M A I N   N E W S

Buying, selling of children common in stone quarries
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 30
Despite the government’s tall claims of adopting a proactive approach towards the issue of forced or bonded labour, the fact is that this evil system of gross infringement of fundamental rights of a human being continues unabashedly in the country.

If the 114 men, women and children, gathered in the Constitution Hall, right next to corridors of political power in the Capital are to be believed, then despite claims of eradication in neighbouring Haryana this illegal practice is carrying on, in gross violation of the Bonded Labour System(Abolition) Act 1976. And that too, right under the nose of the administration and in connivance with some high-profile politicians of the state.

Incidentally, as per the Act, there are stringent penal provisions against any such offending employers. Penalties include imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years.

As per NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which rescued these hapless men, women and children from thriving stone quarries in Pichopa Kalan in Charkhi Dadri sub-division of Bhiwani district, keeping bonded labourers and buying and selling them is a common practice in Haryana.

“Those operating stone quarries work as organised gangs and buy and sell human beings, depending upon their skill, anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 5,000,” claims Kailash Satyarthi, chairman of the NGO.

The group today presented a memorandum to Haryana Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda through the Resident Commissioner at the Haryana Bhavan in Delhi, demanding action against the contractors, the district administration Bhiwani. They also asked for their proper rehabilitation.

For those rescued from the stone quarries in hills of Pichopa Kalan in Charkhi Dadri, it has been a long story, for some as long as 7 years, of misery, exploitation and total disregard of their fundamental human rights.

One after the other, the labourers, most of them from Chattisgarh, related heart-rending stories of their plight at hands of middlemen, who had brought them from their homes with promises that were never kept, and contractors who exploited them, day after day.

Whether it is the very pregnant 21-year-old Gulabo from Markadi village in Bilaspur district in Chattisgarh or the mother of two, the 28-year-old Suman from Lojhari village in Chattisgarh, they all claimed of not being paid regular wages for the back-breaking work that continued for 12 to 14 hours a day.

“We were given less money and bad food for all the hard work we did,” says Suman. As per the law, minimum wages for quarrying is Rs 240 a day, says Satyarthi.

During the past 7 years that she has been working at the quarry, Suman, her husband and their two children, were not allowed to go home. In fact, Suman claimed of not being able to meet her son, whom she had left behind in her village. Those who were allowed to go home had to leave behind a family member as security, she said.

Gulabo’s story is equally pathetic. Contractor’s men sexually harassed her and hit her with a lathi on her stomach, despite being in the advanced stage of pregnancy, she alleged.

Satyarthi says the reason why illegal operations like these are continuing unchecked in Haryana is because those earning from and operating these quarries are not only well-connected but high profile politicians, including some MLAs and MPs. “A former Chief Minister owns several of these quarries in benami,” he claimed.

“When one of the bonded labourer met me on Aug 10, we sent a letter to the District Administration, Bhiwani, and the SDM, Charkhi Dadri, asking them to rescue these labourers. When there was no reaction from their side, we sent another letter on August 17. 


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