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Bonded Labor in Pakistan

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    Bonded Labor in Pakistan

    This is in today’s New York Times. It is a shame that bonded labor still goes on in our country. A classic example of screwed up priorities. We want Kashmir but we can’t free our own people from oppression. Despicable.

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/12/in...ia/12LABO.html

    You have to register with the NYTimes.com to go to the detailed page. So, here’s the complete cut and paste of the article.


    MANZOORABAD JOURNAL
    Bondage's Load: Heavy Bricks, and Crushing Debt
    By RAYMOND BONNER


    ANZOORABAD, Pakistan — In the full light of the sun, already blazing unmercifully so early in the morning, the women sat on their haunches, slapping moist clay and sand into large hunks, which they rolled over to their husbands. The men worked the stuff into a rectangular mold, and dumped it out as it hardened.

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    Small children then loaded the unbaked bricks onto donkey carts to carry to the kiln. Covered with sweat and grime, the teen-age boys and old men who stoked the kiln were working almost literally in an inferno as they lifted the cover off a small hole and dropped in coal.

    This is what bonded labor looks like in Pakistan. The practice, in which employers give high-interest loans to workers, whose entire families must then labor in an effort to pay off ever-mounting debt, is illegal, having been banned in 1992. It is also pervasive.

    The use of bonded child labor is punishable by a $900 fine and five years in prison. The law has rarely, if ever, been enforced.

    The 80 workers here — men, women and children in 17 families — have never been to school. They cannot read or write or count. They are not even sure how old they are, or how many hours a day they work.

    What they do know is that they are in debt to the brick factory's owner, a debt from which they are unlikely to escape. Some may have borrowed money years ago, to pay for a special event like a wedding or funeral, or simply life's necessities. Others are paying off their parents' debts.

    Mazhar Husain, who thinks he is about 30, took over the debt from his parents, and now owes about 100,000 rupees, or roughly $2,000. He, his wife and three small children together earn about 3,000 rupees a month, or roughly $50.

    "He can carry water," he said, pointing to his 3-year-old son, Taswar, explaining that the entire family works here at the Chaudhry Naseer Bricks Company. His daughter Rajan, who appears to be about 5 or 6, used to carry water. Now she sometimes molds clay alongside her mother.

    The United States State Department, in its most recent human rights report on Pakistan, said, "Conservative estimates put the number of bonded workers at several million," despite the ban on the system a decade ago. "Strong social ties between employers and public officials at the local level further undercut the law's effectiveness," the report added.

    Bonded laborers can be found on fishing boats and on farms. But most work in Pakistan's brick factories. Smokestacks like the 75-foot one belching black smoke here are a jarring sight throughout the country, rising out of rice paddies and wheat fields, wherever there is an ample supply of clay.

    The owners of these brick factories know very well that bonded labor is illegal, said Naseer Ahmed Gondal, who owns this one. "It's a crime," he acknowledged. "The government says it is forced labor."

    But, he said, he and other factory owners have no choice, given the harshness of the work. "It's very difficult to find workers," he said. "We give them loans so they won't go away."

    Still, he insisted, the workers hold most of the advantages. They know, he said, that the owner cannot go to court and enforce the loan contract — precisely because it is illegal — which means they can run away without fear of being forced to come back. "Everything is against us," Mr. Gondal said.

    Mr. Gondal, 65, along with four other men, bought the brick factory about two years ago because, he said, he had been told it was a good way to make money. But the factory was selling only 4,000 bricks a day, on the best days, and he was not making any profit, he said.

    His manager, Fazal Abbar, 20, told a different story. He said the factory sells 20,000 to 25,000 bricks a day, for 1 rupee each, or about $450 a day. The factory could sell many times more, Mr. Abbar said, if it had the capacity.

    Most of the bricks are sold locally, to people who use them to build very modest structures as well as to a handful of people who have used money sent back from relatives working abroad to build large two- and three-story houses, with pillars and balconies.

    One man bought 200,000 bricks to build a 50-room house, said Wasim Anjum, who sells auto parts in Mandi Bahauddin, an agricultural center nearby that has grown considerably in the last five years, increasing the demand for bricks.

    As for the workers who make the bricks, they live in a tiny rooms, not bigger than 12 feet by 12 feet, with dirt floors. A small cut in the thick walls serves as a window.

    One of the brickmakers, Khizar Hayat, when asked how long he worked each day, said five or six hours. He elaborated: From 5 a.m. until about 4 or 5 p.m.

    Asked how old he was, he laughed. "How can you ask me how old I am?" he said. "I don't know." Friends said he was about 50.

    The workers say they expect to stay here — unless another factory owner buys out their debt. Then they will move to the new workplace.

    At the kiln's edge, where the temperature was hellish, Muhammad Inyat was loading finished bricks onto a cart. He was sweating, his grizzled beard caked with dust. He said he earns 24 rupees, less than 50 cents, for every 1,000 bricks he loads.

    Asked why he keeps at it, he answered simply, "For my stomach."




    #2
    I agreed with the link. Child Labor is awful!

    LIVE & LET LIVE

    Comment


      #3
      Oh talking about Bonded Labor, dont forget to read this beautiful story of a wonderful people. (Wont say anything about the land because I actually love it). http://www.dawn.com/2002/05/25/local14.htm
      So, once you have gone through it, join me in singing Najam Shiraz's Sona chahta hoon ... ik lambi neeNd meiN khona chahta hooN . Oh, it sounds stupid to you? But I'll do it anyways :--(


      ISLAMABAD, May 24: A bailiff of the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench on Friday recovered 32 bonded laborers from a brick kiln in the vicinity of the federal capital. The kidneys of five of the laborers have been sold by their captors.

      Allah Ditta had filed a petition in the LHC, Rawalpindi Bench, through Advocate Raja Ishtiaq.

      The bailiff, Malik Tariq of the LHC, on the order of Justice Mian Jehangir visited the brick kiln of Chaudhry Ghani in Tarlai Kalan, Islamabad and recovered the 32 bonded labourers. It was also revealed to the court that the accused brick kiln owner has admitted five bonded labourers to different hospitals of the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad and one kidney of each was taken out for transplanting to some rich people. The payment was allegedly received by the Brick Kiln owner.

      Justice Jehangir ordered release of the recovered persons and directed the district and sessions judge, Islamabad, to hold an inquiry as to who was responsible for the selling of kidneys and consider the option of initiating criminal proceedings if the owner of the brick kiln was responsible for that.


      ------------------
      When you think that we've used all our chances
      And the chance to make everything right
      Keep on making the same old mistakes
      Makes untipping the balance so easy
      When we're living our lives on the edge
      Say a prayer on the book of the dead
      I'm cold seed, I'm your sweetest leaf
      I'll ease your mind, I'll set you free

      Comment


        #4
        It is a sin and illegal. Sadly the very people who commit such crimes are our politicians. We have to fight a war on many fronts. Kashmir is one. This is another. You can't take away from either. Both are important. Both deserve priority. Both must be dealt with.

        ------------------
        It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth . . . and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.
        You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!

        Comment

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