Trafficked bonded labourers rescued from Jammu & Kashmir

The NCCEBL, Socio Legal Information Centre (SLIC), Delhi and Action Aid India, with support of Samba and Reasi District administration of Jammu and Kashmir, jointly conducted a raid at two brick kiln sites – Shri Ram Brick Kiln at Ghobasna, in Ramgarh, Samba District, and Bhagwati Brick Kiln at Laiter, Reasi district on 28th December and 29th December, 2017.

98 labourers which included minor children, lactating mothers and people hailing from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were rescued. Though the administration of Reasi and Samba districts of J&K played a role in the rescue, they turned out to be quite apathetic towards those rescued. The survivors were harassed as they were forced to recall their plight and record statements multiple times. During their stay, the lodging provided adequate facilities. They turned a blind eye to their suffering and abandoned them at the Jammu Railway Station in the middle of the night without any recourse.

Neither administrations have followed up with the labourers or the rescue team with regards to their welfare. Detailed reports have not been filed as well. Moreover, the administration is refusing to recognize them as bonded labourers and provide them with required Release Certificates.

The plight of the labourers did not end there. Even though they had been rescued from the brick kiln sites, they had nowhere to go. The Samba and Reasi administration failed to provide the labourers with Release Certificates – this is necessary to recognize a labourer as bonded, they couldn’t claim compensation or relief under the Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Scheme, 2016.

To avail their rights, the labourers made their way to Delhi, where they reached the office of Resident Commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir on 2nd January 2017 to submit a memorandum. Later in the day, they were promised by the Resident Commissioner that the Release Certificates will be provided to the rescued labourers by the Deputy Commissioners of Reasi and Samba Districts of Jammu and Kashmir. However, no such certificate has been issued.

The labourers have also appealed at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) office seeking relief.

The rescued labourers have been left homeless and obsolete, with no source of livelihood to sustain themselves. There are pregnant women and children among those rescued who are starving. Any sort of medical facilities seems a distant dream.

Among those rescued, the period of bondage undergone by them varies from a minimum of 2 years to the maximum of 30 years. They have not been given any wages whatsoever for the entire period they worked in bondage. These rescued labourers were trafficked from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to Jammu and Kashmir for the purposes of labour. While the 88 rescued bonded labourers from Chhattisgarh have been taken back to their state by their administration, the 10 bonded labourers from Jharkhand are still languishing at a night shelter.

The Chhattisgarh government has given their assurance that their labourers will be properly rehabilitated and taken care of. The District Magistrates of Raigarh, Bilaspur and Janjgir-Champa Districts of Chhattisgarh have also written to the Deputy Commissioner of Samba and Reasi Districts of Jammu and Kashmir, requesting him to issue Release Certificates to the rescued labourers so that they can be properly rehabilitated. They long to go back to their villages, earn a livelihood there and live a life with dignity.