BENGALURU: A family of seven, including five children, was rescued from bonded labour on Friday from a brick kiln at Magadi in Ramanagara district. They had been held captive for nine months by the owner of the brick kiln. The rescue operation was conducted by the Magadi police along with Shantha Jeeva Jyothi (SJJ), a non-profit organisation and partner NGO of International Justice Mission, based on a tip-off. The family, hailing from Haveri, was initially working at a different brick kiln in Ramanagara and the owner had paid an advance of Rs 20,000.
However, the owner of Devamma’s Bricks Factory at Guddalahalli in Madabal hobli of Magadi paid off the advance to the first owner and “bought” the labourers to work at her kiln, the NGO said.
The couple were allegedly made to work for 14 hours a day from 5.30 am to 7.30 pm, six days a week, with only a 15-minute lunch break. They were verbally abused. Four of their children helped with the work by laying out the bricks in the sun to dry. It is said that the couple made over 1,000 bricks a day, but was paid just Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per week together. The minimum wage for a brick kiln worker in Karnataka is Rs 455 per day for eight hours of work each day, the NGO pointed out.
With their meagre earnings, the labourers had to buy their own groceries and were not provided any facilities like toilets or electricity. They were forced to stay a small shed and were only allowed to go out once a week to buy groceries, but never together as a family. “Only the husband or the wife was allowed to go out. On rare occasions, they both went out together, but they had to leave behind the children at the kiln,” said an SJJ member. When the labourers told the owner they wanted to return to Haveri, they were told to repay Rs 71,000 with interest plus the Rs 20,000 advance, the member said.
An FIR was registered at the Magadi police station on Friday against the brick kiln owner under sections of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976), IPC 506 (Criminal Intimidation) and IPC 504. The Ramanagara administration will soon issue the ‘Release Certificates’ and an initial compensation of Rs 20,000 to them as per the Central Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers (2016). Thereafter, the family will be repatriated to Haveri.