Tragedy: Bonded labour still in practice, family of 15 freed from a brick kiln in Punjab

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ISLAMABAD: The police helped free 15 of a family who were being held as bonded labourers by a brick kiln owner. The police produced the family in the Islamabad High Court which set them free.
Talking to Dawn, Noon police Station House Officer (SHO) Inspector Abid Ikram said the owner of the brick kiln was arrested and he was charged with PPC’s section 344 for wrongful confinement for 10 or more days, section 374 for unlawful compulsory labour and 506 for criminal intimidation.
The IHC had ordered the police a few days ago to help free the family from confinement after a man named Shoni approached the court for help. The SHO said the brick kiln where the family was held was located in the village of Noon where the police conducted a raid. He said the family comes from Mandi Bahauddin.

A brick clan where child and forced labour is in practice in violation of rules and regulations.

According to the SHO, Shoni had said he had come to the brick kiln with his family three years ago. The family had a peaceful first year working at the kiln and that they were given proper meals and wages and were allowed to roam around freely after working hours.
A year later, Shoni told the police, working conditions got bad, the family was not paid their wages and were not given meals.
The owner of the kiln also put restrictions on their movement and deployed a man to keep an eye on them and detain them within the premises of the kiln. Shoni said he managed to escape a few days before he approached the IHC and that he sought help from the court in helping the other 15 members of his family free.
The court then issued directives to the police to free the family from confinement. “They were produced in court which set them free,” the SHO said, adding that the owner of the brick kiln was in police custody and that legal action will be taken against him.
According to another media report, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed police to recover the bonded family from the brick kiln owner Sabir Warraich and register a FIR against him. Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani also warned the police that if any member of the bonded family was hurt, then Station House Officer (SHO) of Noon Police Station could be booked.

Human rights activists demonstrating against the kidnapping and forced labour in Sindh. (File picture)

The judge was hearing a plea of an aggrieved labourer who complained of forced labour at a brick kiln in the federal capital.
Justice Kayani remarked that in most of the rural areas, hundreds of labourers were tricked into accepting small loans to work at brick kilns. But often their debt ballooned due to unfair terms and they were forced to work at these kilns, with freedom becoming a distant dream.
Bonded labour had a sordid history in Punjab’s brick kiln industry even though bonded labour was declared illegal 24 years ago, he added.
During the course of proceedings, the bonded family members apprised the court that three years ago they had taken a loan of Rs 200,000; but now the brick kiln owner was demanding Rs 2 million, an amount which was impossible for them to pay.
Meanwhile, owner of the kiln apprised the court that Rs 1,400,000 was taken as loan by the labourer for medical treatment in hospitals. He said that if the bonded family returned the loan the family would be set free.
Justice Kayani remarked that there were legal forums for such cases and the aggrieved one should move the courts instead of making a family hostage. Subsequently, the court directed police to support the aggrieved bonded family in getting freedom from the kiln owner and also register an FIR against him. However the accused succeeded in fleeing from the court room when his arrest seemed imminent.

India turns to technology with online portal to end child labour

NEW DELHI: India’s government launched an online portal on Tuesday to register, rescue and rehabilitate child workers, as part of a drive to curb the exploitation of millions of minors. India’s 2011 census found over 4 million labourers aged between five and 14, out of 168 million globally, but campaigners say millions more are at risk due to poverty.
The portal – Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour, or PENCIL – aims to bring together officials, charities and police at federal, state and district level to share information and coordinate on child labour cases. “The PENCIL portal brings together stakeholders at all levels so that anyone anywhere can register a case of child labour and that an investigation can happen quickly,” India´s home minister Rajnath Singh said at its launch. “But the existence of PENCIL is not enough to end child labour in India.
I believe that we need to promote awareness at every level to ensure everyone knows about it. “Since taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has introduced several measures aimed at eradicating child labour by 2025. India has one of largest populations of children in the world, with more than 40 percent of its 1.2 billion people below the age of 18, according to its 2011 census. The portal – which includes a child tracking system, complaints corner and standard operating procedures for officials, police and charities – aims to boost weak enforcement of child labour prohibition laws. Districts will be expected to designate an official to investigate child labour complaints registered on the site within 48 hours and, together with local police, rescue the children, a labour ministry statement said. The portal will also track support given to victims, such as enrollment in school or vocational training, to ensure the child is not forced back into work.
An economic boom of the last two decades has lifted millions in India out of poverty, yet it is home to almost a third of the world’s 385 million poorest children, according to the World Bank and the United Nations children´s agency (UNICEF). They make easy prey for traffickers, fed promises of work and a better life but often ending up in forced labour.
More than half of India´s child workers are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants and hotels and as domestic workers. Many girls are sold to brothels for sexual slavery.