Kiln worker rescued from bond labor in Pakistan
Islamabad Pakistan – Bond labor is the latest form of slavery in Pakistan. More than 4.5 million kiln workers and their generations are experiencing overburdened and bonded labor problems at around 18,000 brick kilns spread across the country, according to a study by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
A Kiln worker is paid 450 Pakistani Rupees per 1,000 bricks, in some areas of Punjab the rate is even lower, at 230 rupees per 1,000 bricks, regardless of how long and how many members of the family it takes to complete the task. The tasks include fetching mud, soaking it in water, molding it into bricks, transporting the finished product to the kiln and finally baking and grading each brick. This is not much but there is another issue – “credit line acts as a noose”.
In case of severe weather or illness, workers earn nothing and are forced deeper into debt, begging for loans from their employers who are happy to extend the line of credit, which tie the laborer more tightly.
One man, his wife, and three minor children work for 18 hours a day at a kiln in the outskirts of Rawalpindi. It takes this family of five an entire day to achieve the target, which they hardly meet in a day. Due to illness of his father this man took a loan of Rs. 75,000, which he couldn’t return and went deeper into debt. The owner asked him to return it, convert to Islam or be ready to face the consequences of doing neither. The man refused to embrace Islam. Similarly, another person who cannot be named was also forced by the same owner. This victim is able to tell a very similar story; he was also victimized by the bond labor and was unable to repay his debts. He and his 4 children were forced to work on the same Kilns.
A woman who serves as the director of our Rescue Christians partner in Pakistan, fortunately came to know about his problem; she took this initiative and went to untie both families from this modern form of slavery. According to our partner, the kiln owner used to extend loans for occasions such as marriage, births and deaths, in an effort to tie the laborers more tightly into servitude. This action is totally illegal and under the law, a kiln owner can only release an advance equal to or less than two weeks’ wages, she explained on the telephone.
Our director also informed us that women workers are usually trapped and sexually harassed.
In case of the two victimized men and their famies, our partner – with the help of the local administration – negotiated with the owner and was ultimately successful in freeing them from this slavery and relocating these families.
You – our donors – have provided the money for safe houses and the ability for the families to regain their freedom and dignity. Thank you Rescue Christian Donors and partners; we could not have helped without your support.
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