As many as 20 non-formal schools for children of brick kiln workers will open from July 31, District Coordination Officer Firasat Iqbal said at a meeting to discuss steps to eliminate bonded labour from brick kilns in the district on Wednesday.
He warned the kiln owners of strict action if they were found usurping the rights of the workers and said that they must extend health, education and social security benefits to kiln workers and their families.
Iqbal said that there would be a school for every four to five brick kilns and the children would be taught for free.
He said that all kiln owners would have to give an undertaking, required under Supreme Court orders, that they were not engaged in bonded labour or had paid workers for their services in advance.
District Police Officer Rana Abdul Jabbar requested kiln owners not to use contractors to hire labour. They should directly deal with the workers, he said. The children and women of workers’ families should not be forced to work at these kilns, he said. Kiln owners could be charged with kidnapping and fraud if found violating the Supreme Court’s order, said Jabbar.
The DCO said that a committee could be formed to safeguard the rights of brick kiln workers. The District Bar Association president, representatives of kiln owners, civil society, NGOs and the media would be represented in the committee.
Labour District Officer Ghulam Abbas Soomro said that there were 289 brick kilns in the district, but only 121 of them had been registered. He said that it was common for children aged 8 to 14 years to work at these kilns.
The DCO said that the remaining kilns must be registered at the earliest.
On Health District Officer Siddiq Saqib’s request, the DCO directed kiln owners not to use old tyres and clothes as fuel. He called for a crackdown against those involved in forcing children to beg during Ramazan and Eid.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.