Block: Kattankolathur/Chengalpattu/Thirupoor: 37 Brick kilns
Profile of working Area:
Brick kiln or chambers in Chengalpattu
block of Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu.
Kuber is 47 years old and was working in the business sector. Moved by the plight of working children, he joined the International Labour Organization (ILO) project, to work for the rehabilitation of children working in the brick kilns in the Kancheepuram district. When the ILO project was closed down in 2011, Kuber felt that there was still a lot needed to be done; children from the brick-kiln families had to be bridged into mainstream education; several families had not got their ID cards; anganwadis were yet to be set up in some brick-kilns. The ILO project had left some systems in place for the rehabilitation of the children and the unorganized workers. He felt that he should make the right utilization of these systems, and ensure that the people in the brick-kilns get their entitlements.
There were 41 chambers till two years ago and four were closed now only 37 brick kilns are functioning in the 25 Kms radius. The chambers are operational from December-January till June-July depending on the rains. There are around seven big chambers and 30 medium sized chambers in this region. A big chamber has approximately 150 families, a medium sized chamber has approximately 70 families. All these families are migrants from drought prone, less developed areas of Tamil Nadu and have been migrating along with their children to the brick chambers for many generations. The families receive an advance payment and made to work. In earlier times the working conditions were exploitative and terrible. Today, with the intervention of many right based organizations and individuals, the working conditions are slightly better.
After the ILO project started, it facilitated the starting of schools and aganwadis (early child development centers) in these chambers, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. A non political union for workers was also been formed. The government has started various schemes so that the children do not drop out. Children from the 9th to 12th std receive Rs.1200/ as scholarship, if their parents are members of Janashree Bhima Yojana, a life insurance scheme. The Social Welfare Department also gives Rs.1000/- for those who have passed 10th standard. Girls pursuing engineering receive Rs 4000/-.
To avail all these schemes, one needs to run around different agencies. Kuber along with other two colleagues were working through ILO support, now Kuber is working alone to help the workers and their children. Kuber also follows-up with the families when they migrate back to their native places.
Kuber’s action plan is to help SSA to start 20 aganwadis and help 2000 people to get their identity cards. Only those who have identity cards can avail benefits under various schemes. The documentation process involved is voluminous and he feels that if another person or two work with him, he can do justice to the unorganized workers and to thousands of children and youth can continue with their education without any gap.