Founding Editor: Shafqat Munir   

Brick-Kiln Workers: Life is never a pleasure; becomes living hell in summer 

08 Junie 2011 12:29:48

Brick-Kiln Workers:
Life is never a pleasure; becomes living hell in summer

Brick Kiln workers feel it really hard during the summer to carry on with the job which is already inhumanly hard and depressing with no one to take care of their rights.

Qasim Raza and Aziz Ur Rehman are two such workers who have to work at the Baking section of the kiln where the clay bricks are roasted. “We not only have to face the heat of the kiln but the burning Sun makes it worse for us,” they yelled as INFN approached them working on a kiln near Khanna Bridge.

The brick production sector in Pakistan has many social dilemmas such as bonded labor, child labor, work-place adverse living environment, unhygienic water and sanitation conditions, poor education and adverse occupational health conditions, etc.

All of these problems need serious consideration. The sector is one of the major actors in the construction industry and yet due to its peculiar characteristics is reproached as a non tax-payer and is not recognized as an industry.

It is estimated that around one million brick kiln workers work in almost 10,000 brick kilns in Pakistan. Despite the economic importance of brick kilns, very little information is available on ‘state’ of brick kiln sector in Pakistan. The living and working conditions of brick kiln workers, the nature of the contractual relationships between workers, middlemen, managers and employers/owners and the implications of mechanization and new technologies for workers in the industry need to be focused on priority basis.

According to a recent survey conducted by SDPI nearly 64% of brick-kiln workers live below poverty line. Some 80% are without running water at home, 60% had no latrine, and 82% are without proper drainage and all depended upon fuel wood for cooking. The workers access to health and education is also limited. Molders have the highest percentage of health problems (backaches, legaches, joint pains) due to the posture required for work. Adult literacy was available to only 7% workers. Their working conditions are not better than their living conditions. Majority of them work to pay back the advance payment they have received from brick kiln owners.

Only 16% workers have a written contract. All family members (men, women, and children of the family) join together, each working for 10 hours daily to prepare 1,000 moulds of brick for compensation, ranging from Rs. 300 to Rs. 350. They are working in inhuman condition in the absence of shelter or latrines.