Housed in cramped huts, the workers from Odisha are paid a mere Rs. 200 a week, in gross violation of labour laws
For the last six months, 22-year-old Gowtham Chatria and his family from Odisha have been toiling hard in a brick kiln at Dundigal. Despite each person making over 1,000 bricks a day, they hardly get paid enough to earn two square meals a day.
As per government rules, the minimum stipulated wages is Rs. 376 for making 1,000 bricks but kiln owners pay between Rs.150 and Rs. 200.
Its not just the Chatria family, many people from Balangiri, Teetlaghar, Kalahandi, Naupada and other places from the neighbouring State arrive in the city to work at different brick kilns on the city fringes. In Dundigal village alone, there are over 70 brick kilns and many workers from Odisha work at these kilns.
Most of them arrive here in November and work till May end. Before the season commences, kiln owners visit Odisha and pay an advance of Rs.12,000 to Rs.13,500 per person and get them to work here.
During their stay, the workers are provided accommodation in make-shift and cramped huts and paid a meagre Rs.200 per person a week for provisions, charges A. Krishna, president of the Brick Kiln Workers Union.
The Union organised a public meeting at the Dundigal village bus stand on Sunday to create awareness among workers about the Minimum Wages Act and other rules.
Mr. Krishna alleges that the brick kiln owners do not disclose the wages to be paid for workers for making 1,000 bricks. After six months of work, owners calculate the amount to be paid to workers. They also deduct any advances paid, for the weekly grant of Rs.200 for buying provisions, medicines, etc.
After all these deductions, at times owners in turn demand money from workers, he claims.
“We are done with our work but my owner insists that we have to work for one more month to clear the advances paid,” says 23-year-old Raju Naik.