An operation to rescue a family engaged as bonded labourers from a brick kiln near Arni in Tiruvannamalai ended in vain after officials declared it as ‘false complaint’ due to contradictory statements from them.
However, members of the Welfare Association of Released Bonded Labourer are demanding that a detailed inquiry should be conducted claiming it was a clear case of bonded labour.
An official, who was part of the team, said that on inquiry with the seven persons belonging to a family, they found it was a false complaint.
Durai Raj, coordinator of Welfare Association of Released Bonded Labourers, said the couple — Murthy and Shanthi — were working at the brick kiln at Paiyur near Arni for four years, while five other members, including their two daughters, joined them over a period during the last six months.
There were four women and three men.
It was based on information got from their relatives that Mr. Raj lodged a complaint with the Arni Revenue Divisional Officer last week. Subsequently, revenue officials conducted discreet checks to ascertain the facts before the inspection on Wednesday, he said.
“The couple received an advance of ₹20,000 from the brick kiln owner four years ago. Five members of their family joined them after they found it difficult to work in order to repay the advance. This is a clear case of bonded labour as the owner promised to pay them ₹500 for 1,000 bricks. Each day, they made 1,500 to 2,000 bricks, but the owner paid ₹500 a week for all seven of them, thus depriving them of minimum wages,” he said.
All seven of them were staying in a small temporary shed near the brick kiln and were not allowed to work elsewhere, he added.
“The officials conducted an inquiry on the spot. Out of fear, the labourers came up with contradictory statements with regard to duration of work at the brick kiln. However, the duration of work need not be considered for classifying them as bonded labourers under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. Four of them had Aadhaar cards and so, the officials decided that they had free movement to attend an Aadhaar camp,” he said. The NGO demanded that a detailed inquiry should be conducted.