featured by the Guardian and BBC. The campaign is working to end slavery and bonded labour in Indian brick kilns. As well as exposing the companies that use blood bricks in their supply chain, we are supporting unionising efforts in the brick kilns that have already seen substantial improvements to conditions.

Blood bricks campaigners and police at the rescue of 127 bonded labourers

The blood bricks campaign continues to make good progress, but it is a drop in the ocean when a whole economic system is based on modern day slavery.

Campaigners, with support from the Hyderabad Solidarity Committee, rescued 127 bonded labourers, including 51, children from a brick kiln in Telelgana state earlier this week. All the workers are being restored back to their native villages in Odisha and Chattisgarh.

 


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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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