The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports narrating the painful story of 32 bonded labourers from the State of Odisha pleading for their rescue from a brick kiln at Kanumpalli Cross in Garladinne Mandal of the Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.
As mentioned in the news report, the victim labourers sent out an SOS to their relatives and friends back home for their rescue from travails they were undergoing for the past several months.
The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, indicate that the district authorities have failed to do their lawful duty to protect the labourers from victimization hence, strict action is required to be taken against the delinquent officers and appropriate legal action is also required to be taken against the brick kiln owner. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter within one week.
The district authorities are expected to immediately rescue all the bonded labourers, issue release certificate and start the process of the payment of the statutory relief, immediately. The authorities are also expected to ensure the safe journey of the rescued labourers to their native place and in case any of them requires medical/ health care assistance that should be provided without fail.
The Commission has further observed that going by the contents of the media report, it appears to be a case of violation of human rights of the victims. The labourers are being kept under bondage including children and women without any basic amenities which are in violation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Strict action is required to be taken against the brick kiln owner as well as the officers concerned for their negligence.
The Commission has also observed that a large number of poor labourers fall prey to violators of law across the country due to poverty and lack of education and awareness about the existing laws. It has been insisting from every platform by organising conferences and seminars at the national level that the authorities concerned are required to be more vigilant and that the guilty are required to be punished without any delay, which is necessary to create a healthy environment for the labourers to work with dignity.
According to the media report, carried on 19-11-2019, a human rights activist, Sushant Panigrahi brought the issue to the notice of the District Collector when the administration came into action. Tahsildar of the area and one Sub-Inspector of Police visited the factory and took stock of the working conditions when all the 32 workers expressed their willingness to be rescued and return to their village in Odisha. The brick kiln owner had reportedly got the labourers from Odisha through a manpower supplier, for a period of six months.
The Tahsildar, as mentioned in the news report, has stated that the living conditions were very bad and the officers would make a further inspection to book the owner of the factory, under Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. The news report further reveals that according to a Tribal welfare activist, Rebbapragada Ravi, the labourers belong to Scheduled Tribe and OBC category hence, they are eligible for compensation under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act and proper rehabilitation process.
Reportedly, six children were also found working at the factory who had come along with their parents. The women and children were staying in deplorable conditions without any basic amenities. The Child Welfare Committee Chairperson, Nallani Rajeshwari has also reportedly stated that she would definitely book the owner of the factory if the facts are found to be true.
National Human Rights Commission
[Press Release dt. 19-11-2019]