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Sunday, July 14th, 2024

We have come on the road… This family is facing many challenges amid the scorching heat

New Delhi: Aman (all names of the children have been changed) is just 6 years old, but he/she doesn’t have toys like other children. All he/she has seen is children his/her age and older making bricks at the kilns. he/she doesn’t understand anything when he/she mentions the name of school. Born in a brick kiln in Uttar Pradesh, where his/her parents worked at the time, the boy has been constantly on the move. his/her family from Narayanpur village in Chhattisgarh moved from one city to another in search of work. Contractors trap them by taking advantage of their poverty and keep them trapped by withholding their wages in the name of repaying loans.

Aman was one of 53 people, including women, children and labourers from different villages of Chhattisgarh, who escaped from the clutches of a contractor at a brick kiln in Faridabad on April 27. But they had to come to the streets of Delhi and stay under a tree at Sarai Kale Khan’s night shelter. Though it is very hot now, they felt that it is nothing compared to the heat of making bricks in the kiln. They neither have enough money left to go back to their village, nor the means to live here. Returning to the village means going back to poverty. So, most of them have now started working as labourers at construction sites in Delhi-NCR, all hoping that the government will listen to their demand for justice.

National Human Rights Commission issued notice

Following their plea and an official complaint, on April 29, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the Haryana government and pursued the matter. However, no solution has been reached yet as discussions are ongoing between the commission and the state government. Apart from the Haryana government, the commission has also urged the Delhi government to support these families who are struggling for basic necessities like shelter and food in the heat. So, Aman and the other children stay put, braving the heat of the summer, while their parents and grandparents work as labourers at construction sites. Aman, 6, and his/her brother Ritesh, 7, say they would turn bricks at the brick kiln while their parents made bricks. Their 15-year-old sister Meeta too has only wanted to go home to the kilns. For these migrant children, education is a distant dream.

Listen to the pain of helpless people

his/her mother, Sushila, says that there is not enough work in Narayanpur to sustain the entire year, so they return to the cities every year and work for about eight months. Talking about the kiln in Faridabad, Sushila and her husband Kulbehari Mahesh said that they had taken a loan of Rs 35,000 from the contractor for some urgent expenses. Then the contractor asked them to work at the kiln to repay the loan. Amrabai and her husband Chandraveer Mahesh also went there to repay a loan of Rs 15,000. Amrabai said, ‘We used to wake up at 1 am to start work and work till 1 pm. After lunch, we again worked till 9 pm. We did all this without taking wages, surviving on just about Rs 5,000 in two installments, always hoping to repay the loan. But the loan would not end. This is the story of every family.’

Voices raised for fair investigation

Complainant Nirmal Gorana, who is the convener of the National Campaign Committee for the Abolition of Bonded Labour and was involved in the raid along with the local administration, in his/her complaint has requested the National Human Rights Commission to conduct an impartial inquiry and record the statements of the labourers. The Human Rights Commission had first issued a notice to the Haryana government on April 29, asking it to immediately resolve the problems of stranded labourers from the state.

What do the responsible officials say?

In May, Ballabhgarh officials submitted a report to the Human Rights Commission, claiming that an inquiry had been conducted and the workers said they had no complaints against the kiln owner, were being provided basic amenities and there was no restriction on their movement. Notably, the workers refused to sign their statements and left without using the tractor facility provided to them. To this, the Human Rights Commission responded, “This report seems contrary to the claim of the complainant. The report states that there was no bonded labour at the kiln and the workers left the kiln without signing. However, the complainant says that the workers were being forced to sign false statements prepared by the rescue team.” For this reason, on May 28, the Human Rights Commission asked the Deputy Commissioner of Faridabad to initiate proceedings as per the standard operating procedure and submit a report of the proceedings to them by June 21.

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