By Sudhir Katiyar A meeting was held between the brick kiln owners of Maandal Asind area and the Union. The meeting was called by and mediated by the Police Department of Bhilwara. Almost the entire top brass of the police was present. The owners agree …

Andrew

By Sudhir Katiyar

A meeting was held between the brick kiln owners of Maandal Asind area and the Union. The meeting was called by and mediated by the Police Department of Bhilwara. Almost the entire top brass of the police was present. The owners agreed to pay a wage rate of Rs. 400 per 1000 bricks to the pathera workers, the brick molders. For redhiwalas, the brick carriers, the wage rate will vary between Rs. 80 to 100 depending on whether the redhi is given by the employers and the distance of carriage.

For brick molders, the most numerous and the least paid group of workers, the new wage rate represents an average wage hike of 33% that translates into a wage hike of Rs. 20,000 per family for the season. Around 5,000 families are expected to benefit. The total incremental wages thus will be Rs. 10 crores for this category of workers alone. The owners will also compensate the Union for the damaged vehicle. The press clipping of the news is attached.

But more important than the wage hike is the fact that the Union has gained recognition from the employers and the administration. The owners expressed willingness to negotiate a new agreement for the next season before the beginning of the season itself in July, expressing their problems in hiking wages in the middle of the season.

So how did this transformation happen? Especially when the workers had all gone back to work! The agreement came about primarily because of the brazen attack on workers and the hanging sword of the FIR that had the potential to implicate a large chunk of owners and sections of police.

The newspapers of the day carried the report that the SP, the top police official had issued notice to the SHO inquiring into delay in filing the FIR. The police department was caught in a web of its own lies and complicity and was under extreme pressure from top that the Union was able to exert. The Chief Secretary, the highest bureaucrat, was taking interest in the matter.

In my last mail, I had painted a rather dark picture of the prevailing politico administrative set up. The picture is very much true. But what I had not written was how does one go about engaging with this stark reality? A key lesson that I learned from my political guru, the venerable BM Sanadhya, is that in any given society/system; the bad, the corrupt are always fewer in number and the good people are far more numerous.

But the bad are organized into a mafia while the good people remain separate from each other. Systemic change is about building an alliance of these good people. I would like to acknowledge some of these good people that helped us bringing about the change in Maandal

  • Dr. Narendra Gupta, the secretary and founder of Prayas . While he wears many hats, his uniqueness lies in tackling the top echelons of Indian bureaucracy – the IAS and IPS. He was able to get the Chief Secretary to intervene within almost 10 minutes of the attack.

  • CK Mathew: The current Chief Secretary Rajasthan, that increasing rare breed, an honest, sensitive, and competent top bureaucrat

  • Kavita Srivastava: Secretary People’s Union for Civil Liberties, the veteran of numerous such battles, she was constantly in touch, advising, helping out; despite her busy schedule that was taking her to different parts of the country

There are many more. Anumeha Yadav, correspondent Hindu who is doing a story on the issue that will appear today and rang up different people, the group of sympathizers from Bhilwara Tara Ahluwalia of Mahila Bal Chetna Samiti, Om ji of AITUC, Qureshi sahib of CITU, Piyod Joshi professor, advocates Prahlad Rai, Raj Kumar Sharma, Bhatnagar ji, PUCL team from Ajmer Tripathi ji, Anant Bhatnagar Chaudhry ji, Vassef Pathan from Maandal who came out in open support. Chandan Kumar from Action Aid came for the first meeting and was always in loop.

I would refrain from naming our own team that withstood the onslaught, except for Balwant Singh who was caught by the owners and beaten very badly. And there are all of you who are taking out time to read this and who have expressed support.

A small battle won, larger wars loom ahead.

– Sudhir Katiyar on behalf of Rajasthan Pradesh Int Bhatta Majdoor Union


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