The children were involved in brick-making at the kiln and were made to work from 6 am to 8 pm with just an hour’s lunch break.

Seven children working in harrowing conditions at brick kiln near Hyderabad rescued
news Child Labour Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 13:32

Seven children below the age of 14 found to be working in a brick kiln factory in Ranga Reddy were rescued by officials from child welfare services, Operation Smile and the labour department on Tuesday. Police have booked cases against the brick kiln owner for alleged child labour law and juvenile justice law violations, say officials.

The officials carried out a raid at SBI Bricks located at Jukkal village, 15 km from Shamshabad, based on complaints received from the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

Dr E Saidulu Goud, the legal and probationary officer with Ranga Reddy district, told TNM, “We received a complaint from the CWC and the NCPCR who directed us to raid the place. We found four boys and three girls aged between 7 to 14 employed as child labourers.” The rescued children have been shifted to state homes. The Child Labour Prevention Act 2016 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 in any industry. Those found violating the Act can face imprisonment between six months to 2 years or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 or both.

The official said the children were involved in brick-making at the kiln and were made to work from 6 am to 8 pm with just an hour’s lunch break. “There was no proper security for these children too,” said the officer who was part of the team that raided the brick kiln.

The NCPCR and the CWC were contacted by Sushant Panigrahi, a freelance journalist from Odisha, who in an email claimed that 21 persons from Khaprakho in Bolangir district from his state were being held as bonded labourers at the SBI and PBR Brick kilns located near Shamshabad. Sushant said that these workers were often subjected to physical harm by the owners of the brick kilns.

Sushant had been contacted for rescue by a husband and wife duo who are working as bonded labourers at one the kilns. The couple had reached out to Sushant over the phone and alerted him that four members of their family were trapped in bonded labour at the two brick kilns. Once they received the information from Sushant, officials took action and it was during this raid that they found the seven children.

The system of bonded labour was abolished in the country under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. The Act included a scheme for the rehabilitation of bonded labourers, where rescued adult bonded labourers were to be paid Rs 1 lakh and children, treated as special category beneficiaries, were to get Rs 3 lakh.

The four workers said they were brought to the kiln in December 2018 for 7 to 8 months of work, without signing a formal contract. They were paid Rs 30,000 as an advance for their services and promised money and facilities at the workplace. They were paid Rs 1,300 per week for their work. They were made to work 16 to 18 hours a day and if unable to meet their target for the day, they were denied basic needs. The workers also said they had no money to seek proper healthcare as they were paid just Rs 100 per week for expenses.

The workers claimed the owners of the brick kiln threatened to gang-rape the women and sell them to brothels if they dared to speak out or try to contact relatives. The workers also accused the owners of trying to hide the children in the bushes as the raids were about to begin.

DCP C Anasuya, who heads Operation Smile for the Cyberabad Commissionerate, told TNM it was possible that there were more children who needed to be rescued from the kilns. “We will conduct one more raid. As of now, a case has been booked against the brick kiln owner and investigation is being done by the Shamshabad police. The owner will be arrested in a couple of days, he has been booked under 374 IPC, JJ Act and the Child Labour Act,” she added.

Officials with the labour department said they would be able to accord bonded labour status to the migrant workers at the kiln once their economic status was reviewed by the revenue department.

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