ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will take up on Monday a petition to determine whether brick kiln workers have the same rights as enjoyed by other citizens.
A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will take up the petition filed by Manzoor Ahmed and others through Advocate Aftab Alam Yar.
The petitioners sought a curb on exploitation at the hands of brick kiln owners as well as measures to end the practice of ‘banddis’ (slavery for life). They called for laws and minimum wages for labourers falling under this category.
The petitioners also requested the apex court to order the government to make arrangements for imparting education to adults and providing health and basic facilities at the grass-roots level in case of an emergency or burn injuries.
They alleged that the kiln owners consistently violated the fundamental rights of labourers through bonded labour.
This particular class was left without any legal remedies, the petitioners said while highlighting that their place of work and conditions were not in accordance with the prescribed scale as determined by the government.
The workers were not receiving minimum wages for ‘pakka/kacha’ bricks as prescribed by the government from time to time which, thus amounting to economic exploitation of the petitioners and co-workers. They said the wages should be reviewed in view of the price hike.
According to the petition, the workers would remain illiterate contrary to the obligation on part of the government to provide basic education.
It said the slavery had been abolished and the sale and purchase of human beings were prohibited under the Constitution, but the kiln owners were still binding the workers by making them advance payments — a tool to make their generations slave.
The petitioners said the kiln workers did not find their place in the industry and laws applicable to it as there was no registration of ‘bhatta mazdoors’. They said the laws remained inapplicable to them and did not provide them atmosphere, space and time as guaranteed in other industries such as in the matters of leave, wages, health facilities, group insurance, holidays, working hours, old-age benefits, etc.
Moreover, the petition said, the material used in kilns to fire bricks was injurious to the workers’ health. It added that the liberty of the petitioners and co-workers was compromised and their right to move and freedom of expression remained under eclipse because of the alleged fascist attitude of the kiln owners, who also deprived the workers of using their right to vote.
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2018