Children of the brick kilns
Kiln owner SK din Mohammed, 54, watches a young female worker at his Asha Brick Manufacturing kiln in North 24 Parganas, 40km north of Calcutta
India's booming economy is creating a huge demand for bricks to fill demand from the construction industry. Brick kiln owners are desperate to make as much money as possible from the boom, turning to child labour to deliver maximum production for minimal cost. About 1.5 million people work in the brick industry in the region; a third of those are children aged 12 to 18 who have travelled there alone.
EXTRACT: THE pregnancy came all too easily. Monica was 13, and the man in question was her overseer at the brick kiln where she worked about 40km north of the booming Indian mega-city of Kolkata. More than twice her age and married with two children of his own, he was the son of the kiln owner. He had smiled at her as she trotted past him every day, carrying on her head the rough clay bricks shaped from river mud which she would deposit in the kiln to be baked into the building blocks of Kolkata’s expansion.
For each load of eight bricks she carried, he handed her a small plastic token. At the end of the week, the tokens would be tallied up, and Monica and the other girls feeding the furnace would be allocated a few rupees each. For every 1,000 bricks they carried, most girls received 60 rupees.
But not Monica. Sometimes when she held out her hand for a token, the overseer, or munshi as they are known, would press more than one plastic disc into her palm. She would smile and say nothing; it made her happy, though she knew there would be a price to pay.
Later, in the evening, the munshi would seek her out in one of the ramshackle longhouses that the workers called home.
“In the evenings there is nothing to do,” she says quietly. “We were given alcohol [a local spirit made from sugar cane]. I drank some of the alcohol and then he wanted to be involved with me...” She looks down shyly.
There was no question of keeping the baby. An abortion was quietly arranged. There were 15 such terminations among the girls working at her kiln last year alone.
FULL COPY: http://www.newseditor.co.uk/cuttings-aug31-2008.htm