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‘Bonded’ labourers rescued in Bathinda: Week on, NGO seeks registration of case

The administration is also silent over a complaint from seeking the booking of the brick kiln owner under the Bonded Labour Act. Two families from Uttar Pradesh protested on Friday, accusing their employer of keeping them in inhuman condition at the site and not paying them wages.

punjab Updated: Apr 28, 2018 12:00 IST
Prabhjit Singh
Prabhjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Bathinda
‘Bonded’ labourers,labourers rescued,Bathinda
Brick-kiln labourers and their families holding a dharna opposite the mini-secretariat in Bathinda on Friday. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT)

A week after Bathinda sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), officials of the labour and revenue departments, along with a rights group Volunteers for Social Justice (VSJ) raided a brick-kiln in Deon village and rescued around 30 families, there is still no official clarity over the larger issue of the exploitation of the migrant labour. No case has been registered.

The case
  • In October, 30 labourers from two villages of Uttar Pradesh- Mirza Chandpur near Aligarh and Surajpur in Farookhabad district were brought to Deon village of Bathinda district to work in a brick kiln of Nand Kishore Bansal.
  • The family of Satish, with his wife and three minor children, was among the migratory families who were allotted huts and were asked pay the electricity bills for the bulbs out of the advance money they were given as token wages.
  • “We were denied the wages a month later, as the 'maalik' (employer) asked us that the train fare and the rent of the huts had been deducted from our 'pagaar' (wages),” Satish said. “We were forced to drink saline water for several days and it was only after we discovered that the water was contaminated, we fetched the potable water on earthen pots from water works 3km away,” he added.

The administration is also silent over a complaint from seeking the booking of the brick kiln owner under the Bonded Labour Act. Two families from Uttar Pradesh protested on Friday, accusing their employer of keeping them in inhuman condition at the site and not paying them wages.

The SDM, Balwinder Singh, who had conducted an inquiry on directions from the DC, said, he had submitted his report to the additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Sakshi Sahni. He, however, failed to explain whether the employer had been indicted for non-payment of wages.

The Bathinda ADC, when contacted, said the SDM’s fact-finding report has been "received" at her office but she was yet to see the same as she was out of office.

VSJ Punjab coordinator Kuljinder Kaur, who was part of the official raiding Friday last, smelled foul as she lamented that the SDM has so far not been able to find relevant documents which every brick-kiln owner is ought to possess while employing labour, especially migrants, at the site.

As per the group, action of the employer was not merely a violation of the Minimum Wages Act, but infringement of the Article 23 of the constitution. They have demanded action against the kiln owner under sections 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act and the Migrant Workmen Act.

“There is no case of bonded labour, as per the findings of the SDM, but it is a case of non-payment of dues, for which the case is being referred to the assistant labour commissioner of Bathinda,” the DC told HT.

First Published: Apr 28, 2018 12:00 IST