In India call centres grow, scientific progress is in flight (!), with the Mars mission and the rich are getting richer with the poor getting poorer, I was appalled to see the following article in terms of ‘blood bricks’, citing India as one of the many guilty.
The six-month production season is now beginning, when tens of thousands of families flock to work in the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh, mostly travelling from the state of Orissa. A report by the BBC this week discovered children as young as four smashing coal to fuel the kilns, and stories of labourers having their hands cut off when they tried to leave their jobs. The report found workers forced to produce over 1,500 bricks every day, paid in advance and only able to leave after six months, along with children suffering from severe respiratory problems.
“They are forced to lead sub-human lives,” said Dr Vamsi Vakulabharanam of the University of Hyderabad. “It’s a condition that the entire world should condemn, but multinationals are buying into this.”
New guidelines for multinationals, introduced in 2011 by the United Nations and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, specify that such companies should have direct responsibility for human rights abuses anywhere in their supply chains. But little is being done to enforce these regulations.
I’ve always professed the need for responsibility of multinationals who have the power, resources and the potential commitment to drive change aka consider their corporate responsibility. The irony being that people that work for these firms have the power to make them change?
In addition, it is only through working with NGOs that change can take place. Religious institutions also have a part to play. Very sadly some religions are hell bent on conversions before giving out relief!? The latter is just another form of extremism.
For all the power of the Internet and the information it makes available to everyone, human right abuses continue.See http://www.bloodbricks.org/
Construction companies and the brick kiln industry use forced labour to exact vast illegal profits on the backs of millions of men, women, boys and young girls.
Trade unions, NGOs, and local people are organising, educating and mobilising thousands of workers to raise wages, access public services, combat child labour, and, sexual exploitation but they can only do so much alone.
If we all work together we can improve the lives of millions of people. Sign up now to help stop forced labour.
The Guardian article further cites:
The brick quotas are set so high that workers often have to involve their entire family to meet the targets.
The Blood bricks
…campaign comes after the Observer’s recent revelations of horrific labour abuses on Abu Dhabi’s new pleasure island of Saadiyat, where new outposts of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums are under construction. The investigation discovered thousands of workers living in squalid conditions, passports confiscated and trapped until they paid back hefty recruitment fees.
“It’s a world-wide issue,” says Brady. “We’re merely using India as the example, but we’ve seen the same abuses with projects in Qatar and Brazil for the World Cup and Olympics – iconic projects built on the back of the blood and sweat of bonded labour. It’s time to put an end to this trade in blood bricks.”
Although I mentioned the role of multinationals there is also the question of understanding the root of many of the problems. Often kids are trapped in social issues suffered by their parents, for example the lack of accessible health care and a downward spirals of drink and drugs.The servant culture in India also doesn’t help as families can be forced into near slavery and split up across states so that they can survive…. Meaning that all these factors drive workers to a point of helplessness. The only way out ends up being at the hand of exploitation. Another factor for India is the caste system. This is an issue that needs addressing not just through quotas but with a radical attitude change.
Let us sign the petition but also use our influences with richer families that we know in the East to ask them to help their local communities.
We can also demand change by asking our governments to hold to account firms that are investing in overseas projects. As consumers we have the power to vote with our Dollar, i.e: Buy ethically.
Part of the problem is that the world is not truly joined up and we often forget the people who built the infrastructure are still there suffering in the background, whilst people cheer on rich nations who send their big teams over to compete or enjoy resorts…
There is some hope…
The Irish online paper : The Journal reports that ‘Women are fighting the vicious cycle of poverty in India with one simple idea’. In one of the most disadvantaged parts of rural India, ordinary citizens are coming together to break the cycle of poverty caused by dependency on money lenders and exacerbated by traditional gender roles.
In a cramped room in a village in rural Tamil Nadu, Muthulykshmi sits cross-legged in front of a huge wooden loom used to weave saris, the main local industry. “We used to depend entirely on our husbands for money, for everything,” she says. “Now we don’t need the permission of our husbands if we need money. We can make our own decisions.”
Muthulykshmi is the leader of the Ambidai women’s self-help group, one of two such saving and micro-finance initiatives in her village alone, which empowers women in underprivileged areas by helping them to fund their own education, healthcare and business needs – without resorting to money lenders which typically charge 30–120 per cent interest.
Hey! Creative banking from multinationals – now that’s a good idea!
Let us not banker bash but encourage them (the bankers) to innovate to change the world.
Image: Anindito Mukherjee-Reuters-DelhiWorker