Every year, thousands of families migrate to the city in search of employment. They are ready to work as bonded laboureres, ready to put their children to any kind of work for that one square meal a day.
One such industry that employs bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu is the brick kilns.
The Poonamalle Taluk near Tiruvallur, has more than 300 brick chambers. Around 50 families migrate from Vizhupuram and Thiruvannamalai for six months every year, to work as bonded labourers here.
Every January, the brick kiln agents visit the villages in these districts to identify families that can migrate to the brick kilns. He offers them a loan advance that ranges from Rs.5000- Rs.20000.
These families are then brought to Tiruvallur as bonded labourers and housed in small hutment like “shanties”. 20 to 30 families live in each thatched shed partitioned by a just a wall.
In each brick kiln 30-50 children work along with their parents.For every 1000 bricks a family makes, they get Rs.100/- Until they pay off their loan advance they cannot take up any other employment.
Since the families migrate every 6 months, they don’t have ration cards. They are forced to buy food grains from the local market because they don’t have access to the Public Distribution System.
Recently the government of Tamil Nadu through Labour Department passed an order to include brick kilns under the Construction Workers Welfare Board. In reality the brick kilns, which employ more than 20 workers, involved in manufacturing process are supposed to be registered under the Factories Act. If it gets listed under the organized sector, the workers will be entitled to better labour standards.
The effect on children:
It is estimated that there are about roughly 45000 children working in brick kilns as child laborers in Thiruvallur District. These children toil in sweat and heat for about 12 to 13 hours a day kneading clay or molding clay into the required shape for the furnace. Sometimes they are forced to work through the night but still don’t receive any wages. The maximum, a child labour gets is Rs.10 a day.
No access to school because they migrate every 6 months.
· Children who manage to go to the school at one place, are not able to continue their education because at the other place because the local government schools refuse to give them transfer certificates, with the fear that the government may close down the school if there aren’t enough children on the rolls.
· Children who work with their parents are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation since their parents are bonded laborers.
· Since there is no access to balwadi, children below 5 years are prone to communicable deceases like dioheria, malaria, typhoid among others. Every year, atleast 3 to 4 children die due to accidents. Since there is no one to take care of them, they wander all over the place and fall into sand pits and water tanks. The employer takes all effort to conceal such cases to avoid being exposed to the media.
· Except for immunization, none of the government health services reach these families. For any minor or major ailments, the families are referred to a private doctor, who has a contract with the Brick kiln owner.
What PASUMAI TRUST does:
Mr. Murthy with the support of CRY fellowship started his interventions in 1998 in three brick kilns. There were about 105 working children in the Brick chambers working as full time child laborers. Through his consistent contact programmes he was able to reenroll 83 child laborers in school
Gradually Pasumai Trust also succeeded in influencing the school authorities near the brick kilns and the native villages to admit these children at the middle of the year and issue the TC whenever they go back to their villages/ or chambers in order to continue their studies. Pasumai Trust is working with government towards ensuring that the brick kiln industries get registered under Factories Act.
The project is also empowering the communities to fight for consistent access to Public Distribution System.
CRY’s Role: – Apart from the financial support:
1) Linking the child rights agenda with the macro issues of livelihood
2) Helping PASUMAI TRUST plan campaigns and programs aimed at mobilizing the community, and creating awareness among them about the importance of child rights
3) Providing training and organizational inputs to PASUMAI TRUST
4) Involving them in the State Alliance’s activities to demand for the rights of the community
5) Linking up PASUMAI TRUST with other NGOs, activists, lawyers, academicians etc. through the state and the country, enabling them to share experiences and learning.