By Sudhir Katiyar Today was a difficult day. The movement had faced a violent onslaught yesterday. The owners had gained ascendancy. The individual team members could reach back the office only by late night. Some of them had to walk and run for kilome …

Andrew

By Sudhir Katiyar

Today was a difficult day. The movement had faced a violent onslaught yesterday. The owners had gained ascendancy. The individual team members could reach back the office only by late night. Some of them had to walk and run for kilometers, pursued by the attackers. One member of the team was fetched back at 12 in the night from police station Aasind where the owners had left him. The team was not in a position to venture into the field amongst the workers. So the strategy shifted to Mandal and Bhilwara. One team went to the SP office to appraise him of the situation and seek protection for team members.

The Union responded to the attack by staging a dharna in front of the SDO office in Maandal. The main demands are (i) an administrative enquiry into the violent attack on the Union (ii) release of workers who are applying for the same under Bonded Labor Act. It was not easy to call workers to Mandal as it is some distance away from the kilns. Many workers said that they do not have the money to buy tickets for travel. Finally around 80 workers turned up for varying durations.

It is now decided to focus on release of bonded workers. A list had been handed over to the District Magistrate yesterday night itself. New lists were prepared today.

The news from the brick kiln was mixed. At many kilns, workers had started work as the owners promised a hike in wages. The brick carriers, a critical part of the work process, were offered a hike of Rs. 10 from 80 to 90. Most had begun work. The pathera, brick molders, were offered varying hike. Wages were hiked from Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per 1000 bricks – an increase of 16 to 33 percent. Some had resumed work while some held on. The release of workers becomes tricky as some workers like to take advantage of hike. There is also news of intimidation from some kilns.

The outside pressure brought upon local administration, that was hands in gloves with the brick kiln owners, started to have some impact. The Chief Secretary, the highest official of the state rang up the administrative and police heads of the district. Many major civil rights people enquired into the incident and talked to the District Administration.

By evening the pall of gloom that had hung over was beginning to lift. The team was enjoying the martyrdom. The violent incident had a positive aspect as well– it had established firmly the credibility of the Union amongst the eyes of the workers.

Sudhir Katiyar

on behalf of Rajasthan Pradesh Int Bhatta Majdoor Union


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