The Brick Factory – A City of Sweat

 
A 14-year-old girl prepares bricks at a brick kiln near Meerut. She and her brother migrated to the city from a nearby state. Photograph/Harish Tyagi

A 14-year-old girl prepares bricks at a brick kiln near Meerut. She and her brother migrated to the city from a nearby state. Photograph/Harish Tyagi

Harish Tyagi takes his camera to the brick kilns in North India, which thrive on employing children of seasonal, migrant labourers.

This story was originally published in May 2012.

"My hope is that these pictures showing the inhuman conditions these people work in, will provoke discussions."—Harish Tyagi

“My hope is that these pictures showing the inhuman conditions these people work in, will provoke discussions.”—Harish Tyagi

Migration from one place to another is an age-old practice in India. Workers move from their villages to industrial centres, in search of work opportunities and better standards of living. But, most of them get employment in unorganised sectors like salt factories, construction, and brick making. The brick kilns in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab employ men, women and children too; even though the Indian law has banned employing children under 14 years.

The living conditions of the labourers, who usually work for five to seven months from October, are miserable. The authorities do not spare a thought to the buildings they inhabit or work in, thus sacrificing the future of the country’s rural youth. My hope is that these pictures showing the inhuman conditions these people work in, will provoke discussions. Regulations must be implemented to improve working conditions, secure better amenities, education for children and also give them permanent employment opportunities with social security benefits

An 8-year-old boy stands on the coal with his dried, diseased feet as he takes a break from his routine work at a brick kiln in Meerut. Photograph/ Harish Tyagi

An 8-year-old boy stands on the coal with his dried, diseased feet as he takes a break from his routine work at a brick kiln in Meerut. Photograph/ Harish Tyagi

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The Working and Living Conditions of Migrant Brick Labourers
The Indian brick industry is the second largest in the world after China. The migrant labourers are temporary workers with very low wages and no social security benefits. They have no unions or legislations to protect them. A migrant worker involves his entire family to minimise production time. The more bricks they make, the more money they get. But they live in poorly-ventilated barrack-like structures. There are no proper drinking water or sanitation facilities. They are also exposed to health hazards like water-borne and skin diseases and respiratory disorders, but there are no proper medical facilities available for them.

A mother covers her 18-month-old child with wet mud to protect her from the excessive heat coming from the brick kiln. Photograph/Harish Tyagi

A mother covers her 18-month-old child with wet mud to protect her from the excessive heat coming from the brick kiln. Photograph/Harish Tyagi

About Harish Tyagi
Harish Tyagi is currently the Chief Photographer (Indian sub-continent) for the European Pressphoto Agency. His core interest lies in issues related to human consequences of international and civil conflict, environment and children.


Tags: better photography, Child Labour, Civil Conflict, Environmental Issues, European Pressphoto Agency, Harish Tyagi, June 2009, Labourers, Migrant Brick Labourers, Photofeature, Social Issue