Pakistani brick-making workers suffer inhumane treatment

Workers mixing earth and rice husk to prepare material for making mud bricks. (Photos: Jamal Daudpoto)

Mud bricks and fire-baked bricks are used in construction across Pakistan except Karachi, the biggest city of the country located at Arabian Sea Coast in South where the buildings are erected using concrete blocks.  The mud bricks and fire-baked bricks are traditionally used since ancient days in this region as they control the severity of weather. The temperature inside such houses remains at moderate level during very hot summers and chilling winters.

Workers at oven (kiln) baking the bricks and shifting baked bricks in donkey cart. (Photos: Jamal Daudpoto)

There are thousands of kilns manufacturing the bricks in all the four provinces of Pakistan, and are important part of construction industry but still they fall in informal sector as no law or any authority exist to regulate them. The result is that these kilns have turned into centers of bonded labor where the laborers are forced to work at very low wages and that too without any other facility like healthcare etc. Since no labor law applies to these kilns and workforce engaged there, there are large scale complaints of forcing the poor men and women to work as slaves without any wages. In some cases, the courts are approached by human rights bodies and on court orders the police conduct raids and get the bonded workers free.

A view of mud bricks being dried in open place and then shifting the same. (Photos: Jamal Daudpoto)

The workers could be seen busy at the kilns from dawn to dusk irrespective of weather conditions. Often, two or three members of a family and in some cases more than it, including young girls use to work at brick kilns. They mix up clay and rice husk to prepare material for the brick making early in the morning and later start the mud brick-making. They prepare around 2,000 to 2,500 mud bricks a day, which are to be shifted by them to a nearby place after the bricks dry up in a day or two.

Workers shifting mud bricks and loading on donkeys. (Photos: Jamal Daudpoto)

For every 1000 mud bricks, the group of family members is paid only Rs.300 to Rs.400 (equal to US$3 to 4). This way the monthly earning of a family amounts to US$120 to 150.

The mud bricks are then baked in a big oven and the man who lights up oven and bakes the bricks is paid by the owner Rs.15000 (US$150) as monthly wages. The owner of kiln sells 1000 bricks for Rs.4000 (US$40) and earns a huge profit.

Fire-baked bricks being loaded in tractor trolley for dispatching to buyers. (Photos: Jamal Daudpoto)

One Response to Pakistani brick-making workers suffer inhumane treatment

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