The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from our local partner, the Peoples’ Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR), about bonded labour effectively slavery – being practiced by brick kiln owners in Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh state, India. Dozens of families have reportedly been bought for small amounts of money and are being forced to work in the brick kilns. They are paid a pittance each week, not as payment, but as money to buy food for survival. This ensures that they are unable to repay their debts to the brick kiln owners and continue to be bound by the vicious circle of bonded labour. The PVCHR is currently protecting two persons who escaped from the custody of their owners.
The PVCHR has also lodged a complaint with the authorities in India. However, a complaint lodged with the police resulted in a raid in which the police took into custody two persons who were working at the kilns. The police then took them to the police station and beat them, for having complained against their owners. The police reportedly threatened them with severe consequences if they dare to complain again in the future. On February 19, 2006, Mr. Suresh (son of Chandrma and a resident of Mahasipur village), Mr. Jagdish (son of Bhagwati and a resident of Phulpur village) and Mr. Sitalu (son of Munnilal and a resident of Mahasipur village) came to the offices of PVCHR in Varanasi to complain about their employer. On inquiry, it was revealed that they were being forced to work at a brick kiln in Amauli village that is jointly owned by three brothers, Mr. Savaru Yadav, Mr. Namuna Yadav and Mr. Namvar Yadav.
Suresh, Jagdish and Sitalu complained that they came to the brick kiln because they were offered Rs. 1000.00 (US 22) as a cash loan by Savaru, Namuna and Namvar, for which they were asked to work at the kiln as a means to pay back their debts. They were also forced to bring their families to work at the kilns. They have been forced to work every day without a break, even when they are sick. Those who have complained have been tied up and beaten. Those who have wanted to leave, promising that they could arrange for payment of their debts by other means, have also been subjected to the same treatment.
No-one has been allowed to leave. Apart from the three persons who came to the PVCHR, there are thought to be tens of other families facing similar conditions at these kilns. The weekly payment for the bonded labourers at the kilns is Rs. 100.00 (US 2) per week. This money is used to buy food for the entire family to stay alive. It is not sufficient to begin aying back the debts. It is alleged that the owners of the kiln also sell families to other kiln owners or industrialists who are in need of labour. Suresh and Sitalu reportedly felt they could not return for fear of reprisals, however, Jagdish did return since his wife and his father were still at the kiln. Sitalu has informed PVCHR that the owners have agreed to free anyone if they pay Rs. 6000.00 (US 136) per person.
PVCHR filed a complaint at the Chaubeypur police station and also with the District Magistrate of Varanasi about the case on February 19, 2006. However, on receipt of the complaint, the police, on the pretext of raiding the kiln to arrest the owners and to free the people, took into custody Mr. Sachinder and Mr. Chotelal, who were also being held under bonded labour. They were taken to the police station where the Station House Officer shouted at them, asking them why their colleagues had complained against the owners of the kiln. They were tortured and were threatened with further beatings if any more complaints were made against their owners. They were released on February 20, 2006, but only after having to pay Rs. 250.00 to Rs. 1000.00. They arranged payment of the money to the police by
borrowing it from other persons.
PVCHR took Sachinder to the District Hospital Varanasi the next day, where the doctor examined him and has provided a medical report detailing his injuries. A complaint, along with a copy of the medical report and a narration of the facts, was immediately faxed to the National Human Rights Commission. A second complaint and copy of the medical report was lodged with the District Magistrate on February 21, 2006. Yet another complaint was filed with the Senior Superintendent of Police on February 22, 2006. None of these complaints have as yet been acted upon. Bonded labour and slavery is prohibited by law in India. The Bonded Labour (Prohibition) Act 1976 and Sections 371 (on slavery) and 374 (on compulsory labour), if enforced, would prevent such practices. Given that the victims are members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, the perpetrators’ acts are also offences under the Section 3 (1) 7 of the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. However, the implementation of these laws depends completely upon the policing system in India. There are rulings by the Supreme Court of India on how to prevent slave-like practices and bonded labour. However, owing to the complete failure of policing in India, the implementation of these laws has failed miserably, at the expense of the illiterate poor of India, which form 70% of India’s population. This is exploited by people like the brick kiln owners in the case above. The police not only collect bribes from the industrialists who engage in bonded labour and slave practices, but will also collect money from those who dare to complain. The police often work for these industrialists to force their workers to continue working without complaint or possibility of escape. In spite of the fact that many such cases have been brought to the notice of the Indian authorities, nothing has been done as yet to bring about any change in the situation.
We condemn the attitude of the Indian authorities towards these atrocious practices and calls for your immediate intervention in this case. We hope your intervention and concern will help to bring about change in the living conditions of the poor and exploited in India.
Please send a letter to the relevant authorities, to the District Magistrate Varanasi in particular, and others listed below, urging them to take immediate action to arrest the alleged perpetrators and provide protection to the victims. Please ensure that strong disciplinary/criminal action is taken against police officers who have failed in their duty to take action and investigate the case.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA: Slavery flourishing under police protection in Varanasi, Uttar
Name of victims:
(1) Suresh, son of Chandrma, a resident of village Mahasipur
(2) Jagdish, son of Bhagwati, a resident of village Phulpur
(3) Sitalu, son of Munnilal, a resident of Mahasipur
(6) Bhagwati, father of Jagdish
(7) Munnar, brother of Bhagwati
(8) Kashi, son of Bhagwati
(9) Bahadur, nephew of Bhawati
(10) Kalawti, wife of Jagdish
(11) Lalati, wife of Bhawati
(12) Guddi, wife of Bahadur
(13) Panchuyee, wife of Bhagwati’s brother
All are residing under the jurisdiction of Chaubeypur police station, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Name of alleged perpetrators:
(1) Savaru Yadav
(2) Namuna Yadav
(3) Namvar Yadav
All are residents of Amauli village under the jurisdiction of Chaubeypur police station, Varanasi District Uttar Pradesh, India
(4) Station House Officer, Chaubeypur police station, Varanasi
District Uttar Pradesh, India
Date of incident: From 20
05 to date
Place of incident: Amauli village under the jurisdiction of Chaubeypur police station, Varanasi District Uttar Pradesh
I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the cases of slavery and bonded labour reported from Amauli village, under the jurisdiction of Chaubeypur police station, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh. I am informed that tens of families are being forced to work as bonded labourers for brick kiln operators. Paltry pay ensures that they cannot escape the clutches of bonded labour by repaying their debts to the owners of the brick kilns. I am shocked to learn that the owners of the brick kilns even sell these persons to other operators, if necessary with the help of the police, the Chaubeypur police in particular.
It is worrisome to know that when a complaint was lodged by a local human rights organisation with the police, instead of helping the victims by rescuing them from captivity, the police took into custody two of the victims and beat them at the police station. The police also threatened them with further beatings if they ever dared to complain about their owners again.
I am concerned by the fact that there has been no action taken by the District Magistrate, in spite of the fact that he has received a complaint from the victims detailing their plight. I therefore urge you to take immediate steps to put an end to slave-like practices and bonded labour in all industrial establishments, in the brick kiln owned by the perpetrators named above in particular, and to immediately free these persons from bonded labour. I also urge you to initiate an impartial inquiry into the alleged police torture of two victims and ensure that any guilty police officers are immediately removed from service and prosecuted, and to guarantee that adequate reparation is awarded to the victims.
Asian Human Rights Commission