The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking suo motu cognisance of a report published in The Hindu on 32 bonded labourers, including 12 children, seeking liberation from drudgery at Sagar brick kiln in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, has issued a notice to State Chief Secretary asking for a report on the steps taken to free them.
The NHRC in a release late on Tuesday said: “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 victimisation. 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 Child Welfare Committee chairperson of Anantapur had visited the brick kiln and referred the children to the Government Hospital for medical tests and determination of age, which will be done on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Garladinne Tehsildar said it was not a case of bonded labour as they had taken ₹35,000 per person in advance through a manpower supplier in Bolangir in Odisha.
The NHRC, however, directed the district authorities to immediately rescue all the labourers, issue release certificate and start the process of payment of the statutory relief. “The authorities are also expected to ensure 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 NHRC release read.
MLA to visit brick kiln today
While the issue was brought to the notice of district authorities two days ago, Singanamala (SC) MLA Jonnalagadda Padmavathi had not visited the brick kiln so far and when contacted she said she would visit on Wednesday.
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.
It 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 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.