Bageshree S.

Case is yet to be booked against brick kiln owner

Release certificate was not given to rescued labourers

Some labourers were branded with hot iron rods

Bangalore: It is not very often that the so-called long arm of law reaches even the most blatant of labour rights violators. And those it does touch seem only to slip away, as the case of severe human rights and labour violations in a brick kiln in Hosahudaya village in Chikballapura taluk illustrates.

Though a raid was conducted on this kiln in Kolar district in March this year, and there was adequate prima facie evidence of the practice of bonded labour, a case is yet to be booked against the owner under the Bonded Labour Act. The released labourers have been denied their benefits because they have not been given a release certificate from the Deputy Commissioner of the district.

After waiting for action by the Deputy Commissioner for several months, South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), which was part of the raid team, filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanding that action be initiated against the Deputy Commissioner of Kolar and the Police Inspector of Chikballapur on their failure to book cases under Bonded Labour Act.

Raid

It was on March 5, 2007, that 45 labourers were rescued from the brick kiln owned by Channapa Gowda at Hosahudaya, in a joint operation by Department of Labour, Revenue administration of Kolar district, Police department, SICHREM and Association of Promotion of Social Action.

Of the 45 rescued, 14 were child labourers. The rescued labourers had stated on record that they were paid Rs. 3,000 as advance payment to work at the brick kiln. All the labourers were from the impoverished Bolangir and Puintala districts in Orissa. The team had found that proper shelter and drinking water were not provided and that the labourers regularly faced severe physical abuse. Some of them said they were branded with hot iron rods by the owner and kept locked up while not at work. After the raid, the Labour Department initiated proceedings against the employer under various labour laws.

No case registered

However, District Commissioner of Kolar has not taken action against the kiln owner under the Bonded Labour Act. “If the DC had charged the employer under the Bonded Labour Act, at least a release certificate could have been given to these labourers, along with an interim relief, which would have facilitated their rehabilitation in their native districts,” said Matthew Phillip of SICHREM.

The NHRC has now served notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, and sought a report within four weeks.

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