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Posted at: Feb 14, 2016, 12:28 AM; last updated: Feb 13, 2016, 11:00 PM (IST)

Brick kiln workers end stir after probe assurance

Brick kiln workers end stir after probe assurance
Deputy Commissioner Basant Garg offers juice to Jai Singh Phillaur to end the hunger strike in Bathinda on Saturday. A Tribune Photograph

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 13

The agitating brick kiln labourers today relented after the district administration assured them of conducting a thorough probe into the cases of bonded labour besides providing them with basic facilities at the site. The workers had been staging a protest for the last four days.

Deputy Commissioner Basant Garg today ended the hunger strike undertaken by Jai Singh Phillaur, general secretary of the NGO, Volunteers for Social Justice, who went on a fast unto death on Friday following the detention of some workers agitating against the practice of bonded labour. The DC offered a glass of juice to Jai Singh Phillaur to break his fast.

A number of brick kiln workers from across the district today gathered at Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park in the city, the site of the protest. The labourers accused the owners of private brick kilns of exploiting them and demanded from the district administration basic facilities like toilet, accommodation and drinking water by keeping a check on brick-kilns that are violating the Bonded Labour Act as well as the provisions of Industry Act.

On Thursday, these labourers squatted in front of the District Administrative Complex, protesting against the practice of bonded labour and demanded action against the brick kiln owner who had hired many such labourers in Mehraj village.

The labourers alleged that besides being denied basic facilities, the brick kiln owners exploit them by making them do more work and by not paying the promised wages. These labourers were brought from Uttar Pradesh in September last year after the owner allegedly paid them an advance of Rs 10,000 per family.

A meeting between Jai Singh Phillaur and the Deputy Commissioner was held following which an assurance was given by the DC. The strike subsequently came to an end on Saturday evening.

It may be mentioned that Jagsir Singh Seera, state secretary, Bhattha and Bawan Nirman Union, who is also a member of the NGO, Volunteers for Social Justice, said, “These labourers were brought here from UP by a supplier and an advance was paid with a promise of Rs 10,000 in wages to each labourer of all the eight families. But the owner betrayed and not even half the advance paid money sought was paid to these labourers. The owners intentionally do not pay these labourers, fearing they would go back to UP when there is not much work for some months. Moreover, no basic facility is provided to these labourers at the work site. Now, the administration has promised us a thorough probe and assured of help in bringing the labourers back besides providing them with the basic facilities.”

Deputy Commissioner Basant Garg said, “We had set up a committee under the SDM, Rampura, and sent it to meet the brick kiln owners at Mehraj on Wednesday. On Thursday, a district-level committee was sent to probe the matter but no bonded labour was found. Now we formed a committee again today comprising women officials who would thoroughly conduct a probe. We assured the protesters of a thorough ssprobe and will also look into their other demands.”

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