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INDIA: Villagers exploited by employment in slave like conditions due to lack of food and terrible living conditions

The Chamar tribe in Kodwari village of Mirzapur District in Uttar Pradesh, India is facing extreme conditions due to lack of food and inhuman living conditions. The environment is devastated by environmental degradation and currently huge granite quarries plunder granite from the land thereby adding up to an acute shortage of water. There is no accessible health care system and the local administration has ignored the victims when it comes to subsidized food assistance. Education for children is out of the question.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

15 September 2005

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HA-23-2005: INDIA: Villagers exploited by employment in slave like conditions due to lack of food and terrible living conditions

INDIA: Hunger; acute poverty; government neglect and inaction; breach of laws; slavery
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received disturbing information through the Peoples Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR), a human rights organisation based in Uttar Pradesh, India, about the exploitation and inhumane labour of an entire tribal community in the Chunar and Kodwari villages in the Mirzapur District. The workers are paid Rs. 20, (USD 0.46) per day for bone-crunching work at granite quarries. It is equally disturbing to know that in the recent past, four people have died due to injuries suffered while at work in the quarry, and about 22 others have suffered injuries at work. No compensation has been paid to the victims so far.

Acute poverty, the lack of any other employment opportunity and the absolute absence of other means to feed their family forces these people to work in such conditions where they are exploited beyond the limits of human tolerance. Laws prohibiting child labour and slavery have no meaning in this village. Out of the four dead, two are below the age of 16 and of those who suffered injuries, 10 are in their teens, of which the youngest is just 12 years old. The local authorities keep a blind eye towards this exploitation in spite of several attempts of intervention by local human rights groups. The deceased and the injured are not paid any compensation.

The AHRC requests for an immediate intervention into this case. The lack of intervention of the local administration responsible for this situation must be investigated into and the responsible officers who failed in discharging their duties must be punished. Also, the granite quarry owners must pay compensation to the injured and the families of the dead workers, and the minimum wage must be strictly enforced according to law.

Urgent Appeals Desk - Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Victims:
Deceased
1. Mr. Shivaprasad, aged 25 years, son of Mr. Ramswarup, Machuari village, Sonebhadra District, Uttar Pradesh, India
2. Rekha, girl child aged 15 years, daughter of Mr. Rampyare, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur district, Uttar Pradesh, India
3. Sitamani, girl child aged 14 years, daughter of Mr. Mangal, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
4. Ms. Kaushalya, aged 30 years, daughter of Mr. Lakshman, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur Distrcit, Uttar Pradesh, India

Injured
1. Mr. Vishram, aged 30 years, son of Mr. Ramdhani, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
2. Rita, girl child aged 14 years, daughter of Ramdhani, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
3. Mr. Sankar, aged 32 years, son of Mr. Rampati, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
4. Ms. Pannadevi, aged 28 years, daughter of Mr. Ramashankar, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
5. Gulabi, girl child aged 13 years, daughter of Mr. Ramdawan, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
6. Mr. Gulpatti, aged 28 years, son of Mr. Lokpati, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
7. Ms. Mangal, aged 38 years, son of Mr. Rupan, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
8. Mr. Sankar, aged 16 years, son of Mr. Sampat, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
9. Mr. Dharam singh, aged 20 years, son of Mr. Kripa, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
10. Mr. Sukhram, aged 16 years, son of Mr. Ramlakhan, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
11. Sunita, girl child aged 12 years, daughter of Mr. Ramdular, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
12. Mr. Sappu, aged 18 years, son of Mr. Shriram, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
13. Ms. Rajkumari, aged 38 years, daughter of Mr. Mishrilal, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
14. Mr. Suresh, aged 18 years, son of Mr. Pratap, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
15. Sadana, girl child aged 12 years, daughter of Mr. Panna, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
16. Mr. Ajit, aged 17 years, son of Mr. Ramcharan, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
17. Minnu, girl child aged 14 years, daughter of Mr. Ramsingh, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
18. Guddi, girl child aged 12 years, son of Mr. Ramsingh, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
19. Mr. Pakhandu, aged 22 years, son of Mr. Kanhaiya, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
20. Mr. Lalmani, aged 53 years son of Mr. Baidyanath, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
21. Mr. Sankar, aged 32 years, son of Mr. Buddhu, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India
22. Mr. Ramlakhan, aged 45 years, son of Mr. Suddhar, Kodwari village, Nunhauti, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India

Location:

Kodwari Village of Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

The Chamar tribe in Kodwari village of Mirzapur District in Uttar Pradesh, India is facing extreme conditions due to lack of food and inhuman living conditions. The environment is devastated by environmental degradation and currently huge granite quarries plunder granite from the land thereby adding up to an acute shortage of water. There is no accessible health care system and the local administration has ignored the victims when it comes to subsidized food assistance. Education for children is out of the question.

 

Chunnar is known for its pottery and carpet industry. However, employment in these industries is far beyond the reach of members of the Chamar tribe at Kodwari village. Kodwari village is affected by extreme drought. Agriculture, which is the only means of survival for the people, has also lost its relevance due to the lack of cultivable land and water. There is no well for irrigation in Kodwari and the people are totally dependent upon rain.

 

The entire tribal community is currently facing acute poverty and starvation. The situation is so dire that in the absence of immediate intervention, the entire community may starve to death. There is no existing public distribution system functioning in this area and no medical facilities are provided by the government in this village. Moreover, the very functioning of the quarry itself is a violation of the Minor Mineral Concession Rules which also have a devastating impact upon the already devastated environment.

 

The victims have also not been given the benefits of different social security schemes by the state government. Children do not get the benefit of Mid Day meal scheme during the summer vacation in spite of repeated directions of the Supreme Court of India in the case of PUCL v/s Govt. of India (196/2001). In the present session, after the reopening of the primary school from July 1, the Mid-Day meal scheme has not been started. There are no other functioning public welfare schemes for the village and the public distribution shop is not open regularly. Furthermore, although the entire population is poverty-stricken, they are not considered so according to government records. Such deplorable and inhuman living conditions pushed the Chamar to accept whatever job was being offered. As of now, the only job available is the bone crushing work at the granite quarry.

 

Working in the quarry is bone crushing especially in the extreme temperate climate. The pay is as low as Rs. 20 (USD .46) per day for 10 to 12 hours of work, which also is often not paid since the employer would hold back payment on the ground of loans due. The petty sums paid by the employers as loans are deducted from the wages with high interest. Most families in entirety end up as slaves for the quarry owners and many of the women are exploited. The quarry owners trade their slave families and generations end up in never ending servitude. The state government, as well as the central government of India and local bodies, is aware of this situation, however these bodies are yet to intervene in this situation.

 

A recent incident, which occurred on July 10, 2005, is a glaring example of the situation of the Chamar tribe working in the quarries in Chunnar. On this day, Mr. Ramvriksha Pal, a supervisor of a quarry contractor, came to Kodwari and offered the villagers the work of loading trucks with boulders. The poor villagers, who are dying of starvation because of drought, had no other work option and thus, readily agreed to load the trucks. Around 65 villagers went to the quarry to load the trucks and by evening they had loaded 3 trucks. Only one trailer was left to be loaded and as it was already dark, the villagers refused to load the trailer. On their refusal, Ramvriksha Pal told the victims that if they did not load the trailer then they wouldn't receive compensation for whatever work they had done. A few villagers returned to their homes, but around 40 villagers stayed to load the trailer.

 

Around 11.30 p.m. the trailer was loaded. When the villagers asked for their wages Ramvriksha Pal told them that they would be paid at the place they get down from the trailer for their village.

 

The driver of the trailer refused to drive the trailer as he was drunk but Ramvriksha Pal forced him to start and drive the trailer. The trailer covered a distance of barely 300 meters when the driver lost control of the vehicle. As a result, the trailer capsized and four persons died on the spot buried under the heap of boulders from the trailer. The rest sustained injuries ranging from heavy to minor and were rescued with the help of people from the neighboring areas. A private practitioner provided first aid to the injured and then, with the help of the villagers, they were taken to the district hospital in two jeeps.

 

In the morning, police came to inspect the site of the accident and they sent the dead bodies for post mortem examinations to Chunar. Meanwhile, a large number of people had gathered from the villages hearing about the incident. Most had come to check for their relatives who had come to work as truck loaders. The villagers decided to give a letter to the district administration through their Pradhan (leader) asking for compensation for the deceased and injured, which is yet to be paid.

 

The accident was reported to the District Magistrate with complete details of the number of persons who died in the accident and those who were injured and undergoing treatment. Compensation for the victims of the accident has been demanded from the Government but so far the Government has done nothing in this regard. Neither has the quarry owner accepted the responsibility to pay.

 

This accident shows what the community must face in light of the appalling living conditions of the Chamar in Kodwari.  The government has not taken any steps whatsoever to bring any aid to the Chamar community. On the contrary, the government and the local administration ignored the illegal granite mining in the area which in the long run will add up to the increasing water scarcity in the villages. For the claims put up by the relatives of the deceased and the injured, the pleas for compensation have fallen on deaf ears.

 

Despite the AHRC's repeated letters highlighting the appalling situation of food related issues, no effective steps have been taken to end the suffering of the people facing this crisis. Many of the government programmes that do exist to assist the poor are besieged by problems of corruption and bureaucracy, which render them futile. Sometimes, when help does arrive, it is much too late. It is indeed unfortunate that the food granaries are full of grains, while endless people are going hungry and many are dying. At present, the issue of 'Right to Life', as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, is being completely violated by the government.

 

 

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh voicing your concerns over the living conditions of Chamar community in Chunnar and Kodwari, and requesting that immediate assistance be provided to the community and the victims of the lorry accident, in particular to ensure that no more such incidents occur. A sample letter follows.

 

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Dear __________________

 

Re: Villagers exploited by employment in slave like conditions due to lack of food and terrible living conditions

 

I am extremely concerned to have learned of the unfortunate death of four villagers, including children, and the injuries suffered by 22 others while they were returning home from a quarry in a truck filled with boulders. The accident happened on July 10, 2005. I am shocked to know that the living conditions in Kodwari village, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh are so atrocious that the villagers, predominantly from the Chamar tribal community, are forced to work in illegal granite quarries. It must be a shame for your government and your administration that such appalling working conditions exist in your jurisdiction and that the officials responsible for preventing such slave like practices are failing in discharging their duties.

 

I am informed that the villagers, who do not have enough food to feed their family at least once a day, in your records are not entitled for any benefits under the government welfare schemes. It is equally disturbing to learn that the entire community in this village is facing acute starvation.

 

I am also informed that those who lost their life in the accident and those who are injured were not paid any compensation. It must be a matter of concern to your administration how an illegal quarry could function, exploiting the starving population, and how you could get away with incidents like the accident which happened on July 10.

 

The district administration seems to be entirely unaware of the severe food shortage in Kodwari and the real issues facing those who live there. Without the district administration’s immediate intervention and proper understanding of what is occurring in the village, many more deaths due to inhuman working conditions and also due to starvation could occur in Kodwari.

 

I therefore request you to pursue this matter with immediate priority and take genuine steps to ensure that justice is sought in this case. Furthermore, I request you to take steps so that interim relief is paid to those who were injured in the accident and also to the families who lost their members in the accident.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

 

Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh

Chief Minister's Secretariat

Lucknow

Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Fax: + 91 52 2223 0002/2223 9234

Email: cmup@up.nic.in

  

 

 

PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

 

1. Justice A.P. Mishra

Chairperson

Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission

6-A Kalidass Marg

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Tel: +91 52 2272 6742

Fax: +91 52 2272 6743

Email: uphrc@sancharnet.in

 

 

2. Justice A. S. Anand

National Human Rights Commission of India

Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg

New Delhi 110001

INDIA

Tel: +91 11 2338 2742

Fax: +91 11 2338 4863

Email: covdnhrc@nic.in  , ionhrc@nic.in

 

 

3. Chairman

National Commission for Scheduled Castes

5th Floor, Loknayak Bhawan,

Khan Market,

New Delhi-110 003

INDIA

Tel: +91 11 2 463 2298 / 2462 0435

E-mail: chairman-ncscst@ncscst.nic.in

 

 

4. Mr. Jean Ziegler

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran

Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,

Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva

SWITZERLAND

Tel: +41 22 917 9300

Fax: +41 22 917 9010

Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

 

 

5. Mr. Gian Pietro Bordignon

Country Director

World Food Programme

2 Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar,

New Delhi 110057

INDIA

Tel: +91 11 2615 0001

Fax: +91 11 2615 0019

 

6. Chief Mines Officer

Directorate of Geology and Mining

Khanij Bhawan, 27/8, Ram Mohan Rai Marg

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Tel: + 91 52 2220 5906, 2220 5909

Fax: +91 52 2220 5910

 

7. District Magistrate

Mirzapur District

Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Tel: +91 54 4225 2480, 7400

Fax: +91 54 4225 2552

Email: mir@up.nic.in

 

 

8. Sub Divisional Magistrate

Chunnar, Mirzapur District

Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Tel: +91 54 4222 2413

 

9. The Social Welfare Officer

Mirzapur, Mirzapur District

Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Tel: +91 54 4225 2374

 

10. Mines Officer

Mirzapur, Mirzapur District

Uttar Pradesh

INDIA

Tel: + 91 54 4225 6339

 

 

Thank you.

 

Urgent Appeals Programme -- Hunger Alert

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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