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INDIA: A Mother and her six month old child face food and health insecurity under bonded labour

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a mother and her six month old child are currently facing food and health insecurity caused by bonded labour. The family living in the Balangir district of Orissa regularly migrated to Bangalore for the last two years to earn their daily food by working in a brick kiln. They did not have any resources to survive in the village. The mother lost her first daughter in 2008 due to lack of medical care. She currently faces a similar situation that may cause serious illness to her son and herself as the brick kiln owner allegedly does not provide adequate food and health care. Despite the passage of more than ten days since the husband managed to flee from the brick kiln to make a complaint to the district administration, the family has yet to get any help. There are two other families working in the same brick kiln as bonded labourers, which are legally banned in India. The food insecurity in Balangir has been driving the poor in the village to bonded labour.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME
Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-008-2010

8 September 2010
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INDIA: A Mother and her six month old child face food and health insecurity under bonded labour

ISSUES: Right to adequate food; right to health; bonded labour; migration
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a mother and her six month old child are currently facing food and health insecurity caused by bonded labour. The family living in the Balangir district of Orissa regularly migrated to Bangalore for the last two years to earn their daily food by working in a brick kiln. They did not have any resources to survive in the village. The mother lost her first daughter in 2008 due to lack of medical care. She currently faces a similar situation that may cause serious illness to her son and herself as the brick kiln owner allegedly does not provide adequate food and health care. Despite the passage of more than ten days since the husband managed to flee from the brick kiln to make a complaint to the district administration, the family has yet to get any help. There are two other families working in the same brick kiln as bonded labourers, which are legally banned in India. The food insecurity in Balangir has been driving the poor in the village to bonded labour.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On August 21 2010, Mr. Ashok Muna (25 years old) fled from the brick kiln in Bangalore where he along with his wife, Basumati (21 years old) and six-month old son had been working as bonded labourers since September 2009.

Ashok and his family went to Bangalore in 2008 to work in the brick kiln owned by Mr. S. K. Rajasekhar as having no income source in his village and being in debt. When working in the brick kiln in 2008, Basumati gave a birth to her first daughter who died there due to lack of medical care and nutritious food. Despite his reluctance to be engaged in bonded labour, Ashok had no other choice but to work in the brick kiln.

In August 2009, Mr. Rajasekhar sent INR 20,000 (USD 429) to Ashok as an advance. Along with his pregnant wife he left the village in early September 2009. While working in the brick kiln from September to July 2010 (for 11 months), Basumati gave birth to a son. As she could not work after her delivery, Ashok had to work longer and harder than before, being paid only INR 100 (USD 2.1) a day.

Other families from Ashok's village also came to the same brick kiln as bonded labour. Some of them escaped from the brick kiln as they could not bear the owner's rebukes and assaults on them. The owner Rakasekhar came to assault Ashok more and more as a reprisal to force him to induce the escaped families to return to the brick kiln. Ashok had to withstand constant threats from Rakasekhar to try to force him to bring the escaped families back. He also warned that he would in fact do something else in spite of the fact that Ashok had no idea of the whereabouts of the escaped families.

In July 2010, Ashok made a request to quit working and leave for his village, as his wife and son were not feeling well. Both of them were experiencing physical difficulties due to the lack of health care and nutritious food, similar to the situation in 2008. The brick kiln owner Rakasekhar refusing Ashok's request threatened him again to get the escaped families back to the brick kiln. In addition, Rakasekhar demanded INR 50,000 (USD 1068) from Ashok claiming that the escaped labourers owed him and Ashok had to pay if he could not bring them back to the kiln. Ashok started looking for the escaped labourers and in mid July found some of them working in a brick kiln in nearby Hyderabad. He tried to persuade the labourers to come back to the brick kiln of Bangalore for a month but the labourers refused to go back, fearing ill-treatment and repeated threats. Ashok asked the supervisor of the Bangalore brick kiln, Mr. S.P. Manjunath Gounda, to come to Hyderabad to persuade the labourers directly.

Despite the supervisor's persuasive attempts, the labourers refused to go back. Manjunath constantly threatened Ashok that his wife and son would be held hostage until Ashok managed to get the labourers back. After consulting with his family members and his fellow villagers, he came back to Balangir to ask help from the district administration on August 21. The Collector advised Ashok to lodge a complaint at the Labour Office. Ashok with the help of other villagers, as he is illiterate, should post a written complaint to the Labour Office.

Ashok's wife Basumati and his son are still being held hostage by Rajasekhar, the owner of the brick kiln. Despite the fact that both are not well and face lack of adequate food, Rajasekhar allegedly does not provide medical care for them. In particular, Ashok was informed by the labourers working in the brick kiln that his son has fever and is becoming malnourished. The district administration has not yet taken substantial action against the brick kiln owner who infringes domestic law as well as international law regarding bonded labour.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The Constitution of India directly and indirectly prohibits the practice of bonded labour. Articles 21, 23 (1) and 24, in the specific law that prohibits the practice, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, was legislated in 1976. Despite the statutory prohibition, bonded labour is widely practiced, as is proven by this case. The most severely affected are the children, particularly those from the Dalit community. The victim in this case also belongs to the Dalit community. The AHRC has released its written submission on bonded labour to the UN Human Rights Council.

Widespread in India are the problems of food security and income sources which are not guaranteed for the poor. The poor in Banlangir district reportedly have been facing serious food insecurity reflected in starvation deaths and distress migration. The AHRC has reported on a hunger alert case of five children of one tribal family who died of starvation between October and December 2009. Furthermore, the report on "Banlangir Declaration" discussing the right to food in Balangir pointed out that the migration of brick kiln labourers started in the late 1980s and is the biggest issue in food insecurity.

Bonded labour is one of the contemporary forms of slavery as defined by International society including the International Labour Organization (ILO). The recent report on bonded labour in India published by ILO highlighted the high incidence of migrant bonded labour in brick kilns in several states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Karnataka etc.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in expressing your concern for the families who confront food and health security working as bonded labourers.

The AHRC has also written a separate letter calling for the intervention of the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to adequate food and the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of slavery respectively.

To support this appeal please click here: 

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Call for relief for a mother and six month-old son facing food and health insecurity working as bonded labour

Name of victim:
1. Mr. Ashok Suna (25 years old)
2. Mrs. Basumati (21 years old), a wife of victim 1 and six month-old son
3. Two other families: Jayaram Chhatria (45 years old); Subasini Chhatria (12 years old); Puja Chhatria (5 years); Ganesh Chhatria (2 years old); Basumati Muna (21 years); Arun Muna (8 months old); Bhumisuta Chhatria (45 years)
All are from Ghagra village, Luhasingha in Khaprakhol block of Balangir district, Orissa

Name of alleged perpetrators:
Name of the brick brand: SLN (Sri Laxmi Narasimha) and LNB (Laxmi Narasimha Bricks)
Name of the brick kiln owner: S. K. Rajasekhar (Phone no.: +91-9141609517)

Date of incident: August 2010
Place of incident: Brick kiln area: Samkeli, Alehnka Area, Bangalore, Karnataka

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding a mother and her six month-old son who are currently allegedly being held hostage by the brick kiln owner. I am informed that both mother and son face sickness and lack of adequate food. The family has been working as bonded labourers.

I am informed that on August 21, 2010, Mr. Ashok Muna (25 years old) fled from the brick kiln in Bangalore where he along with his wife, Basumati (21 years old) and six-month old son had been working as bonded labourers since September 2009.

Ashok and his family went to Bangalore in 2008 to work in brick kiln owned by Mr. S. K. Rajasekhar, as having no income source in his village and being in debt. When working in the brick kiln in 2008, Basumati gave birth to her first daughter who died there due to lack of medical care and nutritious food. Despite his reluctance to engage in bonded labour, he had no other choice but to work in the brick kiln.

I am further informed that in August 2009, Mr. Rajasekhar sent INR 20,000 (USD 429) to Ashok as an advance. Along with his pregnant wife, he left the village in early September 2009. While working in the kiln from September to July 2010 (for 11 months), Basumati gave birth to a son. As Basumati could not work after her delivery, Ashok had to work longer and harder than before, being paid only INR 100 (USD 2.1) a day.

Other families from Ashok's village also came to the same brick kiln as bonded labours. Some of them escaped from the brick kiln as they could not bear the owner's rebuke and assaults on them. The owner Rakasekhar came to assault Ashok more and more as a reprisal forcing him to induce the escaped families to return to the brick kiln. Ashok had to withstand constant threats from Rakasekhar. He attempted to force him to bring the escaped families back. He further warned that he would in fact do something else, despite the fact that Ashok had no idea of their whereabouts.

In July 2010, Ashok made a request to quit working and leave for his village, as his wife and son were not feeling well. Both of them were facing physical symptoms due to the lack of health care and nutritious food, similar to the situation in 2008. The brick kiln owner Rakasekhar refusing Ashok's request threatened him again to get the escaped families back to the kiln. In addition, Rakasekhar demanded INR 50,000 (USD 1,068) from Ashok, claiming that the escaped labourers owed him and Ashok had to pay if he could not bring them back to the kiln. Ashok started looking for the escaped labourers and in mid July found some of them working in a brick kiln in nearby Hyderabad. He tried to persuade the labourers to come back to the Bangalore kiln for a month but the labourers refused, fearing ill-treatment and threats again. Ashok asked the supervisor of Bangalore brick kiln, Mr. S.P. Manjunath Gounda, to come over to Hyderabad to persuade the workers directly.

Despite the supervisor's attempts at persuasion, the labourers refused to go back. Manjunath constantly threatened Ashok that his wife and son would be kept hostage until Ashok manage to get the labourers back. After consulting with his family members and his fellow villagers, he came back to Balangir to ask help from the district administration on August 21. The Collector advised Ashok to lodge a complaint at the Labour Office. Ashok with the help of other villagers, as he is illiterate, should post a written complaint to the Labour Office.

I am informed that Ashok's wife Basumati and his son are still being held hostage by the brick kiln owner Rajasekhar. Despite the fact that both are not well and face lack of adequate food, Rajasekhar allegedly does not provide medical care for them. In particular, Ashok was informed by the labourers working in the brick kiln that his son has fever and is becoming malnourished. The district administration has not yet taken substantial action against the brick kiln owner who infringes domestic law as well as international law regarding bonded labour.

I am aware that bonded labour is defined as a contemporary form of slavery by the International Human Rights Society. It is still prevalent in South Asia, in India in particular. Despite the Constitution and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act that was enacted in 1976, one of the first in South Asia, extreme poverty and food insecurity drive the poor, especially the - lower castes in particular - to engage in bonded labour.

I, therefore, urge you to take immediate action to secure relief for this family suffering under bonded labour and take legal action against the brick kiln owner. It is a given fact that Balangir district has been confronting food insecurity, including migrant bonded labour for years. It is most urgently required that the government enact a policy to eradicate extreme poverty and guarantee food security. Needless to say it will most assuredly contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

I look forward to your prompt and considered action.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Krishna Tirath
Minister of Women and Child Development
Government of India
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2331 4788
E-mail: krishnatirath@yahoo.in

2. Ms. Anu Garg
Commissioner cum Secretary
Department of Health & Family Welfare
Government of Orissa, Secretariat Building
Bhubaneshwar - 751 001, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 674 2390 674
E-mail: orhealth@ori.nic.in or secy-hfw-or@nic.in

3. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
P.O.Bhubaneswar, Dist. Khurda
751001 Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

4. Dr. B.S. Yediyurappa
Chief Minister
Room No. 323
Vidhana Soudha,
Bangalore-560001
Karnataka
INDIA
E-mail: chiefminister@karnataka.gov.in

5. Sailendra Narayan Dey
District Collector
Collectorate
Balangir District
Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 6652 233082
E-mail: dmblgr@ori.nic.in

6. S.K. Nataraj
Mayor of Banglaore
No. 144, 12th Cross, 3rd Main,
Sarakki Grama,
Bangalore-560078
Karnataka
INDIA
E-mail: dcadm@bbmp.gov.in

7. Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

8. Mrs. Shantha Sinha
Chairperson
National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
5th Floor, Chnadralok Building, Janpath,
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23731584
E-mail: ncpcr.india@gmail.com / shantha.sinha@nic.in

Thank you.

Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia) 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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