By Shrestha Mohanty: According to the 2011 census, women constitute 48.56% of the total population in India and 25.67% of the female population are designated as workers. Nearly 400 million people, more than 85% of the labor force in India work in the unorganized sector and of these at least 120 million are women. Women in Kendrapada who are engaged as brick kiln workers generally belong to the unorganized sector, facing problems such as poor working conditions, inflexible hours, etc. They are not confronted with any wage differentiation and benefit from a protected environment. Yet, no job security is ensured as they are hired by Sardars. The brick production industry is mainly limited to rural and semi-urban areas.
The women are usually emigrants from different parts of Odisha who came to Kendrapada after marriage or in search of work. They usually see and learn the process and the work. They work in this profession as an additional source of income which brings them and their families a higher standard of living. They mainly bring their child to work, where their children play, eat, sleep and breathe the dust used to make the bricks. The manufacture of bricks differs in number from one brick kiln to another. Their working hours are not precise. Few have relatives at home to do household chores and few are completely alone, these people have to do everything and come to work. The majority of workers involved in the brick industry come from marginalized castes, with no education, no equal social status and no social security. Working today does not mean that these workers will work tomorrow. It depends on the owner or the sardar to keep her or put out the fire of work. There were 66% of women who were in the 18-40 age group and most of them (94%) were married.
Anjali Pradhan, a woman from Berhampur, has been working in a brick kiln in Alijanga for almost two years. She is a single mother of six years who has worked away from home for many years. Before coming to Kendrapada, she worked in Chennai and Hyderabad. His working hours are specified as six to ten o’clock in the morning, then ten-thirty to one o’clock. In the last hours of noon, the net is the only work to be done. Her daughter, eight-year-old Nandini had been with her grandparents since childhood. Anjali brought her just a month ago and made her admission to a nearby public school that does not charge students anything for education and meals. Anjali sometimes brings her daughter to work where she plays, rests she goes to school in the morning and comes back after her mother returns from work. Anjali has never received her widow’s allowance till date and does not even have a ration card, her requests for widow’s allowance and ration card have always been rejected by her village sarpanch and for that, she left her hometown and went in search of work. Other social security such as health card, government service, work card were not granted to him. Their work is in the summer months, that is, six months of work and six months that she lives at home without work. The amount she earned in previous months continues, with no source of income left. She is paid according to the number of bricks she makes per day, each brick earns her 60 paise, this amount does not allow her to keep a minimum amount in her bank account, further adding that no savings are possible . In case of emergency, the loan becomes the only means of existence and later is returned. They are taught the skills required to make a piece of brick and no training is offered. No support system is behind her, neither her family lives with her, nor her husband. For her, what she earns is what she eats. Anjali prays, “her health must not deteriorate as no one is there for her daughter.”
Sukanti Marandi, a woman from Mayurbhanj district, lives in the brick kiln where she works in Garapur. Her family which includes her husband who works in the same brick kiln and a two-year-old child who stays with them. Her child is still wrapped in ashes, sand and the other dusty ingredients used to make a brick. She does not have access to any PDS and no appropriate information has been kept about her. The menacing power of landlords or husbands is strongly glued to her.
Gurubari Tudu, another woman whose whole family lives with her, says: “working as a worker in a brick kiln is an additional source of income for her family”. Her child named Anisha Tudu is a toddler who plays around her parents every day, totally covered in dust and ash. Her salary is equal to that of her husband as well as all the colleagues residing there. His family support encourages him to work in brick kilns and not to work at home. She works in another unit like agriculture when she returns to her village. Its payment process is counted between 3,000 and 4,000 rupees per month depending on the number of bricks they manufacture. It includes 45 rupees per tray where per tray constitutes of 120 bricks. She has her own aadhar card and a Biju card which gives her free medical aid and medicine.