PUCL Bulletin, Oct., 2002

Bihar State PUCL Report
Rape of three adivasi girls

An incident of gang rape of three adivasi women on 20.4.2002 at the brick kiln - Juli, under Hilsa P.S in Nalanda district was reported in newspapers. The state PUCL constituted a fact-finding team consisting of Dr. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice-President; Kishori Das, State General Secretary; Vinay Kantha; and Sudha Varghese, both State Vice-Presidents; and Sarita - Member of PUCL.

The team visited Hilsa on 30.04.2002 and went to Juli Brick Kiln and met with the labourers there particularly the three victims. On the way from Patna to Hilsa, a number of brick kilns are seen almost by the roadside. Juli brick Kiln is also nearly on the roadside, in the village called Miabigha about one and a half kilometers from Hilsa Police Station. As we were walking towards the brick kiln, we could see lines of adolescent girls in skirt and blouse carrying bricks on their heads. Reaching the kiln, we were received by the Adivasi labourers who were around and Lakshmi Prasad, the Munshi of the brick kiln. While two women members of the team talked to the three victims and other women, the others talked to the Munshi and the other labourers.

According to the Munshi's report, at about 10:30 P.M. some people came and woke him up and asked for water. The Munshi stays on the first floor, so he went down with water. The men put a pistol against his head and then entered the room. They looted about Rs. 5000/- and removed the batteries from the two tractors that were standing nearby. Then they left the place, but returned immediately after and entered the rooms of the girls.

We met the three victim girls in one of their so-called 'rooms'. Samjhoria Kumari is about 15 year old, from Ranchi District. She has studied up to class 2 or 3; she was brought to this brick kiln by a middleman (Sardar) for a period of 8 months. When asked how long they had been working in this kiln, they looked at one another saying that they were not sure whether it was 2 months or 3 months. Lakshmi Kumari aged between 14-15 was from Lohardaga District. The same Sardar also brought her also. The agreement is that they work until the rains start. Leelamani, the Sardarin, brought the third victim Sanju Kumari aged about 16 years. While bringing them no specific agreement was made about their wages. "The more you work, the more money you will get". They arc given Rs. 60/- for carrying 1000 bricks. The account is finalised at the time when the kiln closes for the rainy season. A sum of Rs. 100/- is given every week for the upkeep. There are about 40 girls working in this kiln besides others who have come with their families. The living condition of the labourers in this kiln is really inhuman.

They have a 'room' of 3'x6'x3' which is an all purpose room for cooking, sleeping, etc. There is no door to this room. Most of them have made some sort of door with sticks & straw to keep the dogs from entering the room. The straw is spread on the roof to protect themselves from dew, sun & rain! The condition portrays that the safety of the labourers' life and health needs are of no importance and no attention is paid to them. There is no provision for a guard at this kiln, free entrance and movement is possible. There is no arrangement for toilets or bathing places. When these basic needs are not met they also invite problems like girls going to the fields for toilet purposes and being teased by local boys, no privacy for bathing and being watched by boys roaming around. Sometimes the persons in charge of the kiln make them victims of sexual abuse and out of fear they do not speak about these things.
Thousands of brick kilns that are run illegally in Bihar continue to exist sometimes through collusion with the criminals and the administration and exploitation in full scale goes on unchecked.

Talking to us the SDPO, Hilsa mentioned, "stray incidents of rape and sexual assault do take place in these brick kilns but they are not reported generally". Adivasi labourers in unorganized sector come from a peace loving and nature related simple background for earning some money. But there is no security. The fulfillment of the aim for which they come depends totally on the mercy of the kiln owner and the criminals. Would the women and girls, who do not know how much money they should get per day or who are unsure for how many months they have been working in this particular kiln, be able to calculate how much money they should get at the end of 8 months? Can they really trust the employers that they will give them a just wage, when they do not care to even protect their lives and dignity?

The incident of rape of three adivasi girls working in Juli brick kilns in Hilsa and also considering the nature of unorganised section of labourers working in other kiln all over the state, it is clear that they follow no standard of law and regulation regarding Child Rights, Women Rights, or Labour Laws in unorganised sector, particularly regarding wages, conditions of work, etc. Supreme Court Judgment of 1991 Sec. 174 and 1992 AIR SC (IV) 38 give very clear directions regarding norms and conditions of labour and the welfare and rights of labourers. Though the judiciary, media, and the doctors have a vital role to play in the evaluation and implementation and practice of these laws and directions, seeing the present state of things one is forced to say that the role of these agencies is not at all commendable.

In the incident of rape, Samjharia Kumari was the first victim of rape on the night of 19.4.2002 when the criminals visited the Juli Brick Kiln. She was sleeping in her little 'room'. Four men entered her room and started pulling her and kicking her. She tried to shout but they threatened to finish her off. They had revolvers with them, two men caught hold of her hands and one person put his foot on her chest to keep her down, and a man wearing a baniyaan and towel raped her. There were others standing by the door outside, they too abused her. They were with her for half an hour. Samjharia Kumari showed us a long deep scratch of about 6" on her left leg, inner thigh, and also her knee was scraped and the wound is still not healed. The doctor who examined her never gave her any medicine to take care of these injuries. Samjharia is living in fear and she doesn't want to stay on in this area. She wants to return to her home to die of starvation. "I'll die there; dignity is more important. Here I am not sure what will happen and I feel frightened here. I won't go to any brick kiln for work anymore."

The next victim was Lakshmi Kumari who was sleeping with some others. Hearing the noise of the criminals, all of them ran away here and there and Lakshmi got caught. One man put her down and held her down and another one raped her. She kept shouting "Leave me, leave me" and they slapped her for shouting. Somehow she managed to free herself from their grip and ran away, Lakshmi looked disturbed and she too said she wants to go back to her home soon. She doesn't want to stay on here where there is no security for one's life and dignity. She says 'Dignity is more important than anything else. We come away from our place to work and earn some money so we can buy some clothes and so on but with what happened here I'm not inclined to stay here. Even if money is too hard to get in our place, we don't have to be frightened and we'll be safe."

Sanju was sleeping outside and was caught unawares. They asked her to keep quiet and 2- 3 men held her down and one person raped her. There were people standing around with pistols so she couldn't think of running away. She found herself alone, all the others had run away. With the criminals being a big gang, all the labourers ran here and there to save themselves. There was no one to help any one else. They ran away to the fields nearby, hiding in some ditch, hiding in between bricks, or anywhere they felt they could hide from the criminals.

Sanju Kumari has her relations also working in this brick kiln, so she feels she can continue to work till the end of the season. The medical examination of the three girls was done haphazardly; their age has not been determined medically. Though in the FIR Samjharia Kumari and Lakshmi Kumari are mentioned as 17 years of age and Sanju Kumari as 16 years of age. We are of the opinion that the age of these girls will be between 14 and 15. This is very important as it determines whether they are minors or not and rape on minor girls is a more grievous crime. In the medical report some contradictions are also seen, e.g., on report says Samjharia Kumari's 'Hymen not intact', and the concluding opinion is 'Evidence of rape not found'. Report in these types of cases, the SDPO, Hilsa says only 5°/o of the medical report is correct and that the statement of the victim is the final proof.

None of the girls were given any medicine for the scratches or pain or hurts they had resulting from the incidents Samjharia complained to us of backache since the day of incident.

In view of the vulnerability of the young girls working in the brick kilns and the subhuman living conditions prevailing there, the enquiry team would like to make the following recommendations:
Normally adolescent girls should not be brought to work at the brick kiln from far way places. Administration should issue necessary instructions in this regard to the kiln owners. Girls below the age of eighteen should not be employed there at all. If girls above that age are employed at all, certain minimum facilities including the following must be guaranteed:

  • a. Toilet and bathing space must be provided to them.

    b. Safe drinking water should be made available.

    c. The minimum size of the room should be 7'x 5'x 5' with a roof overhead.

    d. Guards should be kept for the security of women and children.

    e. This should be a clear rule regarding the hours of work and there should be provision for minimum wages.

    f. A notebook should be kept with the labourer also, in which the work done and wages earned should be entered daily so that they can get them computed by a literate persons even if they are themselves illiterate. Further, female labourers working from outside should be informed properly about the nature of work, wages, and other conditions of service and duration of season.

    g. Complete details regarding the labourers employed in the brick kilns should be maintained by the owners, which should be provided by them to the concerned police station and the Labour Inspector. Labour Inspectors should inspect the kilns at regular intervals. Since kilns is usually located in isolated places, daily police patrolling is also desirable. Incidentally, for various reasons, including the prevalence of crimes against women, every police station must have female police constable.

    h. It may be noted that the State government has issued two important orders to regulate the wages and service conditions of labourers in the brick kilns. Yet these orders seem to have made no impact at all.

The state orders are given here under:

Appendix
(English rendering of the Hindi circulars of the Labour Department of the State Government - Chief Editor)
1. Circular No. 11/RL-302/92, Directorate of Labour, 165, dated 23-3-1994
There are a number of Brick kilns in the State in urban and rural areas. These kilns are organised generally by influential local people and their Munshis and mates, etc., are generally people of criminal background. The workers engaged in them are generally unorganised. The result is that they are deprived of the benefits of the minimum wages laws and other labour laws and are always exploited.

Though the State government is determined to implement these laws in the brick kilns, prevailing terror amongst the workers and the defiant attitude of the proprietors, the local officers of the labour department find it difficult to get the laws implemented. In view of this letter No. 191 of 6.5.92 of the then Additional Chief Secretary is being sent to the district officers so that labour laws concerning brick kiln may be implemented strictly.

To facilitate this a copy of the above circulars is enclosed. The brick kiln season is about to begin and various labour laws have to be implemented during the season. Please arrange raiding parties according to the directions in the circular every month to ensure the implementation of various labour laws, especially minimum wages laws.

2. Circular No. 11/RL-302/92, Directorate of Labour, 191, dated 06-5-1992
(1) Brick Kilns are working in the State in every region. The conditions of the workers in brick kilns are pitiable. These labourers neither receive wages determined by the Government nor do the proprietors of the kilns give any other facilities. Female labourers are generally also exploited sexually. It is seen that generally these workers are brought after paying them some advance wages and at the end of the season their employment is terminated without paying them the arrears of the wages. It is necessary to stop such exploitation and to get justice to the concerned labours.

(2) There are a number of Brick kilns in the State in urban and rural areas. These kilns are organised generally by influential local people and their Munshis and mates, etc., are generally people of criminal background. The local departmental officials and the workers fear them. The former therefore find it difficult to implement the laws and the latter do not demand their rights. It is, therefore, incumbent on the district administration to ensure the implementation of labour laws, specially, those concerning wages, and to take effective steps to check mal-treatment of female labourers and their sexual exploitation.

(3) In this regard it will become necessary that a raiding party study the position, security, welfare, and implementation of labour laws. I would suggest that you organise a raiding party led by the SDO in which senior police officer of the sub-division along with the Factory Inspector and other labour related officers should conduct an unannounced raid. This will have a telling effect.

Members of the team: Dr. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice-President; Prof. Vinay Kumar Kantha, Vice-President, Bihar PUCL; Sudha Vergeese, Vice-President, Bihar PUCL; Kishori Das, General Secretary, Bihar PUCL; Sarita, Member of Bihar PUCL.

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