Friday, December 31, 2010

RAMDAYAL, PINDARA, VARANASI - Bonded Labour continues in Modern India, Labour Ministry Silent over Forced Labour in Brick Kilns

It’s a tale that forces one to question if the India that gave rise to it belongs to the 21st century, or to the dark ages ruled by feudal lords. But surprisingly, this story of forced and bonded labour comes from an India that is emerging as a superpower in the global world, with a modern constitution that supposedly ensures every citizen’s right to freedom and equality. What adds to gloom is the fact that those entrusted with responsibility for ensuring justice were found to be hand-in-gloves with the exploiters of human labour and dignity.
     Until recently, an agricultural labourer - 27-year old Ramdayal of Sarai village in Varansai - was held captive at a brick kiln along with his family and many others from his community and village. Those were days and nights of constant abuse, where they were subjected to forced and bonded labour without the money that was promised to them. Even primary necessities like proper medical assistance were denied to them, and the mildest demands resulted in beatings and abuses.
     Ramdayal and many others like him had landed the job at Raja Kiln through one of his relatives. He was promised decent wages and shelter. For the first 3 months, things went fine, but then the owners started showing their true colour. One fine day a labourer called Bhola was mercilessly beaten when he begged for some financial help for treatment of his daughter Sarita. When Ramdayal objected to it, he too was abused and beaten.
     After this armed goons were deployed by the owners to ensure that none of the labourers escaped from the site. Daily wages were often denied to the labourers who were verbally and physically abused, and sexual harrassment of the women became a regular feature. When things became too much, one fine day Ramdayal and others finally decided to flee. The group of men, women and children who fled were chased and harassed by goons of the kiln owner. The fleeing labourers spent days without food and nights without sleep, drinking unhygienic water from ponds. Even today in the modern age, human life can still be held captive, and people treated like slaves as in ages gone by!
     After a few days,  relatives of these  men finally got in touch with local politicians. Hearing the plight of these men, the local MLA came forward to help. They were given shelter and in turn were asked to do some domestic work at the MLA’s place. However, for the families on the run, it was no concrete help for the goons of the kiln owner still searched for them. No action was initiated against he kiln owner and his men, despite the fact that local police was informed about the case. Finally, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) got to know of the labourers' plight. Mangal Bhaiya of the PVCHR helped them to register their complaints with relevant authorities. They were also taken to the District Magistrate of Varansai.
     The District Magistrate also assured them of all possible help, but when the enquiry was taken up by his administration, te police applied pressure. Cops started forcing the District Magistrate's office to withdraw the complaint on the grounds that the people against whom the complaint had been filed are too powerful and there was no point in standing against them.
     At present, Ram Dayal’s application has been filed in the Supreme Court and they are waiting for justice.  Due to continuous suffering, Ram Dayal is shattered, but still has hope that someday he would get justice. Meanwhile, after being freed, he works as a farm labourer earning Rs.50 to 100 on any given day. This is not sufficient to maintain his family but at least it is better than being subjected to the horrors of bonded life on the kiln.
     This is the true story of Ram Dayal who, along with his wife and three children, stays in Sarai village in Varanasi district.
  Earlier he was working in Raja Kiln as a bonded laborer but now, he works as an agriculture labourer. Sometimes, he drives a tractor or ploughs the field. For all this, he gets Rs.100/- a day or Rs.50/-
for half day's work. Because he is crippled, he cannot carry heavy loads although earlier he used to do all kinds of odd jobs.

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